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Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington I By Quinn Mulholland
FHFA, CFPB announce mortgage servicing initiative

On Wednesday, FHFA and CFPB announced a new initiative to share mortgage servicing information to further protect borrowers. Under the initiative, called the Borrower Protection Program, CFPB will share complaint information and analytical tools with FHFA, and FHFA will share information about forbearances, modifications, and other loss mitigation initiatives with the CFPB. Meanwhile, FHFA Director Mark Calabria continues to come under criticism from the mortgage servicing industry for not providing a mortgage facility to help with liquidity in the mortgage market. A group of Republican representatives also joined the mortgage industry’s calls for a liquidity facility, sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on April 10. On Wednesday, House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent a similar letter to Secretary Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell calling for a liquidity facility. At a White House briefing on Monday, Secretary Mnuchin offered reassurances that the administration will “make sure that the market functions properly.”
Outbreak in San Francisco shelter highlights risks posed by COVID-19 to homeless

Last week, an outbreak of COVID-19 at San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter led to over 90 individuals contracting the virus. In response, the city worked to move residents out of the shelter and into hotels over the weekend. The outbreak followed weeks of dire warnings from advocates that people experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of COVID-19. As an employee of a San Francisco homelessness advocacy organization told the Guardian, the outbreak “was totally preventable and totally predictable.” On Tuesday, lawmakers in San Francisco called on Mayor London Breed to secure 7,000 hotel rooms to house the city’s homeless population during the crisis. Following the emergency ordinance, city officials announced on Wednesday that the city has secured over 1,200 hotel rooms for homeless individuals in the shelter system who tested positive or may have been exposed.
Racial disparities emerge in COVID-19 infections, deaths

Over the past several weeks, public health agencies began to report Coronavirus statistics broken down by racial groups, revealing concerning trends on how the pandemic is impacting black Americans. Reports in the New York Times, Washington Post and ProPublica highlighted data that showed blacks make up a disproportionate share of the population who contracted the virus and the population who died from it. In Washington, D.C., for example, where black residents comprise less than 50% of the population, over 60% of people who died from COVID-19 were black. Although the reason for this racial disparity remains largely unknown, many researchers and advocates have argued that the disparity highlights the need to address the structural racism endemic to many facets of American life, including housing. A recent paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found evidence that housing discrimination contributes to racial disparities in exposure to pollutants, and a recent report from VICE showed that predominantly black communities in Mississippi that have dealt with toxic industrial pollution for generations face heightened risks from COVID-19. Beyond the health impacts, the economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic are also disproportionately impacting black Americans, including their ability to afford mortgage and rental payments.
Affordable housing construction slows amid pandemic

Despite being labeled essential across most of the country, many affordable housing developers are facing work slowdowns as they grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In New York, the Department of Buildings revised its guidelines to clarify what counts as essential affordable housing construction, but many affordable housing developers are still pausing operations as they take precautions to keep their workers safe. Other places where affordable housing development has slowed includes Sonoma County, California and Aspen, Colorado. Overall, homebuilder confidence plummeted in April to its lowest level since 2012, according to the monthly Housing Market Index from the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo.
CFPB releases final HMDA rule

On Thursday, CFPB released a final rule on the implementation of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), exempting additional financial institutions from reporting requirements. The final rule, which will take effect on July 1, also increases the threshold for collecting and reporting data on mortgages under HMDA from 25 to 100 loans. In a statement, MBA President and CEO Robert Broeksmit praised the final rule, saying “this rulemaking provides significant relief to many of our residential and commercial/multifamily members and has been a longstanding MBA advocacy priority.” Ranking Member Brown, however, issued a sharply worded statement criticizing CFPB for making it “easier to hide discrimination in the mortgage market from regulators and from the public.”
Chart of the Week
NAHB index shows historic decline in builder confidence

A recent blog post from National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chief Economist Robert Dietz examined the historic decline in the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, which reflects builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes. According to the blog post, the index's decline in April was the largest single monthly change in the history of the index, and brings the index to its lowest point since June 2012.
What we're reading
In an article published Monday, Roll Call looked at the impact of the CARES Act on two USDA Rural Housing Service programs, Section 515 and Section 502, which help low-income renters and homeowners in rural America. Although the CARES Act provided a much-needed boost to these programs, it may not be enough for rural tenants, homeowners and landlords who have been hit hard by the pandemic. Read the article here.

In a longform article published last week, Texas Observer examined the planned demolition of San Antonio’s oldest and largest public housing project. Many residents of the historically Latinx community the project is in, according to the article, are worried that the demolition may lead to displacement. Read the article here.

The Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation recently released a report on seniors living in publicly supported rental homes. According to the report, the number of seniors who live in publicly supported homes rose 2.9% from 2018 to 2019, and the number of low-income seniors that would likely be eligible for housing assistance rose 5.6% to 7 million. Read the full report here.

The Brookings Institute published a report on Monday on the impact of the Coronavirus on potential disruptions to the mortgage refinancing process. These disruptions include an inability to conduct a title search, issues with verification of employment, and difficulties getting an appraisal. Read the full report 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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