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Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
Recapping the 2020 Solutions for Housing Communications virtual convening
On May 27, NHC held our Solutions for Housing Communications virtual convening. This event was originally scheduled to take place in March at the National Press Club. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, NHC took the necessary steps to cancel the in-person event, but still wanted to bring people together to take part in important discussions around messaging, marketing and advocacy strategies to build support for affordable housing. We thank everyone for joining us via Zoom, especially all of our speakers and special keynote speakers Grovetta Gardineer , senior deputy comptroller for bank supervision policy for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and Conor Dougherty, New York Times economics reporter and author of “Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America.” During her opening remarks, Gardineer noted that there will be a “significant transition period” and that examinations under the new framework will not be implemented until 2023.

To read brief recaps of all the sessions during the conference, click here.
News from Washington I By Quinn Mulholland
OCC releases final CRA rule, Otting resigns

On May 20, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) released a final rule on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The final OCC rule, Comptroller Joseph Otting wrote in an op-ed for the American Banker, “will make evaluating national banks and federal savings associations for CRA performance more objective and transparent,” and “will encourage those banks to lend, invest and provide more services to the communities they serve, including low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods, across the country.” The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which joined the OCC for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) on CRA in January, announced that it would not join the agency for the final rule. In her remarks for NHC’s Solutions for Housing Communications, which convened on May 27, Grovetta Gardineer, senior deputy comptroller for bank supervision policy for the OCC, shared the updates will become effective this October; however, examinations will not be fully implemented until 2023. Despite the absence of the Federal Reserve and FDIC’s participation in the final rule, Gardineer said the agencies were aligned in the need for CRA change.

In a statement , NHC President and CEO David Dworkin criticized the final rule, saying, “Banks, regulators, and community groups must be singularly focused on responding to this unprecedented crisis and not on bureaucratic and regulatory diversions that will sidetrack essential resources from the task at hand.” In an interview with The New York Times, Dworkin was asked if the intent of Comptroller Otting was to gut CRA. “There are many people who believe that he wanted to gut C.R.A.,” he said. “I can’t make that judgment, but I can say that what he has done will gut it.”

Comptroller Otting also announced his resignation on May 20 in a conference call with agency employees. OCC Chief Operating Officer Brian Brooks became acting comptroller on Friday.
FHFA releases capital rule for GSEs

On May 21, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced an NPR establishing a new regulatory capital framework for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The proposed rule is a re-proposal of the NPR published in June 2018 under former FHFA Director Mel Watt and would require the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) to retain 4% of their assets in capital, which would have amounted to roughly $240 billion last year, once they are released from conservatorship. In a statement, House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) praised the NPR, saying, “stronger capital requirements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will set a solid foundation to responsibly move the Enterprises out of government conservatorship.” Comments on the NPR are due July 19 and can be submitted here.

In another move geared towards preparing for release from conservatorship, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued requests for proposals to hire financial advisors to assist in developing and implementing a plan for recapitalization. “While we are fulfilling our mission and helping to keep people in their homes during this national emergency, we also remain committed to ensuring a responsible exit from conservatorship,” Fannie Mae CEO Hugh R. Frater said in a statement. “Today's announcement is a significant step on that path, and we look forward to making a timely selection in the competitive process.”
FHFA announces refinance and home purchase eligibility for borrowers in forbearance

FHFA announced on May 19 that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow borrowers in forbearance to refinance their loan or buy a new home if they are current on their mortgage or if they have made three consecutive payments under their repayment plan. “Homeowners who are in COVID-19 forbearance but continue to make their mortgage payment will not be penalized,” said FHFA Director Mark Calabria in a statement. “Today's action allows homeowners to access record low mortgage rates and keeps the mortgage market functioning as efficiently as possible.” The announcement comes as concerns grow that some borrowers have been put in forbearance plans without requesting them and that forbearance may have a negative impact on their credit scores.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also unveiled new initiatives on Tuesday to help consumers affected by the pandemic. The initiatives, called “Here to Help” and “#HelpStartsHere,” will connect struggling homeowners and renters with educational resources and other tools to help them make their mortgage and rent payments.
Wyden outlines affordable housing priorities for next stimulus package

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) recently unveiled a list of policy priorities to preserve and expand affordable housing to be included in the next COVID-19 relief bill. The policies, which all pertain to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), include regulatory relief to allow LIHTC projects to continue, a 4% floor for LIHTC, and emergency assistance to help LIHTC tenants remain housed. “This country needs more affordable housing, not less, and Congress can’t allow this crisis to foster homelessness and further reduce the supply of affordable housing,” Wyden said in a statement. The ACTION Campaign, which NHC is a part of, has previously called for many of the policies Wyden outlined to be enacted. The campaign, along with the Seattle Office of the Mayor, circulated a letter last week signed by mayors across the country calling for Members of Congress to include provisions that support the Housing Credit in the next COVID-19 response package.
House, Senate committees hold hearings on COVID-19 and housing

In the past two weeks, several House and Senate committees have held virtual hearings and roundtables on aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic related to housing. On May 19, the Senate Banking Committee held a virtual hearing on the CARES Act with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Board of Governors Chairman Jerome Powell. In the hearing, Powell testified that the Federal Reserve’s decision in March to purchase mortgage-backed securities helped to stabilize the mortgage market, saying, “With these purchases, market conditions improved substantially, and thus we have slowed our pace of purchases.” On May 22, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance held a virtual roundtable on the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. housing market with National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel, Mortgage Bankers Association Vice Chairman Kristy Fercho and Brookings Institution fellow Jenny Schuetz. In his opening remarks at the roundtable, Subcommittee Chairman Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) remarked, “We need to be sure that our response to this crisis includes lessons learned from the 2008 financial crisis.” And on Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, which included a discussion of social determinants of health like housing.
NAEH releases 2020 ‘State of Homelessness’ report

The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) recently released the 2020 edition of its “State of Homelessness” report, which showed that 567,715 people in America were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2019, 37% of whom were unsheltered. The report examines the risks posed by the COVID-19 crisis to the homeless population, with over 200,000 homeless individuals over the age of 50. In an accompanying blog post, Joy Moses, NAEH homelessness research institute director, wrote, “Expected growths in the homeless population growth will add further strain to emergency services – services that already weren’t meeting the needs of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, years before the crisis began.”
GSEs unveil LIBOR transition resources

On Thursday, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac launched new websites to provide resources for lenders and investors on the transition away from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). “To protect our nation’s housing finance markets, FHFA has directed the entities we regulate to transition away from LIBOR,” FHFA Director Mark Calabria said in a statement. “These resources will help market participants to likewise move away from LIBOR in a safe and sound manner.” The GSEs’ websites provide resources including a transition playbook, frequently asked questions, and recommended actions to help support products linked to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), the new reference rate. In a statement, Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) Chair Tom Wipf applauded the websites, adding, “We encourage other institutions to follow this exemplary model the GSEs have set in establishing specific transition plans.”
Chart of the Week
Nearly one-fifth of vulnerable households in small buildings may have difficulty paying rent

In a recent blog post, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies research associate Whitney Airgood-Obrycki and research analyst Alexander Hermann examined the potential for rent shortfalls in small multifamily buildings. According to their research, 15% of renters with at-risk wages living in buildings with 2-4 units would face rent shortfalls and an additional 4% would be severely burdened by rent payments.
What we're reading
An article in the New York Times highlighted the possibility of an impending wave of evictions as moratoriums expire across the country and renters continue to struggle to make rent payments. Without new rental relief, according to Columbia Law School professor Emily Benfer, “we will have an avalanche of evictions across the country.” Read the article here.

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the Brookings Institution recently published the second installment of a series on innovations in design and construction. The report highlights the ways flexible zoning and streamlined procedures can make housing more affordable. Read the report here.

A recent Michigan Radio story examined the poor housing conditions faced by seasonal migrant workers in farms across the country. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, farmworker advocates are calling for stricter housing standards to keep farmworkers safe. Read the article here.

On Thursday, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation released a report on the federal government’s role in building and preserving affordable rental homes. According to the report, nearly 300,000 may be lost from the nation’s affordable stock in the next five years. Read the full report here.

In an article published Saturday, Washington Post reporter Renae Merle reviewed key information for renters and homeowners on making June rental and mortgage payments. In the article, NHC President and CEO David Dworkin advised homeowners reaching out to their mortgage servicers to "document every conversation and follow up in a letter or email noting what was discussed in your phone call." 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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