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Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington
White House releases more details on housing components of American Jobs Plan

The White House released new details on its now $318 billion proposed investment in affordable housing through the American Jobs Plan on Wednesday, including an additional investment of over $100 billion in tax credits not disclosed in the initial $213 billion plan. As a preview to the Green Book expected later this week on tax proposals, the plan gives a full breakdown on where the funds will go, with the largest investment of $55 billion going toward a housing credit to increase production of affordable housing and $45 billion going to the Housing Trust Fund.

The White House estimates that the total housing investment will fund the production, preservation or retrofitting of over 2 million affordable housing units, 500,000 of which will be new and rehabilitated homes for low- and moderate-income homebuyers. In a fact sheet released by the White House, it is reiterated that the investment will produce thousands of jobs for local communities.

The White House further iterated the importance of housing as infrastructure in a released statement on Monday announcing $1 billion in pre-disaster mitigation funding. These funds will help communities, states and Tribal governments prepare for major disasters and weather events in preparation for hurricane season. The statement cites the record hurricane season in 2020 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data predicting another above-normal hurricane season, as well as the impacts of climate change on weather in general.

The question of whether housing belongs in infrastructure legislation is still in contention, with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) saying two weeks ago that “people certainly need housing, but housing is not infrastructure.” The White House’s retention of housing in their proposal indicates that the conversation is far from over. Peggy Bailey, a senior advisor on rental assistance at HUD, stated “Without affordable housing, families are unable to thrive, which makes housing as fundamental as streets and other pieces people call ‘traditional infrastructure.’ Housing is part of that.”
NeighborWorks announces funding for housing counselors

NHC member NeighborWorks America announced Thursday that it would make $88.5 million in grant funds available to housing counselors as part of its Housing Stability Counseling Program (HSCP), which received $100 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan. NeighborWorks has reserved $35 million of the funds for housing counseling agencies serving communities of color, and the organization intends to target funds to neighborhoods that score highly on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index.

"With the implementation of the Housing Stability Counseling Program, we know that we are helping to mitigate the risk of eviction and foreclosure for some very vulnerable populations,” said NeighborWorks President and CEO Marietta Rodriguez. “HSCP is the type of collaboration between nonprofits and government we know makes a difference for the communities we serve.” Potential grantees can apply for between $50,000 and $10 million in funds on the HSCP website.
Freddie Mac board names new CEO

Freddie Mac announced Wednesday that its Board of Directors has tapped former Wells Fargo mortgage executive Michael J. DeVito as the enterprise’s new CEO. DeVito will replace Freddie Mac’s interim CEO, Mark Grier, who will return to his position as a member of the enterprise’s board. “I am honored to lead a mission-driven company with proven success in making home possible for millions of families over the past five decades,” said DeVito.

DeVito’s appointment comes almost six months after the departure of Freddie Mac’s previous CEO, David Brickman, who held the job for only a year and a half. According to HousingWire, Brickman’s resignation was one of several high-profile departures from GSE leadership positions after former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin indicated that the GSEs would likely not be released from conservatorship for the foreseeable future. DeVito will start in July.
HUD aims to address youth homelessness, neighborhood revitalization with grants

On Monday, HUD announced it would make a total of $145 million in competitive funding available to community coalitions to combat youth homelessness through its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). In order to be considered for funding, coalitions must develop action plans to reduce youth homelessness in the communities they represent, with particular attention to populations at elevated risk of youth homelessness, such as youth of color, LGBTQ+ youth and youth involved with the juvenile justice system. YHDP also requires applicants to convene Youth Action Boards that consist of youth who have experienced homelessness and must be given substantial power to guide the use of HUD funds. HUD also encourages applicants to propose innovative solutions to the problem of youth homelessness.

HUD also announced this week it would award a total of $160 million to five neighborhood revitalization projects in Camden, New Jersey; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Fort Myers, Florida; and Lewiston, Maine; as part of its Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. The program aims to help severely distressed neighborhoods by replacing HUD-assisted housing with mixed-income developments and improving other amenities, such as public schools. The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative also aims to deconcentrate poverty by attracting more middle-income families to target neighborhoods, though an evaluation by MRDC and the Urban Institute found the first iteration of the program had limited success on this front.
Senators introduce Choice in Affordable Housing Act

On Monday, Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) introduced the Choice in Affordable Housing Act, which aims to expand the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. The bill would increase access to the number of rentals that accept HCVs in high-opportunity areas by removing programmatic barriers in order to attract landlords to the program and retain their participation. It would also invest $500 million in creating a new Housing Partnership Fund that offers incentives to landlords and security deposit assistance to HCV recipients.

The Senators also released a fact sheet that included endorsements from affordable housing groups and prominent researchers, including NHC member National Multifamily Housing Council. “Research shows that increasing families' access to high-opportunity areas is an important pathway to upward mobility,” said Raj Chetti, director of opportunity insights at Harvard University, who focuses on the effects of housing and neighborhoods on life prospects and was quoted on the fact sheet. “Making it easier for landlords to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program is critical for increasing housing supply in opportunity-rich areas and by way of this, supporting families' long-term success."
Chart of the week
Chart of the week: $50,000 of lumber can build less than a fourth what it could last year

Visual Capitalist illustrates the severity of the lumber supply crisis, showing that the number of homes that could have been built with $50,000 of lumber at the beginning of May is less than a fourth of what could have been built for the same price a year ago.
What we're reading
HousingWire interviews NHC’s David Dworkin on the publication’s Housing News podcast, touching on NHC’s history, the racial homeownership gap, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s decision to review its Qualified Mortgage rule, and how he measures NHC’s success in promoting affordable housing. Dworkin emphasized the importance of homeownership in the broader housing market, saying, “When you have fewer homeowners, you have higher rents, and when you have higher rents, you have more homelessness. If you want to address all of those issues, you have to address them all together.”

Vox explores the dubious fair housing implications of prospective homebuyers writing personal letters to sellers in order to get a leg up in the current hyper-competitive housing market. Prospective buyers often emphasize that they are “nice, normal people” in these letters, opening the door to “subjective measures of what that means — if you’re more likely to feel a connection to someone who looks like you and who has a similar background, that can lead to discriminating against people based on any one of the protected classes the Fair Housing Act is meant to safeguard.”

The Virginia Mercury previews the implementation of Virginia’s “anti-NIMBY” law, which forbids the denial of building permits to projects due to anticipated tenant income. Activists note that though the law is not a panacea, it “sends the message to local governments that we are in dire need of affordable housing, and it is no longer acceptable to refuse low-income housing.”
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.
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