In light of COVID-19, we are temporarily making our Member Brief available to non-members. If you wish to become an NHC member, click here.
Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington
Housing and civil rights organizations urge inclusion of Homeowner Assistance Fund in stimulus bill

A diverse group of housing, community and civil rights organizations issued a joint press release applauding the reintroduction of the Homeowner Assistance Fund by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.). The group, which includes NHC, the National Fair Housing Alliance, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, National Community Stabilization Trust and Center for Responsible Lending, among others, is urging Congress and the Biden administration to include the Housing Assistance Fund as well as housing counseling funding in the next stimulus bill. “The Homeowner Assistance Fund would provide a critical safety net for millions of families who are behind on their mortgages or already in foreclosure as a result of the pandemic, which disproportionately impacts communities of color,” the press release states.

“To date, Congress has not allocated any relief dollars to help homeowners during the pandemic, leaving millions of homeowners unable to pay their housing costs and on the brink of foreclosure. Homeowners of color lost their homes at twice the rate of white homeowners during the last financial crisis, and the same communities face the potential for major homeownership losses due to COVID-19.”

The Homeowner Assistance Fund would allow for direct payments to homeowners for mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance, utility payments and other housing related costs. The National Consumer Law Center and Center for NYC Neighborhoods – two co-signors of the press release – have also published an issue brief on the urgent need for the Homeowner Assistance Fund.
Sens. Brown, Cardin and Portman reintroduce NHIA

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) reintroduced the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA). The bipartisan legislation, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C), would create a new federal tax credit to encourage the revitalization of distressed properties in areas where the cost of purchasing and renovating a home exceeds its sales value. The proposed legislation would support private investment in an estimated 500,000 homes that, because of their poor condition, depress nearby property values and thwart broader revitalization efforts.

Nearly 25% of metro and non-metro areas nationwide would qualify for the tax credit, which is estimated to create $100 billion in development revenue over the next decade. NHIA would also direct investment to the communities most in need, including neighborhoods with poverty rates greater than or equal to 130% of the state poverty rate, incomes less than or equal to 80% of the area median income and home values below the local median.

“As we continue to battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this tax credit will encourage opportunity and investment in neighborhoods that are often home to vulnerable populations and marked by stagnant housing markets, foreclosures, and blighted or vacant homes,” said Sen. Portman.

The legislation has widespread support from housing organizations including NHC, Enterprise Community Partners, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the National Council of State Housing Agencies, and Center for Community Progress, among others. 
HUD OIG report assesses effectiveness of landlord incentives

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Inspector General (OIG) tracked the use of landlord incentives by public housing agencies (PHAs) from 2016 to 2019 to assess their effectiveness in increasing landlord participation in HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program and broadening housing options for low-income and minority households. HUD OIG’s review follows several studies conducted in 2018 that found that some landlords chose not to participate in the program because of “bureaucratic factors, financial considerations and preconceptions about the tenants.”

The report concludes that the use of nonmonetary and monetary incentives was relatively effective at attracting landlord participation. The most common nonmonetary incentives deployed by PHAs were direct housing assistance payment deposits, landlord portals, workshops and other outreach efforts, landlord liaisons and streamlined inspection processes. The most common monetary incentives were new landlord bonuses, property damage reimbursements, vacancy loss payments, higher payment standards for high-opportunity areas, bonuses for high-opportunity areas and security deposit assistance.

Based on its findings, HUD OIG recommends HUD further study the effectiveness of different incentive options, consider expanding the use of incentives and incorporate its findings into the work of the Landlord Task Force.
FHA issues temporary policy waivers to protect seniors

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced a series of temporary policy waivers aimed at continuing mortgage servicing operations while also limiting in-person contact between mortgage servicers and senior homeowners with reverse mortgages. FHA will permit alternatives to in-person early default intervention interviews for Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) borrowers and eliminate the requirement for a signature on occupancy certifications for these borrowers. FHA will also waive the $5,000 property charge payment arrearages cap on repayment plans to allow “servicers to help more HECM borrowers who are behind on their property charge payments.” The waivers will remain in effect through December 2021.

“President Biden has made it clear that protecting the health, safety, and homeownership security of the nation’s most vulnerable populations, including seniors, are urgent and immediate priorities,” said Acting HUD Secretary Matthew Ammon. “The policy waivers issued today are another important step in addressing these priorities.”

FHA’s policy changes come as new data reveals a surge in HECM lending in January. HECM endorsements increased by more than 10% from the previous month, reaching the highest volumes seen since last May.
Acting CFPB director outlines near-term priorities

In a recent blog post, acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Dave Uejio outlines the agency’s 2021 priorities, which include protecting consumers experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 and advancing racial equity. CFPB will immediately focus supervision and enforcement efforts on ensuring the appropriate administration of COVID-19 relief. “I am concerned about the findings described in last week’s Supervisory Highlights edition that companies are failing to properly administer relief through the crisis,” Uejio says, citing improper mortgage servicing practices, misreporting to credit bureaus and Paycheck Protection Program policies that negatively impact minority-owned businesses.

“Moving forward, the CFPB will take aggressive action to ensure that regulated companies follow the law and meet their obligations to assist consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Uejio, who added that the agency will also take immediate action on racial equity. In addition to prioritizing fair lending enforcement, CFPB will “look more broadly, beyond fair lending, to identify and root out unlawful conduct that disproportionately impacts communities of color and other vulnerable populations.”
FHFA announces new general counsel

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced this week that senior advisor Clinton Jones will replace Alfred Pollard as General Counsel. Pollard, who will retire from his position in March, has served in the role since FHFA was first created in 2008 and was named one of “America’s 50 Outstanding General Counsel” by National Law Journal. “Alfred has served admirably as General Counsel to every FHFA Director,” said FHFA Director Mark Calabria. “I am grateful for his wise counsel, hard work, and dedication to the agency.”

Incoming General Counsel Jones brings more than two decades of experience in senior legal roles with the House Financial Services Committee, Fannie Mae and HUD. Director Calabria said, “Clinton’s long-standing career in public service, in-depth legal expertise in housing policy, and executive leadership skills will help bolster FHFA’s work as a world-class prudential regulator.”
HUD announces new measures to support Puerto Rico

In an effort to expand relief to Puerto Rico, HUD approved $6.2 billion in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funding for the U.S. territory. The funding will support the Puerto Rico Department of Housing’s Action Plan. HUD’s actions also streamline and ease the timing and term requirements previously imposed on funds approved by HUD.

HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Planning and Development Arthur Jemison said, “HUD and the Biden Administration are committed to working with Puerto Rico to reset our relationship on the island’s recovery efforts, and the action we are taking will play a key role in this effort by ensuring that Puerto Rico is able to access and spend critical disaster and recovery funds on urgent unmet needs.”
Chart of the week
Chart of the week: The implications of population growth in the South and West

New research from Freddie Mac tracks the relationship between population trends and housing demand, with a focus on increasing migration to the South and West regions of the country over the past 10 years. According to the research, “Most of the growth in metro areas in these states has been taking place in the suburbs as compared to the cities.” In anticipation of sustained housing demand in these regions, Freddie Mac notes, “increases in the housing stock can help reduce the appreciation in house prices.”
What we're reading
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Peter Hepburn, who manages Eviction Lab’s Eviction Tracking System, and Yuliya Panfil, director of New America’s Future of Land and Housing Program, describe the “black hole” at the center of the country’s eviction crisis: the dearth of eviction data from the private rental market. “Entire states, as well as vast swaths of others, lack eviction data crucial to answering basic questions: How many households are evicted each year? Why are those people being evicted? How much back rent is due in these cases?” the authors explain. “Absent reliable, consistent data, the Biden administration and state and local governments will be flying blind this year — with billions of dollars more in rent relief to distribute, but few ways of tracking and aiding communities most at risk of eviction and homelessness.”

A week after the California legislature extended the state’s eviction moratorium through the end of June, a Los Angeles Times article asks, "What happens when the rent comes due?” California’s new law would forgive rent debt accrued since April 2020 for low-income tenants if their landlords agree to forgive 20% of the debt. If a landlord refuses to forgive 20%, low-income tenants are eligible for federal relief to cover the 25% of past-due rent required to avoid eviction under the law. “The landlord’s refusal also would give a judge the option to reduce the amount of rent the tenant owes,” the article states.

A new article from Shelterforce offers “three big, but basic things” policymakers, lawmakers and industry leaders can do to improve equity in the U.S. housing market. The article, written by Tiffany Manuel, president and CEO of TheCaseMade; Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink; and Ruby Bolaria Shifrin, director of the Housing Affordability program at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, says the first step is to protect households at risk of losing their homes to eviction or foreclosure. “Next, local lawmakers must act to permanently preserve housing for cost-burdened tenants and provide new pathways for ownership,” the authors say. “Third, and critically, we need to produce more housing, especially affordable 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.
Defending our American Home since 1931
Copyright © 2021. All Rights Reserved.