Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
March 20, 2019
President's Message I By David M. Dworkin
Dear Friend,

This month is Women’s History Month and there are few housing organizations with as rich a history of leadership by historic women than the National Housing Conference. In 1930, the City Affairs Committee (CAC) of New York, a nonpartisan group that was founded to work for a better city through research and education created a housing committee, led by a prominent leader of the Settlement House movement, Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch. At the time, half of New York City’s population lived in slums, many without electricity or indoor plumbing. But Mrs. Simkhovitch and her close friend, fellow social worker and CAC officer, Helen Alfred, recognized that the Great Depression was devastating the city and the country faster than they could respond alone. Together with Edith Elmer Wood, they realized that social advocacy could be much more impactful if they aligned with investors, homebuilders and labor unions.

Together on March 22, 1932, they founded the Public Housing Conference in New York City. With the election of Franklin Roosevelt in November of 1932, the organization took its agenda to Washington and changed its name to the National Public Housing Conference, and eventually to the National Housing Conference, as it is known today.
Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch and Eleanor Roosevelt at the 1934 NHC Gala.
While women were leading the affordable housing movement in New York City, there were still few in positions of power held by women in Washington, D.C., where national housing policy was beginning to be made. But there was one woman, who had enormous influence in Washington, and was a longtime friend of Mrs. Simkhovitch – Eleanor Roosevelt. Together, they raised money for NHC. They also convinced President Roosevelt that rental housing and homeownership were inextricably linked, leading to the inclusion in 1933 of public housing development in the New Deal’s infrastructure program, the Public Works Administration. By 1935, much legislation had passed but millions more Americans were still homeless or living in substandard housing. A National Housing Act was needed to address the crisis, and New York Senator Richard Wagner (D-N.Y.), who worked with Mrs. Simkhovitch on the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, which created the PWA, was ready to help. Having led the effort to pass the National Labor Relations Act, he was ready to again take on housing, but not without the active support of the president. 
Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Archives
Mrs. Simkhovitch knew exactly where to go, and soon President Roosevelt was sending a note to Senator Wanger suggesting that “After you get back and I get back from Warm Springs, I should much like to have a talk with you in regard to the more permanent aspects of slum clearance and low cost housing.” Below his initials in the White House copy of the letter was this postscript: “MEMO FOR ER This refers to Mrs. Simkhovitch’s letter.” Two years later, the National Housing Act of 1937 was signed into law.

Today, brilliant and powerful women don’t have to rely on their husbands. They run for president, get elected to the Senate and chair the House Financial Services Committee. They also make up half of the Board of Governors of the National Housing Conference, building housing from Northern California to New York and everywhere in between. We still have much progress to make on issues involving women’s equality, but here at NHC, we also have a long and proud history of achievement that would have been impossible without the leadership and ingenuity of women like Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, Helen Alfred and Eleanor Roosevelt.
News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux and
Quinn Mulholland
April Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force meeting

On April 10 at 2 p.m. EDT, join NHC for our monthly Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force webinar. The April meeting will be a presentation by Kevin Ehrman-Solberg, the digital and geospatial director of Mapping Prejudice. Mapping Prejudice uses historical data and mapping software to illuminate how Minneapolis’ past policies racially segregated the city and exacerbated racial disparities experienced today. The City of Minneapolis used the work from Mapping Prejudice to shape Minneapolis 2040, a comprehension plan that will guide the city’s growth and improve housing affordability. Register here.

Lawmakers propose draft of new housing-related legislation

Last week was a busy one for new housing-related legislation. On Tuesday, Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would require carbon monoxide detectors in federally subsidized housing,
and a bipartisan group of legislators in the House and Senate introduced legislation that would permanently extend the New Markets Tax Credit. On Wednesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reintroduced her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act and Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the Housing for Homeless Students Act. The House Financial Services Committee also deliberated Wednesday on a package of four bills that would address issues with the National Flood Insurance Program at a full committee hearing. Finally, on Thursday, Representative Mike Levin (D-Calif.) introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, which had been introduced in the Senate on March 7.
Average mortgage size hits record high

According to new data released last week by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the average U.S. mortgage size increased to a record high of $354,500. MBA’s seasonally adjusted index showed that loan applications grew by 4.3 percent in the week ending on March 8. Given the higher average mortgage size, however, this increase appears to be concentrated among higher-income buyers, according to MBA's Associate Vice President Joel Kan. Meanwhile, Freddie Mac released its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey last week showing that mortgage rates declined to 4.31 percent, the lowest rate since February of last year.
NLIHC releases 2019 report on affordable housing gap

Last Thursday, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released its annual report on the shortage of affordable rental homes in America. Overall, NLIHC found that there is a shortage of 7 million homes that are affordable and available to the nation’s lowest-income renters, and that there are fewer than four affordable and available rental homes for every 10 extremely low-income renter household nationwide. 
USDA announces rural community investment initiative

Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley announced Monday that the USDA will invest $91 million to build or improve community facilities in rural areas in 12 states. The investment will fund 16 projects and will also help rural communities make infrastructure improvements and invest in public services. “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building and maintaining these institutions that are foundational to quality of life and prosperity,” Baxley said.
Member Highlight
Bank of America launches a program in Puerto Rico to empower women leaders, fuel economic growth

by Andrea Nesby

In the spirit of Women’s History Month, NHC is happy to share an exciting program Bank of America has launched in Puerto Rico.

On March 18, Bank of America announced the launch of its Global Ambassadors Program, a week-long initiative that connects women leaders in business and social enterprise to mentoring and expertise. The program focuses on building organizational leadership and business acumen and enhancing skills in key areas such as financial and human resources management, business strategy and communications.

Bank of America says that connecting women entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders to tools and resources that give them the power to succeed is one way it helps advance economic and social progress.

“Investing in women through access to resources such as capital and mentoring is critical to reducing income inequality,” said Anne Finucane, vice chairman, Bank of America, in a news release. “Partnerships like the Global Ambassadors Program are one way we help fuel economic growth in regions around the world and contribute to the global economy.”

The program takes place from March 18-22.
Senate to hold hearings on GSE reform

The Senate Banking Committee will hold two days of hearings at the end of March on the issue of housing finance reform. The hearings, which have not been publicly announced yet, will focus on Committee Chairman Mike Crapo’s recently published outline for GSE reform. Relatedly, Credit Union National Association Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovan wrote an op-ed in American Banker last week arguing for community lenders to be included in GSE reform proposals.
Carson says HUD will prioritize affordable housing in Opportunity Zones

In an interview last week with The Real Deal, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said HUD will give preference to developers who propose affordable housing developments in Opportunity Zones.“If you are doing a project within an Opportunity Zone and you are applying for one of our grants, you get some preference,” Carson said. Investors, as the New York Times reported Sunday, are eagerly awaiting finalized regulations from the Treasury Department regarding the Opportunity Zones. There has been some controversy recently with the program, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that scandal-plagued casino executive Steve Wynn met with Treasury officials while they were writing regulations concerning Opportunity Zones, and Oklahoma Watch published an investigation showing that Native American tribes across the country were left out of the program.
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
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