April 25, 2017

In Case You Missed It: A Look at Recent National Housing Policy News

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Financial Services Committee Chair Introduces Draft Financial Regulatory Reform Bill 

House Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensalring (R-TX) recently released a discussion draft of comprehensive financial regulatory reform legislation he intends to introduce soon. The Committee has scheduled a hearing on this legislation, titled the CHOICE Act, for April 26 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. Hensarling introduced similar legislation last Congress. The discussion draft includes several provisions that may have affect rules governing HFA bond programs. Specifically, the bill requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to consider several factors when proposing and finalizing new regulations, including an identification of the need for the regulation and the regulatory objective; an analysis of the adverse impacts regulated entities and other market participants could experience; and a quantitative and qualitative assessment of all anticipated direct and indirect costs and benefits of the regulation.

MBA Offers Detailed GSE Reform Proposal

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released a white paper GSE Reform: Creating a Sustainable, More Vibrant, Secondary Mortgage Market which provides a detailed picture of a reformed and revitalized secondary mortgage market. It also attempts to shed light on two critical areas that have tested past reform efforts - the appropriate transition to the reformed system and the role of the secondary market in advancing an affordable housing strategy.

"This paper not only lays out a detailed end state solution that will work for the residential and multifamily markets, but also the transition steps to accomplish this goal," said Rodrigo Lopez CMB, Executive Chairman of NorthMarq Capital and Chairman of MBA. "We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to find a permanent, sustainable solution to the government's role in housing finance that doesn't repeat the mistakes that led to the crisis."

Report: “CFPB Offers Much-Needed Protection”

The Trump administration entered the White House on a promise to examine and possibly eliminate many Obama-era initiatives, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Trulia wanted to know a few things about the CFPB‒‒namely  where consumers have asked the bureau for help in resolving mortgage disputes, who’s doing the asking, and what types of loans the CFPB deals with‒‒before the CFPB comes under more intense scrutiny or sees its mission changed. What Trulia found was that if the bureau is eliminated or even streamlined , it “could be a blow for thousands of mortgage borrowers who have used the CFPB’s dispute resolution to act as an intermediary in their cases," according to a report issued Wednesday. In its first five years, Trulia reported, CFPB has returned more than $11.8 billion from financial institutions on behalf of 29 million consumers.

The Rewards of Green Financing

Fannie Mae’s multifamily chief explains how dedicating capital to measures that save energy and water pay off, especially in the affordable sector. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies says utility costs represent some 15 percent of income for renters with incomes below $15,000, but just one percent for those with incomes of $75,000 or more.
Green financing allows owners to cut operating expenses and extend the life of the property. Over 80 percent of the units we finance are affordable for working families, and greening those buildings can mean lower utility bills for tenants.

April 20, 2017

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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A weekly digest of current trends in housing and community development. The discussion examines topics from infrastructure to community fabric.

Millennials Desire Affordable Homeownership In the Suburbs

RECAP: The idea that young adults value urban living and the flexibility of renting above all else is a misconception. The Los Angeles Times says that affordability is the main driver of decisions made by millennial households. Reports by Zillow and Harvard found that Millennials want to live in the suburbs, where homeownership makes more financial sense than renting an expensive apartment in an urban center. Nearly half of all millennial homeowners live in the suburbs, compared to 33 percent who live in the city. The idea was if millennials could afford to purchase a home, they would, and did so in low-cost markets like Birmingham, Detroit, Minneapolis and St. Louis.

L.A. Finally Has The Money To Fight Homelessness. Here's How Architecture Can Help The Cause

RECAP: In the last two elections, Los Angeles voters overwhelmingly supported both Proposition HHH and Measure H, which combined will permanently rehouse thousands of people living on L.A.’s streets and provide services to keep tens of thousands more from falling into homelessness in the first place. Lingering NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) combined with soaring housing costs will make acting on the promise of Proposition HHH and Measure H a challenge. It is here where architecture may be able to provide some assistance. Together two USC professors developed “Homes for Hope” — a flexible, affordable and code-compliant solution for bridge housing.  This isn’t permanent supportive housing. It’s a steppingstone — a dignified place to get one’s bearings and stop the free fall.

In Chicago and Philadelphia, the Difference a Park Makes

RECAP: Occupying 21 acres in the middle of this city’s largest Mexican-American neighborhood, called Little Village, the park used to be a brownfield and illegal dump. Back then, the site leached toxins into hundreds of nearby basements. Sickened residents protested for years. The federal cleanup, finally completed in 2012, became the largest urban Superfund project in America. EPA’s Superfund program is responsible for cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters. To protect public health and the environment, the Superfund program focuses on making a visible and lasting difference in communities, ensuring that people can live and work in healthy, vibrant places.

Trulia gives pets the whole “pawspective” with new For Sale and Rental pawperty detail pages

RECAP: The cat is officially out of the bag! Just like their two-legged companions, pets want to live in a place that suits their individual lifestyle and sense of self. They want to put paws down close to their fur friends in a forever home. Finding the right home quickly and easily is crucial to living a long and happy life, for any species. Our goal at Trulia is to make finding a home easy and enjoyable, so we’re excited to announce the launch of for sale and rental listings for pets on Trulia. Trulia added neighborhood petmenities, like big climbing trees for cats and fire hydrants for dogs, so pets can easily get the scoop on how a pawperty’s neighborhood stacks up against the rest. Each petmentity is given a rating, so our feline friends can see that bird watching in a pawperty’s neighborhood is “above average,” or that the amount of “needy humans” in the area is “lowest,” cluing them in to so much more than just the home.

VHDA Creates New Rural Housing Advisory Council

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VHDA recently created a new Rural Housing Advisory Council, which will provide guidance and expertise about housing issues in rural Virginia. In addition, the council will provide input on modifying existing VHDA programs and developing new programs to address identified housing needs in rural areas.

“Rural housing is an important priority for VHDA; in fact, the issue was a central theme at the Governor’s Housing Conference this past fall,” said VHDA Executive Director Susan Dewey. “VHDA will be relying greatly on the expertise of our Rural Housing Advisory Council members as they provide guidance for our programs so that we can continue to make a positive impact on the affordable housing needs across the state.”

The Council will typically meet three times a year – once in the spring, once in the fall, and at an annual holiday luncheon in December with other forms of communication used throughout the year if necessary.

The first meeting of the Rural Housing Advisory Council was held on April 19, 2017 at VHDA’s Virginia Housing Center in Glen Allen. The fall meeting will be held at VHDA’s Southwest Virginia Housing Center in Wytheville.

“VHDA has been actively engaged in addressing rural housing opportunities in the Commonwealth for a number of years,” said VHDA Managing Director of Community Outreach Mike Hawkins. “For example, the Homeownership Division recently became part of a pilot project to address manufactured housing under a USDA Rural Development Program. Also, the Rental Division has been very involved over the last several years in the preservation of USDA Rural Development-financed affordable multifamily developments. Finally, the Community Outreach Division has been very engaged in promoting homeownership education in rural communities and providing capacity building grants to rural housing organizations. We look forward to continuing and expanding upon this work with the help of our new Rural Housing Advisory Council members.”

For more information about the Rural Housing Advisory Council or VHDA’s programs and services, please contact Mike Hawkins, Managing Director of Community Outreach, at mike.hawkins@vhda.com or 804-343-5654.

April 18, 2017

In Case You Missed It: A Look at Recent National Housing Policy News

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HUD Releases Housing Credit Tenant Data Report 

HUD recently published Understanding Whom the LIHTC Program Serves: Data on Tenants in LIHTC Units as of December 31, 2014, providing demographic and economic data about Housing Credit tenants, including race, ethnicity, family composition, age, income, use of rental assistance, disability status, and monthly rent burden of tenants. The median annual income of Housing Credit tenant households was $17,152. Approximately 47 percent of tenants were extremely low-income, earning 30 percent or less of area median income (AMI); 34 percent of households were very low-income, earning between 30 and 50 percent of AMI; and the remaining 19 percent earn more than 50 percent of AMI.

Approximately 56 percent of Housing Credit households pay 30 percent or less of their income for rent, while 9.5 percent pay over 50 percent of their income for rent. Nearly 38 percent of tenants reported receiving rental assistance, 43 percent reported not receiving rental assistance, and 20 percent did not report whether they receive rental assistance. According to the report, 23 percent of tenants identified their race as white, 23 percent identified as black or African American, 9 percent identified as Hispanic, 2 percent identified as Asian, and 1 percent identified as either American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander. Approximately 40 percent of respondents did not report on race or ethnicity, as allowed under fair housing laws.

New Hensarling CHOICE Act to Include Further Changes to CFPB, FHFA 

House Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) earlier this week released a chart outlining several new provisions he intends to include in comprehensive financial reform legislation (The CHOICE Act) that he plans to introduce by the end of the month. The chart highlights areas of the new bill that will differ from similar legislation Hensarling introduced last Congress. Several of the new provisions could have a direct impact on those regulations that affect HFA housing programs. Specifically, the revised bill would severely constrict the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which oversees much of the mortgage lending industry.

The bill would rename the CFPB as the Consumer Financial Opportunity Agency (CFOA) and limit it to enforcing current consumer protection laws. The bill would also prohibit the agency from writing new consumer protection rules, exerting supervisory authority over financial firms, or enforcing fair lending laws. The bill would establish a single director as head of the new CFOA, the same model that now applies to the CFPB. Unlike current CFPB law, however, the bill would authorize the President to remove the CFOA director at will (currently, the President can only remove the CFPB director for cause). This is a departure from the original CHOICE Act, which would have replaced CFPB's single director structure with a bipartisan commission.

Find Out What Virginia’s Housers are Thinking about Current and Future Affordable Housing Needs

Housing Virginia Survey

We asked and you answered, and the results are in! We’ve checked the pulse of the affordable housing industry with a short survey of housing affordability in the Commonwealth. We wanted to know how members of the affordable housing industry perceive the shifting challenges of affordable housing.

Reminder: this is just a snapshot of how the survey respondents are feeling about several issues – it’s not a rigorously selected sample of opinion. With that, let’s take a look at the results.

Major Findings
Responses were provided by 145 individuals from across the state and from a diverse range of industries.

  • 73% of respondents think that affordable housing has become “much more” or “slightly more” difficult to find in their community over the past year.
  • Over half (58%) of respondents felt that the amount of housing resources in their community has “significantly” or “somewhat” decreased over the past year.
  • Only 9% of respondents feel “somewhat” or “very” optimistic about the future of housing affordability.
  • The most challenging housing problem identified by respondents was high rental costs. 
  • Urban respondents were more concerned about rental costs than average, while rural respondents said that poor housing quality was just as challenging.

April 17, 2017

VHDA Mortgages Offer "Combo" Benefits to Homebuyers

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When you take an already-affordable VHDA mortgage and combine it with a Down Payment Assistance grant, an MCC (first-time homebuyer tax credit) and our free First-time Homebuyer Class, the savings add up.

Remember, most VHDA loans are eligible for use with an MCC, including our Fannie Mae products, FHA Plus, VA, RHS and standard FHA. Add a Downpayment Assistance Grant, and you've got a great "combo" financing package to share with your borrowers and their real estate agents.

Learn More

April 14, 2017

Regional Focus: Meet the Northern Virginia Team

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VHDA's booth at the
Northern Virginia Housing Expo
Virginia’s housing needs vary across the state. To better understand and address those needs, VHDA is increasing its regional presence by having associates live and work outside of the Richmond and Wytheville areas, where our three offices are located. For example, we have four associates located in Northern Virginia, working in Homeownership, Community Outreach and Rental Housing.

Regina Pinkney is the Homeownership business development officer for Northern Virginia. Living and working in Fairfax County, Regina works with VHDA’s network of approved lenders in this region to explain the features of our programs and show how those features can help Virginians achieve the dream of homeownership. She will be working to increase the number of lenders in Northern Virginia who offer VHDA loans, as well as encouraging our existing lenders to offer VHDA loans to qualified borrowers. Regina will also help educate the area’s real estate agents about the advantages of VHDA financing, our free homebuyer’s class, our Down Payment Assistance grant and Mortgage Credit Certificates.

Ayan Addou is in Falls Church. Ayan serves as a Northern Virginia Strategic Housing Officer for the Community Outreach division. Ayan works closely with our partners to provide technical assistance around affordable housing, mixed-use financing, and capacity building and where appropriate, connects VHDA products and services to address local needs. Ayan regularly attends stakeholder meetings and represents VHDA at conferences and events. For example, in March, VHDA sponsored the Northern Virginia Housing Expo. Ayan and other associates provided information to prospective homebuyers and renters about our loan programs and VirginiaHousingSearch.com.

In Rental Housing, Hang Kooc is the construction control officer residing in Fairfax. The developments in Northern Virginia tend to be more complex construction deals. Hang is readily available to provide guidance on issues relating to accessibility, quality control and constructability. If the general contractor or consultant runs into issues, Hang is able to make a site visit to find a solution. This process helps keep the project moving.

Cary Boswell is a compliance officer in Rental Housing responsible for the properties in our portfolio that are in the southern part of Northern Virginia. With a background in property management in Northern Virginia, she serves as a liaison from an asset management and compliance perspective. Cary lives in Westmoreland County, which is outside of Fredericksburg. Working and living in the same region where properties are located makes her more accessible to property managers. Compliance is getting more complex, and often requires a site visit to work on issues. Management agents can meet with Cary on site within hours.

By committing resources focused on the individual needs of each region, VHDA is able to strengthen partnerships that allow us to provide quality, affordable housing.

April 13, 2017

MCC Lender Incentive Extended

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 VHDA has issued more than 4,000 Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs) since the program launched in May 2015. To keep the momentum going, we're extending the MCC Lender Incentive through 2017. We hope this will encourage lenders to offer MCCs.

An MCC has the potential to save thousands of dollars for an eligible first-time homebuyer by reducing the amount of federal income tax they owe each year, for as long as they have the loan and live in their home. Thanks to each of our lenders who have offered this option to so many borrowers!