October 20, 2016

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.

Best Practices — Housing Trust Funds 

(RECAP: These easy-to-understand fact sheets, compiled by Housing Virginia, illustrate some of the best practices in Virginia’s affordable housing. The fact sheets are listed by name of the featured organization, and are also grouped into 5 major categories.)

A Champion For Kids

(RECAP: Under Thaler McCormick’s leadership, Norfolk’s ForKids has developed a host of public, private and nonprofit partnerships that have helped to make it one of the largest, most effective services providers for homeless families in the state.)

New Tax Credit Proposal Aims at Affordable Housing Shortage

(RECCAP: Sen. Wyden (D-OR) has released draft legislation of the proposed Middle-Income Housing Tax Credit (MIHTC) of 2016. Inspired by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, Wyden’s legislation would direct federal funds to state housing authorities that would, in turn, provide tax credits to developers for the creation or renovation of new affordable rental housing.)

Smart Communities Require Smart Planning

(RECAP: Planners have more types of data available to them than ever before. Learn how GIS software giant — and APA partner — Esri is helping communities unlock the power of that information by connecting people, data, and tools regionally and locally.)

5 Ways for Nonprofits to Tell an Ethical Story

(RECAP: Storytelling is inherently value neutral, and it can be victimizing or empowering depending on what the narrative says and how it is used. Here are five ways we can all be more empowering storytellers.)

October 19, 2016

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

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America’s New Normal Will Look Pretty Slow, Fed Economist Says 

The new normal for long-run U.S. economic growth could be 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent a year, a major slowdown from the 1990s and early 2000s as an aging population, more gradual gains in education and weak productivity growth take their toll. In a new paper, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco economist John Fernald takes a stab at projecting the future normal rate of growth given long-term trends in the economy. The historically slow pace he comes up with would have major implications for America’s future prosperity. With slower economic growth, worker wages and living standards would improve more slowly than in the past, and business sales would grow more slowly. Fiscal policy makers would be held back by more modest growth in tax revenue, and monetary policy makers would face a lower neutral rate of interest -- the one that neither stimulates nor stokes the economy -- meaning less room to cut rates to spur the economy in the event of a crisis.

CFPB Structure Is Unconstitutional, Court Rules

"The CFPB's concentration of enormous executive power in a single, unaccountable, unchecked director … poses a far greater risk of arbitrary decision-making and abuse of power, and a far greater threat to individual liberty, than does a multi-member independent agency," said Judge Brett Kanavaugh. The single-director structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau represents an unconstitutional concentration of executive power, a federal appeals court said Tuesday. But the court stopped short of disbanding the agency, instead giving the president more power to remove its leader. In a 110-page ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that executive power vested in the president can be conferred onto heads of lower administrative agencies, but that in doing so there have to be limits to that power. Agency directors may serve at the pleasure of the president, or in the case of independent commissions like the National Labor Relations Board or the Securities and Exchange Commission, directors are limited by the voting power of their fellow board members.

Could the House Really Flip?

House Democrats are thinking the once unthinkable: They have a real shot at winning the lower chamber next month. Such a shift would require a robust wave, as the Democrats would need to steal at least 30 seats from the largest Republican majority in decades. But the implosion of Donald Trump's presidential bid — and the Republican civil war sparked by his incendiary campaign — has left Democrats with fresh new hopes that the GOP nominee will doom the Republicans down ballot and return the Speaker's gavel to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after six years in the minority wilderness. On Wednesday, Democrats blasted out their first bit of evidence in the form of an internal poll finding that Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat, has taken a 2-point lead over Rep. John Mica (Fla.), a 12-term Republican who has endorsed Trump.

Here's How Student Loan Debt Plays a Role in the Future of Housing
How does it impact housing starts?

Student loan debt is playing its biggest role in the mortgage process yet, and it doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon. After all, many Millennials have yet to finish college, and the tail end of the generation is barely 18. But while student debt has a bigger role, it’s not necessarily the worst thing to ever happen to housing. Currently, new data from NeighborWorks America’s fourth annual housing survey found that nearly one-third (30%) of Americans know someone who has delayed the purchase of a home because of student loan debt, up from 28% in 2015 and just 24% in 2014. The data also cited that more than half (53%) of potential home buyers with student loan debt said the debt was somewhat or very much an obstacle to buying a home, down slightly from 57% in 2015, but above the 49% rate in 2014.

October 13, 2016

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.

Better Housing Coalition Buys A Quality Inn? One Nonprofit Developer’s Shift in Strategy

(RECAP: Best known for investing in rundown, vacant properties with the goal of neighborhood revitalization and drawing investors, the Better Housing Coalition in Richmond is trying a new tactic. In “their largest investment to date,” the nonprofit recently acquired a former Quality Inn in the neighborhood called Scott’s Addition through a competitive bidding process, with plans of creating an entire block of mixed-income apartments.)

The First Principles of Urbanism: Part I

(RECAP: if we have any hope of guessing how technology will change cities  —  and of shaping that change with good policy and planning  —  we need to strip away our historical understandings, our focus on existing technology, and our personal preferences. In short, we need to get to first principles. And that requires looking first at the essential elements of a city: people and space.)

Better Plans for Better Places

(RECAP: How the Sustainable Communities Initiative — the most comprehensive federal support for community and regional planning in recent history — changed the way the country plans for a prosperous and sustainable future.)

How HUD and public housing authorities can support students

(RECAP: Public schools and public housing authorities share the work of serving the nation’s poorest children. Given their shared population, it is not surprising that some school districts and housing authorities are finding ways to work together. And HUD’s Moving To Work designation allows housing authorities policy and funding flexibility to pursue non-housing initiatives.)

Are solar roadways on the road to reality?

(RECAP: Beyond turning highways into green energy generators, the panels would also heat themselves, eliminating the need for salt and snow plows, and contain lights that could replace street signs or deliver warnings to motorists. Most importantly, the solar roads would pay for themselves.)

October 12, 2016

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

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Senator Wyden Formally Introduces Middle-Income Housing Tax Credit Legislation

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced S. 3384, the Middle Income Housing Tax Credit Act of 2016 after circulating a discussion draft of the legislation earlier that day. The bill as introduced is identical to the discussion draft, which NCSHA described in our September 22 blog post. NCSHA has not taken a position on the legislation. Although Senator Wyden has formally introduced the bill, he still is seeking comments on it. Based on those comments, Senator Wyden may modify the bill before reintroducing it in the next Congress. Comments are due by December 21, and should be sent to MIHTC@finance.senate.gov. To inform NCSHA's comments, please send your feedback on the bill to NCSHA's Jennifer Schwartz by December 1.

Congress Passes Continuing Resolution Through December 9

Just two days before the government would be forced to shut down for lack of funding — Congress approved a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through December 9. The CR will fund all federal agencies at Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 levels with a 0.5 percent reduction to stay within the spending limits imposed by the budget agreement Congress reached last year, which applied to FY 2016 and FY 2017 spending. The CR passed in the Senate by a vote of 72 to 26 and in the House by a vote of 342 to 85. In addition to funding at FY 2016 levels for HUD programs, the CR includes $500 million of Community Development Block Grant funds for disaster flood relief in Louisiana and other states. It also includes a provision allowing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay ongoing debt service for rental assistance contracts under the Section 514 and Section 516 multifamily direct loan programs.

A Simpler Path to Housing Finance Reform?

A former top regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac wants to abandon the development of the common securitization platform and use the existing Ginnie Mae platform to issue government-guaranteed mortgage-backed securities. Edward DeMarco, a former director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, argues in a new paper that utilizing Ginnie would make for a smoother transition to a new system. "We believe that using Ginnie Mae's platform and world-recognized nameplate as a U.S. government backstop guarantor of MBS, but with private capital upfront, provides an easy transition" to a reformed secondary market, he said. Under the plan, Ginnie would still securitize Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Rural Housing Service guaranteed loans in addition to those of the government-sponsored enterprises.

NAR Forecasts Heated Housing Market in 2017

Home sales to continue to increase next year
Predictions from the National Association of Realtors, the Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac show that home sales are going to heat up in 2017, according to a blog by NAR. NAR predicted existing home sales will reach 6 million in 2017, an increase from this year’s forecast of 5.8 million, according to the blog. But this is on the low-end of the predictions. MBA predicted home sales will reach 6.5 million and Fannie and Freddie forecast home sales will come in at 6.2 million. A huge wave of Generation Yers, who have delayed home buying, are emerging into their key buying years. They are predicted to keep home sales and condo sales strong well into 2020, according to economists.

Do we Have a Generation Stuck in Starter Homes?

You may have heard that the share of first-time homebuyers has declined in recent years. That’s true if you’re looking just at the housing market since 2008, but you have to look behind the numbers and at a longer time frame to see that first-timers have fared well recently compared with repeat homebuyers who have truly stalled. The first-timers’ share of all government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans declined from 59 to 57 percent between January and June 2016, and the share hasn’t been above 60 percent since hitting highs of 62 and 63 percent in 2009 and 2010.

October 10, 2016

Housing Credit ‘How to Apply Workshop’ is Now ‘Q.A.P. Workshop’

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News from the Housing Credit Department

VHDA’s “How to Apply Workshop” has been renamed! After hearing from our business partners, we’re proud to announce our new Q.A.P. Workshop:
Q. (answering your) Questions
A. (about Housing Credit) Administration
P. Policy and Procedures

Our revamped workshop still covers Q.A.P. and program changes, rules of ranking and the program schedule.  In addition, it now also delves deeper into components of the Reservation, Allocation and 8609 applications, including a tab-by-tab review of the supporting documents required to be submitted with each application.

This workshop is designed for staff members who need to understand exactly what information and documentation are required for a successful Housing Credit application in Virginia, as well as how to submit this information.

Q.A.P. workshops will be presented:

  •  December 8, 2016 in Fairfax, Va. (Fairfax Marriott)
  • January 2017 in Richmond (VHDA’s Virginia Housing Center, Glen Allen, Va., with a simultaneous web broadcast available for viewing at VHDA’s Southwest Virginia Housing Center in Wytheville, Va.)
  • January 2017 in Norfolk, Va. (note the new location: Doubletree Hilton Norfolk Airport).

Please join us! Register to attend.

October 7, 2016

Three Upcoming Training Opportunities for Homeownership Partners

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VHDA is offering three training opportunities for our Homeownership partners in Southwest Virginia on Oct. 19 and 20. Please see our website for registration: vhda.com/partnertraining.

These trainings include:

VHDA Train the Trainer PLUS (Oct. 19, 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.) 

Southwest Virginia Association of REALTORS in Abingdon

Learn about VHDA's Homebuyer Education Class and how you can facilitate the class in your community. Once you complete this training, you’ll be listed as a VHDA Qualified Trainer on vhda.com. You’ll be trained how to teach or facilitate a VHDA Homebuyer Class and authorized to sign certificates of completion for individuals who have completed the class. Each borrower applying for a VHDA loan must take the Homebuyer Education Class, either in person or online.

VHDA  Real Estate Professional Training:  The Key to Serving First-time Homebuyers (Oct. 19, 1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.)

Southwest Virginia Association of REALTORS in Abingdon

Attending both trainings? VHDA will provide lunch! In this second session, you’ll learn about two of our newest products and how they can help first-time homebuyers purchase a home with zero down. VHDA's Down Payment Assistance Grant (DPA) and Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program are great ways to make buying a home more affordable. In addition, this two-hour course will also provide valuable information about all VHDA loans. After you complete the training, you're qualified to join VHDA's Real Estate Agent Connection program. Benefits include a free listing on vhda.com/FindARealEstateAgent. It's also great training for nonprofits that would like to gain a better understanding of VHDA loan products.

Please note: To attend either the Train the Trainer PLUS or Real Estate Professional training, please register for the Train the Trainer PLUS session. Attendees may choose to attend one or the other class, or both.

VHDA Habitat Train the Trainer (Oct. 20, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
VHDA Southwest Virginia Housing Center in Wytheville

Learn about Habitat for Humanity’s Homebuyer Education Class and how you can facilitate, partner or provide oversight for the class in your community. This training is open to Habitat affiliates, educators, local governments and nonprofit HUD Housing Counseling Agencies. The Habitat Homebuyer Education Program is specific to Habitat homebuyers, and the curriculum differs from the VHDA Homebuyer Education class. This training will not qualify you to teach VHDA’s Homebuyer Education class, only the Habitat Homebuyer Education class. We encourage nonprofit partners to join us and consider the value of a partnership with a local Habitat affiliate.

Again, please see our website for registration at vhda.com/partnertraining.

October 6, 2016

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.

Homelessness Data Added to Sourcebook

(RECAP: Housing Virginia has added a new tool to Sourcebook: homelessness data for your jurisdiction. This new feature provides data from the most recent Point-In-Time Count and Housing Inventory Count for all available regions in the state. Sourcebook users can now see a regional snapshot of their jurisdiction’s homelessness data in one place and alongside a wide range of other data that reflect housing trends and needs in the community.)

Virginia’s National Housing Trust Fund Allocation Plan (2016 Draft)

(RECAP: The NHTF is a dedicated fund that will provide resources to build, preserve and rehabilitate housing for extremely low- and very low-income households. This HUD program will be allocated annually beginning in 2016. In Virginia, the NHTF will be administered by the Virginia DHCD. Virginia’s Consolidated Plan resources  include the Community Development Block Grant, the HOME Investment Partnership, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, the Emergency Solution Grant and the NHTF.)

Community For Adults With Disabilities Not Without Controversy

(RECAP: A housing project for people with intellectual disabilities plans to break ground in Virginia Beach in the next six months. The founder of Vanguard Landing says she’s made adjustments to ensure residents with Medicaid waivers can live there, but critics question whether the community will meet other government requirements.)

Has Planning Changed?

(RECAP: If planning hadn’t changed, the profession and practice would no longer be in existence. While planners remain loyal to the comprehensive plan as the bedrock of community planning, they’ve also invented a wide range of approaches to plans. Planning has truly become more integrative, more nimble and more specific to the culture and the circumstance of place.)

Field Notes: Modular Construction for Mid-Rise Affordable Multifamily Construction

(RECAP: Research has shown that modular multifamily construction is rapidly emerging as a competitive alternative for a number of reasons. The benefits potentially include higher financial return due to less construction interest carry and related time savings through shorter construction schedule and potentially reduced hard costs due to repeatable and higher efficiency construction methods, streamlined process, reduced material waste, innovation in sustainability and higher construction quality.)

Media partnerships help reach far-flung residents

(RECAP: How can you cost-effectively educate residents who live across a large area? Lack of budget to purchase paid advertising does not have to be a limiting factor for community organizations when designing an effective outreach program. The executive director of this Oregon nonprofit tells how he has partnered with local media to solve the problem.)