Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington I By Quinn Mulholland
COVID-19 continues to impact housing market, pose unique risks for homeless

The coronavirus outbreak continued to have ripple effects on the housing market last week, with mortgage refinances spiking as a result of record-low mortgage rates, but uncertainty surrounding the disease putting a damper on the housing market. People experiencing homelessness face a much greater risk from coronavirus, facing difficulties in social distancing, washing hands, and stocking up on food. As a result, local governments across the country are scrambling to enact measures to protect homeless populations, with one service provider telling the Guardian, “We are not prepared yet for a crisis like this.” Some municipalities are debating eviction moratoriums to prevent low-wage workers from the economic ripple effects of the outbreak. Meanwhile, at the federal level, officials are continuing to take urgent action to curb the crisis. The FHA and the FHFA both released statements giving guidance to housing providers on mortgage relief. The House of Representatives and the Trump administration reached an agreement on a COVID-19 response bill, H.R. 6201 that would provide access to free testing, provide $1 billion in food aid and extend sick to leave to vulnerable Americans. Negotiations to reach the bipartisan accord were led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Senate, House committees hold hearings on HUD, CFPB and Wells Fargo

The House Financial Services Committee kicked off a busy week of housing-related hearings on Capitol Hill with a two- day series of hearings on abusive practices by Wells Fargo, including predatory mortgage practices. Separate investigations by the committee’s Democrat and Republican staffs identified serious, enterprise-wide deficiencies. In the wake of the report, Wells Fargo Board Chairwoman Betsy Duke resigned and the bank committed to investing $50 million in black-owned banks. Additionally last week, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the CFPB featuring CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger, and the Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee held a hearing on the Trump administration’s FY 2021 budget request for HUD featuring HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
NLIHC releases annual report showing shortage of affordable rental homes

On Tuesday, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released its annual report titled “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes,” which found that extremely low-income (ELI) renters face a shortage of 7 million affordable and available rental homes. This equates to just 36 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 ELI renters. The report also found that this shortage disproportionately impacts black communities. Despite accounting for just 12 percent of all households in America—black households accounted for over a quarter of ELI renter households. Furthermore, according to the report, no state has an adequate supply of affordable and available rental homes for ELI renters, with California having the largest absolute gap in affordable housing and Nevada having the most severe shortage in proportion to the state’s ELI renter population.
Lawmakers introduce bill to spur transit-oriented development

A bipartisan group of Representatives, Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Mike Kelly (R-Penn.), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), and Dan Kildee (D-Mich.)— introduced the introduced the Revitalizing Economies, Housing, And Businesses (REHAB) Act in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The legislation would reinstate a tax credit for buildings that are over 50 years old and within a half mile from a public transportation station. This bill, similar to the Build More Housing Near Transit Act introduced in the House last year, aims to spur more development, including housing, near public transportation so that residents have access to means of transportation other than a car, as well as to lower the cost of housing through greater supply.

You can view my recent post on the importance of incorporating transportation mobility in housing plans here
FHFA strengthens evaluation criteria for Duty to Serve program

On Wednesday, the FHFA announced it will change the agency’s Evaluation Guidance for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in order to strengthen the GSEs’ Duty to Serve (DTS) Underserved Markets program. The GSEs’ plans for meeting their obligations under the DTS program, which was established under the 2008 Housing and Economic Recovery Act, expire in January 2021. The new guidance from the FHFA require Fannie and Freddie to set objectives that are “strategic, measurable, realistic, time-bound, and tied to an analysis of market opportunities.” It also raises the threshold for compliance in meeting DTS goals. The FHFA also recently authorized the disbursement of the GSEs’ affordable housing allocations of $326 million to the Housing Trust Fund and $176 million to the Capital Magnet Fund, both at a record high.
Chart of the Week
Public housing residents face spatial mismatch when applying to jobs

A recent report from the Urban Institute’s Community Economic Development Hub showed that public housing residents face a “spatial mismatch” when applying for jobs, meaning that they are less likely to be able to find a job near their neighborhood. Of all assisted households, the report found, public housing residents had the biggest difference between the number of job applicants and the number of jobs nearby.
What we're reading
The Buffalo News recently took an in-depth look at rising home values in the city and their impact on low-income homeowners’ tax bills. According to the article, in certain low-income neighborhoods near the central city, home value assessments have spiked in recent years, causing higher tax bills for many homeowners and concerns about displacement. Read the article here.

Urban Institute Kimberly Burrowes examined how housing interventions can reduce incarceration and recidivism in an article published by Shelterforce on Monday. Burrowes wrote that affordable, high-quality housing can lower the likelihood that individuals will become involved in the criminal justice system and can help prevent recidivism after individuals exit the system. Read the article here.

In a recent article for Curbed, senior reporter Patrick Sisson explained why it is so difficult to build small homes in America, where average home sizes have ballooned. In many cities, Sisson wrote, zoning rules and the cost of building make it difficult to build anything other than large single-family homes. Read the article 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.
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