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Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington | By Luke Villalobos
Senators push to retain housing provisions in reconciliation bill

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), along with 32 of their colleagues in the Senate sent a letter to top Democrats on Thursday urging them to retain investments in housing in the reconciliation bill currently under negotiation. Characterizing the bill’s housing provisions as “critical investments that we have failed to make for far too long,” the Senators asked that President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) advocate for their inclusion in the final bill as lawmakers trim the original $3.5 billion package to accommodate spending limits imposed by a group of moderate Democrats. 
The letter is one of a number of efforts in recent days to protect housing provisions including the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, an expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and a new federal down payment assistance program after reports that they would be eliminated from the bill entirely. House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) held a press conference on Tuesday in which she affirmed her support for including housing provisions in the bill and emphasized House Democrats’ unity in their support of the provisions. Last week, NHC President David Dworkin urged housing advocates to work together in pushing to protect housing’s place in the bill. “The next two to three weeks will decide success or failure for a year’s work,” he said.
VantageScore names Tavares as CEO

Credit scoring firm VantageScore Solutions appointed fintech veteran Silvio Tavares as its new President and CEO. Tavares most recently led the Digital Commerce Alliance, a trade association of financial firms involved in the digital marketplace he founded, and worked as a senior executive at Visa and Fiserv\First Data. He replaces former VantageScore head Barrett Burns, who will remain at the company in the newly created role of Vice Chairman.

VantageScore is heavily involved in efforts to expand credit scoring services to underserved populations. It claims its model can score 96% of consumers, many of whom cannot obtain credit scores from traditional models without sacrificing safety standards. The firm currently awaited a decision by FHFA on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could use its model to score the mortgages they purchase.

Phil Bracken, VantageScore managing director of mortgage marketplace and government & industry relations, noted the importance of expanding credit scoring access at NHC’s recent Tech & Housing Online Symposium. “80% of new households formation in the next 20 years will be people of color,” he said during a panel on artificial intelligence and the future of housing equity. “We must engineer policies, programs, and processes to meet that need because if we’re not meeting that need, then we’re not meeting the needs of America.”
NHC releases report on housing affordability challenges for infrastructure workers

NHC released the Fall 2021 report on its Paycheck to Paycheck database on Wednesday. The report focused on housing affordability challenges for workers of 15 occupations that will see increased employment if Congress passes the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The report noted that workers from bus drivers to electricians would likely find it difficult to afford housing across much of the country. The report also made clear that homeownership was out of reach for workers of all but one of the occupations NHC profiled. Even renting a 2-bedroom apartment would be challenging for many.

NHC President and CEO David Dworkin said that the report demonstrated how important it is to expand federal investments in housing. “Our report drives home the importance of including housing provisions in the reconciliation package currently under negotiation in Congress,” he said. “Lawmakers should make it their top priority to ensure that infrastructure workers have access to affordable rental housing and homeownership.” Without such support, he warned that projects authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would stall as contractors struggle to find workers able to live near work sites.
FHFA increases multifamily lending caps

On Wednesday, FHFA announced an increase in the 2022 multifamily lending caps for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises). The caps were set at $78 billion for each, an increase of $8 billion from the previous year, for a combined total of $156 billion for multifamily housing investment. The announcement also included updated definitions for the Enterprises “mission-driven” affordable housing, allowing for loans to be made in cost-burdened markets for incomes of 100% or 120% of AMI. Further, FHFA increased the required percentage of multifamily business at 60% or lower AMI from 20% to 25%. 

The changes take a three-pronged approach to bolstering liquidity in the multifamily market by increasing the total lending cap overall, increasing the required targeted lending to properties serving 60% AMI or less, and allowing for lending in high-cost areas up to 120% AMI to capture expensive rental markets. Each update addresses a specific need in the multifamily market. According to FHFA Acting Director Sandra Thompson, “The increases of the multifamily loan purchase caps and higher mission-driven business requirements assure that the enterprises’ multifamily businesses have a strong and growing commitment to affordable housing finance, particularly for residents and communities that are the most difficult to serve.”
Ginnie Mae reports record annual MBS volume

Ginnie Mae’s mortgage-backed security (MBS) issuance volume in fiscal year 2021 was a record $939 billion, the agency reported last week. The record issuance is in line with 2021’s booming home purchase market, which saw home prices reach record highs across the country as consumer preferences shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ginnie Mae noted that the issuance “reflects the strength and value of the Ginnie Mae program in meeting the mortgage needs of homebuyers and rental property owners.” However, some advocates have cautioned that the government-backed buyers the agency serves are at an increasing disadvantage in the hot homeownership market. In her nomination hearing last week, Alanna McCargo, President Biden’s nominee to lead the agency, said that though Ginnie Mae’s role in reducing pressures on government-backed buyers was limited, she would do what she could to increase their competitiveness in the wake of the pandemic. “If confirmed, I would continue to work with Ginnie Mae and the teams in the interagency working group to ensure that those families find security and have a healthy recovery from this crisis,” she said.
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Fed joins Central Bank Network for Indigenous Inclusion

The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it had joined the Central Bank Network for Indigenous Inclusion (CBNII), a consortium of central banks dedicated to fostering indigenous people’s inclusion in the banking system. The Fed joined the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Bank of Canada, and New Zealand’s Te Pūtea Matua, which joined CBNII as inaugural members in April.

CBNII has not made any major moves since its creation. However, members have expressed interest in using the network to increase central banks’ understanding of indigenous communities’ common problems and extend membership to other countries’ central banks. The Fed said that its participation in the network would be supported by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ Center for Indian Country Development and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ Economic Education Partnership with Indian Country.
HUD announces environmental hazard abatement grants

HUD announced on Wednesday that it had awarded over $15.7 million in grants to 18 universities and research organizations to study improving the detection and abatement of lead and other environmental hazards. The grants may also be used to develop methods of incorporating weatherization and other measures to increase resilience into lead abatement efforts.

The grants, which range in value from $648,549 to $1 million, were made through HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes. The projects they fund range from developing new air filtration technology to reduce particulate matter in multifamily buildings to a study testing the ability of dried mushroom roots to remove lead from soil.
Chart of the week
Chart of the week: New research argues FHA redlining preceded HOLC maps

working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research argues that discrimination in Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance predated the advent of the notorious Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) redlining maps that characterized insuring mortgages in Black and low-income neighborhoods as too risky. Though FHA destroyed records showing where it had insured loans while the HOLC maps were in use, the authors use county-level data from three cities to show that FHA activity was discriminatory before HOLC completed its mapping project in 1937 and 1938, suggesting that federal mortgage insurance would have discriminated against Black neighborhoods even if HOLC had not explicitly redlined them.
What we're reading
National Alliance to End Homelessness President and CEO Nan Roman and National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel make the case in The Hill for using the reconciliation bill currently under negotiation to end homelessness in the United States once and for all. “This is a unique moment, and one unlikely to be seen again in our careers or even lifetimes,” they write. “Congress must not squander this opportunity. It must fund and target housing investments to end homelessness and put the nation on a path to housing stability and equity for all.”

Globe St. reports on the severe shortage of rental housing up and down the price scale as lease renewals surge and vacancy rates crater. The shortage has pushed rents even higher in recent months: “national median rent growth has increased by 13.8% since January; prior averages were around 3.6% from 2017 to 2019.”

CityLab covers the set of structural and regulatory problems that make Florida’s condominiums especially susceptible to neglect of the sort that contributed to the deadly Surfside condominium collapse earlier this year. These include salty, humid air, and especially cost-averse population, and state laws that discourage repairs and mandate inspections just once every forty years. In addition to these factors, NHC’s recent Paycheck to Paycheck quarterly report highlights yet another challenge for maintaining Florida’s condominiums: rampant housing affordability challenges for building inspectors across the state, but especially in the Miami area.
The week ahead
Monday, October 18
Tuesday, October 19
WHF: Mortgage servicing, 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, October 20
Thursday, October 21
JCHS: Zoning and equity, noon – 1 p.m. ET
NAHB: Virtual green home tour, 3 – 3:45 p.m. ET
NUL: Equal Opportunity Dinner, 6:30 – 8 p.m. ET 
Enterprise: Soirée by the Bay, 8:30 p.m. – midnight ET
Friday, October 22
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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