Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington | By Luke Villalobos
FHFA announces $1.1 billion for Capital Magnet Fund and Housing Trust Fund

FHFA announced Monday that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would commit over $1.1 billion to the Capital Magnet Fund and Housing Trust Fund, two flagship affordable housing investment funds respectively administered by Treasury and HUD. The commitment is the largest ever from the Enterprises, which Acting FHFA Director Sandra Thompson said reflected their resolve to increase the supply of affordable housing. "Today's announcement of record funding for additional housing production will help increase access to affordable, sustainable housing options,” she said.
Fannie and Freddie will commit $398 million to the Capital Magnet Fund and $740 million to the Housing Trust Fund, increasing last year’s amount by $15 and $29 million, respectively. Capital Magnet Fund money goes toward competitive grants for affordable housing and other community development activities. HUD awards Housing Trust Fund money to states to produce or maintain affordable, non-luxury housing. Affordable housing industry members see both funds as integral to affordable housing development as housing prices continue to increase nationwide. 
Housers testify on racial and class equity

On Tuesday, several housing stakeholders testified before the House Select Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth during a hearing on the importance of affordable housing in providing equitable outcomes for disadvantaged communities and people of color. The hearing focused on the link between stable housing, inclusive growth, and economic security. Witnesses included Nikitra Bailey, senior vice president of public policy at the National Fair Housing Alliance, and Jacqueline Waggoner, president of the Solutions Division at Enterprise Community Partners.
Bailey focused on remaining barriers to wealth-building for communities of color that directly result from past policy decisions. She spoke to the importance of race-conscious policymaking and the "separate and unequal financial system, rewarding White households while [...] debilitating African American, Latino, AAPI, and Native households." Bailey also noted that Black homeownership rates are lower today than they were when discrimination was legal, in part due to fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis. 
Waggoner recommended that the committee "focus on strengthening federal tenant protections through policies like source of income protections, providing appropriations support for renters receiving federal housing subsidies, including the expanded use of vouchers and Earned Income Disregard, and increasing funding for the Family Self-Sufficiency program. In addition, there should be a focus on supporting community ownership models as a way to grow intergenerational wealth in historically marginalized communities.” 
Both Bailey and Waggoner emphasized that geography has profound implications for overall individual outcomes of health, life expectancy, education, and economic stability. Together, they called for further investment in housing programs and action to help counter existing disparities and encourage equitable growth for all communities. 
Padilla introduces Housing for All Act

Last Friday, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) announced a comprehensive bill to address housing needs across the country entitled the Housing for All Act of 2022. The bill would invest in several existing housing programs over nine years, including $45 billion annually for the National Housing Trust Fund, $40 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships program, $2.5 billion for Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, $900 million for Section 811 Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities, $14.5 billion for Project-Based Rental Assistance, and an expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher program, among other funding allocations. While the bill does not mention investments through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, the press release specifically notes the Senator’s support for the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act as a route for strengthening the Housing Credit and bolstering housing supply. 
Padilla said that the bill was focused on funding proven ways to spur affordable housing production and reduce homelessness. "Every person has a right to the dignity and security of housing. As we continue to face historic affordable housing and homelessness crises, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it's going to take all levels of government working together to rebuild a more inclusive and equitable society for all," he said. "This legislation is an opportunity to invest and align resources in expanding affordable housing and strengthening proven solutions."
The bill has been endorsed by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Low Income Housing Coalition, and Matthew Desmond of Princeton University's Eviction Lab. Representatives Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA) will introduce a companion bill to the House of Representatives.
Biden says affordable housing is part of plan to "build a better America"

President Biden reiterated his commitment to core elements of his stalled Build Back Better plan in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, one of which he said was building more affordable housing. He said that the plan would fight inflation by "lowering [...] costs, not wages", which he said would "build a better America."
However, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), a key member of the Democratic caucus who has so far stymied the administration’s progress to pass Build Back Better, was skeptical of the argument that increased social spending would fight inflation. Manchin, who sat with Republican Senators during the address, said afterward that “I’ve never found out that you can lower costs by spending more.”
HUD releases FHA High Cost Area list

HUD released its annual update to the set of metropolitan areas where FHA mortgages can exceed its baseline loan limit of $420,680. The new list reflects the 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act's allowance for loans of up to 170%, and up to 215% on a project-by-project basis, in designated High Cost Areas.
New additions to the list of high-cost areas are the Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Springfield, Illinois, metropolitan areas. The only area removed from the list is Baltimore.
NFHA launches online tool to connect renters to assistance

On Thursday, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) launched a new web service to quickly connect renters at risk of falling behind on their bills with rental assistance. The service, called Frontdoor, allows users to supply personal information online to assess eligibility for various programs. They then email personalized information about the Frontdoor programs they can qualify for, as well as application guides for those programs.
Frontdoor is the latest entrant into what NFHA says has been a neglected space of offering information to renters during the pandemic when the risks of eviction have been elevated. Other tools offering similar information include CFPB’s Rental Assistance Tool and the Virginia Relief Program, however, NFHA says that those tools do not offer specific enough information that is easy to understand and is consumer-friendly. “Frontdoor overcomes […] these limitations with a recommendation system that can connect a renter to specific, useful application information in as little as 10 minutes,” NFHA said.
NAREB launches campaign to promote minority homeownership

The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) launched a new campaign on Monday to increase minority and low- and moderate-income homeownership, taking aim at four policy areas they say could be most effective at removing barriers to homeownership for these groups. NAREB said that the four policy areas – enacting downpayment assistance, reducing student loan debt burden, ending loan level price adjustments, and fair appraisals – have the potential for high-impact intervention that could go a long way toward reducing systemic racism and classism in housing finance.
Citing the widening gap between the Black and White homeownership rates, NAREB Second Vice President Ashley Thomas III said that the campaign would be instrumental in helping Black potential homebuyers. “By addressing these public policy issues, we can create an environment that will give more Black families opportunities to be homeowners,” he said. “These policy changes must be part of the Reckoning on Race. It is shameful that there are policies restricting progress.”
HUD announces Better Climate Challenge with DOE

On Monday, HUD signed on to a new green initiative called the Better Climate Challenge, a private-public partnership led by the Department of Energy (DOE), to achieve decarbonization goals. The announcement was made alongside DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm and White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy. HUD will support the initiative's multifamily component, with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge noting that decarbonization efforts are not only environmentally beneficial, but also will help to deliver climate justice to disadvantaged communities and lower energy costs for low- and moderate-income families. 
The Better Climate Challenge builds on the existing Better Building Challenge. Engaging over 80 different businesses to support carbon reduction goals, its goal is a 50% portfolio-wide reduction in carbon emissions over ten years. So far, over 90 organizations have joined in the challenge, including several multifamily and public housing providers. 
Chart of the week
Chart of the week: Housing prices are projected to rise, fueling further inflation

A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research projects that housing cost inflation for homeowners as measured by owners’ equivalent rent of residence (OER) could top 6% annually and over 7% annually for renters over the next year. That inflation, in turn, is projected to push housing costs' contributions to the core consumer price index (CPI) growth over 2.5% by the end of the year.
What we're reading
ProPublica and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser investigate Hawaii’s failure to inspect homes built as reparations to Native Hawaiians, leading to pervasive livability issues. The outlets find that the homes, built as part of a program to return Native Hawaiians to lands stolen from their families during colonization, were largely ignored by the state’s Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which instead relied on the builder to vouch for the quality of the homes.
CityLab reports on Chairwoman Maxine Waters’ (D-Calif.) efforts to provide fair appraisals free of racial bias, which she kicked off in a letter sent to industry leaders and regulators last week. “In the coming months, my Committee will convene hearings, advance legislation, and continue working with stakeholders to end housing discrimination and hold the appraisal industry fully accountable,” she wrote.
The week ahead
Monday, March 7
ULI: Value and cap rates, 1 – 3:30 p.m. ET
NLIHC: National call on HoUsed, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. ET
NLIHC: Tenant talk live, 6 – 7 p.m. ET
Tuesday, March 8
Wednesday, March 9
NCRC: Legislative/regulatory call, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. ET
Thursday, March 10
MBA: MAA quarterly webinar, 3 – 4 p.m. ET
Friday, March 11
The National Housing Conference is a diverse continuum of affordable housing stakeholders that convene and collaborate through dialogue, advocacy, research, and education, to develop equitable solutions that serve our common interest.
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