Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux and
Quinn Mulholland
House passes bills to build more housing, support small-dollar mortgages

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the Yes in My Backyard Act, introduced by Representatives Denny Heck (D-Wash.) and Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.), which would require local governments applying for Community Development Block Grant funds to report whether they have enacted policies to alleviate local regulations that stifle the production of housing. The passage of this bill drew praise from the Up for Growth Coalition, which NHC is a part of, and the National Multifamily Housing Council. The House also passed the Improving FHA Support for Small Dollar Mortgages Act on Tuesday, which was introduced by Representatives Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and Steve Stiver (R-Ohio) and would require the Federal Housing Administration to identify ways to remove barriers to supporting smaller mortgages.
Coronavirus fears spread through housing market

Amid fears around the spread of coronavirus, Treasury yields slid and mortgage rates fell to an all-time low. “There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale told Yahoo Finance. “It’s a good thing that interest rates are lower, it makes folks afford a home. But it depends on which is more important: affordability or future job security.” Individuals experiencing homelessness may be at greater risk of contracting the virus, causing health officials from Portland to San Francisco to Los Angeles to take urgent action to protect homeless communities. Policymakers at the federal level also took action, with Democratic members of the House Ways & Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee calling for action to protect another vulnerable population, residents of nursing homes. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by half a percentage point on Tuesday in an attempt to counteract the negative economic impacts of fears surrounding the outbreak, and Congress passed an emergency legislative package on Thursday to bolster efforts to combat the virus.

NHC President and CEO David Dworkin recently wrote a blog post urging the housing community to stay on top of new information as this situation develops. 
Perdue announces new USDA Rural Development executive

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently announced that Bette Brand will serve as the USDA’s Rural Development (RD) Deputy Under Secretary, in the wake of the retirement of former USDA RD Deputy Under Secretary Donald “DJ” LaVoy. Brand most recently served as the Administrator of Rural Development’s Rural Business Service agency, and previously worked as an industry advocate at Farm Credit of the Virginias. The USDA RD program oversees many important rural housing and community development programs, including the Rural Housing Service. “The mission of Rural Development to improve the economy and quality of life in rural America will continue to advance with Bette at the helm,” Perdue said in a statement. “Like President Trump, Bette’s drive and tenacity to fight for those living in rural areas and to increase rural prosperity is admirable. She is perfectly suited for this role.”
Supreme Court hears arguments over CFPB’s structure

Arguments began Tuesday in a Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) structure. At issue in the case, is the requirement that the CFPB’s director could only be fired for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office,” which was included in the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul which established the agency. The FHFA has a similar structure, so it could also be affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case. The Trump administration is siding with the plaintiff in the case, asserting that the CFPB is unconstitutionally structured, leaving former solicitor general Paul Clement to defend the agency. A ruling in the cause is expected by the end of June, and the Court is likely to weaken, but not eliminate, the agency, according to CNBC.
Carson defends Trump budget request in hearing

HUD Secretary Ben Carson testified at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Trump administration’s FY 2021 budget request for the agency on Wednesday. At the hearing, Carson defended the budget request, which calls for an overall decrease of 15 percent in HUD’s discretionary spending levels. Democrats on the subcommittee, meanwhile, including Subcommittee Chairman David Price (D-N.C.), criticized the budget request. The request is “woefully inadequate to the task at hand, and honestly we had hoped for better,” Price said in his opening statement at the hearing.
Chart of the Week
Another report shows housing supply is at historically low levels

Freddie Mac recently released a report examining housing supply levels by state and concluding that there is a nationwide shortage of 3.3 million units, which is rising by roughly 300,000 units every year. The report uses a dynamic model, taking interstate migration flows into account, to show that while some states, like Arkansas and West Virginia have a surplus of housing, the majority—29 states—have a deficit.
What we're reading
In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal examined the difficulties homeowners face in dealing with mortgage companies in the wake of natural disasters. The article examined mortgage forbearance programs, which “often start with administrative errors that lead to bigger issues down the road.” Read the article here.

Washington City Paper published an article on Tuesday spotlighting local medicine practitioners’ efforts to provide healthcare to people experiencing homelessness. “We have realized more and more that if we take that first step to engage people in care, we can start building that trust over time,” one of these practitioners, Gunther Stern, told the outlet. Read the article here.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently released the winter edition of Tenant Talk, publication by and for residents of public and assisted housing and those in need of such housing. The winter edition focuses on the obstacles returning citizens face in finding affordable housing after leaving prison, among other issues. Read the full publication here.
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 © 2020. All Rights Reserved.