In light of COVID-19, we have temporarily made our Member Brief available to non-members. If you wish to become an NHC member, click here. To join email list, click here.
Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington
Biden signs stimulus bill containing assistance to renters and homeowners

President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package into law on Thursday, clearing the way for further relief to millions of Americans across the country who continue to suffer the pandemic’s adverse economic effects. The package includes $30 billion in emergency housing assistance, in addition to direct payments of $1,400, extended unemployment benefits, and other measures aimed at sustaining the economy until vaccination becomes widespread.

The package appropriated $20 billion in emergency rental assistance, adding to the $25 billion that was included in the relief package passed under the previous administration in December. It also provided $10 billion in assistance for struggling homeowners, a provision that had not been included in original drafts of the plan but was added following a push by a coalition of housing and civil rights organizations that included NHC.

The bill’s enactment was welcomed by housing leaders, who warned that additional assistance was needed to guard against mass foreclosures and evictions. NHC President and CEO David M. Dworkin commended Biden’s signing of the bill, saying the plan would “provide much-needed assistance to millions of renters and homeowners who continue to face hardship due to the ongoing pandemic, as well as struggling mom-and-pop landlords who are working to stay afloat after going nearly a year without rental payments.” He added that NHC looks forward to working with administration officials to find ways to quickly and equitably distribute rental assistance funds.
Fudge takes office as HUD Secretary

Marcia L. Fudge was sworn in as the 18th Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Wednesday, hours after the Senate confirmed her nomination to lead the agency in a bipartisan vote of 66-34. “Our country has an immense responsibility – and profound opportunity – to address the housing crisis facing so many people,” Fudge said after being sworn in Wednesday evening. “I’m proud to join a group of public servants who work with compassion and determination to change the lives of those in need.”

Fudge will take office amid concerns of an impending eviction and foreclosure crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as soaring housing costs across the country due to decades of supply constraints.

Housing groups have expressed confidence that Fudge will be up to the task as HUD Secretary. In a statement, NHC’s David Dworkin praised Fudge’s “impressive track record of leading efforts to revitalize communities and advocating for vulnerable populations and underserved communities.” He added that Fudge “will bring fresh ideas to advancing community development and driving much-needed investments to close the minority homeownership gap and increase affordable housing opportunities in communities across the nation.”

Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, congratulated Fudge on her confirmation and said she looks forward to working with her on a slate of issues from providing COVID-19 emergency housing assistance to reinstating the 2013 Disparate Impact Rule. “The Biden Administration made a great pick in placing a public servant who is a staunch advocate for civil rights with a demonstrated commitment to fair housing in charge of HUD,” she said. “We are pleased that the Senate recognized this by confirming Fudge.”
CFPB clarifies ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued an interpretive rule on Tuesday clarifying that existing prohibitions on sex discrimination cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The issuance comes in response to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County that the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination broadly applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, after which CFPB requested public comment on ways it could prevent credit discrimination against the affected groups under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

CFPB joins HUD in ramping up discrimination against LGBTQ individuals following the Bostock ruling. HUD announced last month that it would begin to enforce the Fair Housing Act as prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“In issuing this interpretive rule, we’re making it clear that lenders cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Acting CFPB Director David Uejio in a statement announcing the rule. “The CFPB will ensure that consumers are protected against such discrimination and provided equal opportunities in credit.”

The clarification was praised by fair and affordable housing groups, who have long pushed for broadening enforcement of federal civil rights law. National Community Reinvestment Coalition CEO Jesse Van Tol applauded the decision, saying, “Members of the LGBTQ+ community face discrimination when applying for loans, and this action is a critical step to strengthening fair lending protections for them.”
Don't miss #SolutionsComms! There is still time to register.
NHC COVID-19 HRC updated to reflect new rent assistance programs

NHC has updated its COVID-19 Housing Resource Center (HRC) to reflect recent rollouts of state emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs using funds provided by the Treasury Department under last December’s stimulus package and the stimulus package signed into law this week by President Biden. HRC users can view ERA programs being administered in their state by clicking on the "Renters" button and filtering for “Rent Assistance” and their state of residence. Though ERA programs have not yet been set up in every state and locality, NHC will continue to update the HRC to reflect the rollouts of new programs.

Since its launch almost a year ago, NHC’s HRC has been a popular tool for consumers and industry members alike with over 155,000 page views, reflecting continued demand for information on the complex web of state and federal housing policy that has arisen over the course of the pandemic. The “Renters” section of the HRC alone has received 13,424 unique visitors since this fall, with most renters residing in California, Texas and Florida. Site traffic has shown no signs of abating in 2021 and demonstrates continued heightened levels of need among renters impacted by the pandemic.

In addition to resources for renters, the HRC has hundreds of resources for homeowners, property managers, homeless service providers, nonprofit staff, single- and multifamily mortgage industry members, and more. The HRC was created thanks to generous funding from Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Quicken Loans and Wells Fargo.
Fannie Mae releases consumer and lender sentiment data

Fannie Mae released data this week suggesting that consumer and lender sentiment on housing have dipped somewhat after a year of intense growth. Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) decreased in February, primarily due to declines in consumers’ optimism about homebuying conditions and households income. Meanwhile, Fannie Mae’s Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey (MLSS) found an increasing number of lenders who say profit margins will decrease compared to the prior quarter. However, the surveys also found that consumer optimism on the labor market and lender expectations for purchase mortgage demand remain strong.

 “Underlying data indicate growing job-related optimism among consumers, especially among lower-income and renter groups,” said Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan of the HPSI results. Of the MLSS data, he noted that lenders expecting lower profit margins cited increased competition and a market shift away from refinances to home purchases.

Looking forward, Duncan indicated he expects the housing market will likely cool off slightly in the longer term, especially if interest rates increase. “Continued upward pressures on interest rates would likely dampen home sales and mortgage originations as lenders raise mortgage rates.”
FHFA OIG releases update on GSE counterparty risk

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a white paper on Monday detailing evolving risks to GSEs associated with private mortgage insurers failing to pay claims that arise due to mortgage default, an issue known as counterparty risk. The report is the first update to FHFA OIG’s 2018 report on counterparty risk, which the office is required to publish every two years under FHFA’s Private Mortgage Insurer Eligibility Requirements (PMIERs) rule.

The report finds that the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased potential counterparty risk to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but notes that risk mitigation steps taken by GSE officials meant that FHFA officials could not say whether risk had increased or decreased due to the recession. Another potential area of risk is the increased volume of GSE financing, which rose to record levels in 2020, as increased volume leads to increased risk exposure. The report notes, however, that “risk exposure must be considered against the quality of the mortgages purchased by the Enterprises,” and that the GSEs do not view their current books as particularly risky.

The report also highlights several tools that have helped to reduce GSE exposure to counterparty risk in recent years. These include the 2019 revisions to PMIERs that allowed GSEs to vet insurers more strictly, alignment on recession relief principles, credit-risk transfer mechanisms, risk-based pricing of loans, and a pilot program that aims to reduce mortgage insurance market concentration.
Chart of the week
Chart of the week: Stringent rent assistance requirements for landlords reduced program take-up

A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, NYU Furman Center and the Housing Initiative at Penn finds that increasing requirements for landlords participating in COVID-19 rent assistance programs tended to decrease the number of households served by the program in question. In particular, “the length of time (in months) that a program required a landlord not to evict participating tenants was negatively correlated with the ratio of households served to expected, which may mean that the duration of an eviction restriction reduced programs’ ability to distribute funds.” The report’s authors also released a companion report, profiling 15 individual emergency rental assistance programs as case studies in increasing tenant take-up, targeting vulnerable populations and more.
What we're reading
Online architecture magazine Designboom covers the country’s first series of 3D-printed homes for sale, in a new development in Austin. “The 3D printing technology ensures a safer, more resilient home that better withstands fire, flood, wind, and other natural disasters better than conventional homes, and can be built in a matter of weeks,” the magazine reports.

A new article from Bloomberg CityLab asks what it will take to eliminate the home valuation gap. Though recent industry recognition of racial bias in home appraisals is an important first step, the article notes that industry leaders “stopped short of saying that racism in the industry is systemic. Several experts who have studied the appraisal gap say that to really reverse the current disparity, nothing less than a total overhaul of how appraisals are conducted may be required.”

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports on the delays that have taken place in Florida’s distribution of federal rental assistance funding as localities debate how best to allocate it. “Tenants and advocates for affected renters say they’re frustrated by how long it is taking for the money to get to those who need it,” the article points out. One organizer was upfront about her dissatisfaction with the state: “They have the money. There’s no reason not to have a plan in place.”
The week ahead
The National Housing Conference has been defending the American Home since 1931. We believe everyone in America should have equal opportunity to live in a quality, affordable home in a thriving community. NHC convenes and collaborates with our diverse membership and the broader housing and community development sectors to advance our policy, research and communications initiatives to effect positive change at the federal, state and local levels. Politically diverse and nonpartisan, NHC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Defending our American Home since 1931
Copyright © 2021. All Rights Reserved.