November 25, 2015

Promoting Community Housing Options

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Today’s post originally appeared in VHDA’s Fall 2015 eNews. Sign up for VHDA eNews.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 30th anniversary of the Virginians with Disabilities Act, VHDA is engaged in an important partnership involving several state agencies and regional teams.

The goal is to advance housing options and choice for the Commonwealth's intellectually and/or developmentally disabled citizens covered by the 2012 settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Whereas Virginia had previously focused on institutions as the primary approach to serve the ID/DD population (people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities), the ADA and subsequent Olmstead decision by the U.S. Supreme Court require a broader array of housing and service options which enable disabled citizens to be more fully integrated into our communities.

VHDA is supporting this effort by:

  • Establishing a set-aside through our Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program to serve the ID/DD population while helping create the framework with HUD to leverage the participation of other local HCV programs. 
  • Using resources through our Capacity Building program to strengthen the ability of organizations and regional partnerships to foster collaboration among local housing and services providers. 
  • Working to design programs funded by VHDA REACH resources that can help identify and enhance housing units to serve the ID/DD population.  

We'll share recent success stories about these initiatives in our upcoming Community Outreach Report, which will be available soon on our website, as well as at our booth at the Governor's Housing Conference.

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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.

Housing Affordability Update

(RECAP: The "Housing Affordability Primer" from Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group allows us to identify which affordability indicators may be insightful for different facets of housing affordability while stressing that no single measure can give us a complete view of the matter. The analysis focuses on housing affordability in terms of households' ability to cover housing costs at given income levels, as opposed to households' ability to access mortgage credit.)

7 Smart Ways to Design Housing That’s Actually Affordable

(RECAP: With Designing Affordability: Quicker, Smarter, More Efficient Housing Now, Marc Norman, who recently curated an exhibit on the subject, contends this niche area of interest isn’t so niche anymore. He highlights seven methods designers can use to create housing that is affordable, and draws on 23 examples from around the country to illustrate how these methods are implemented in the real world.)

How gentrification may benefit the poor

(RECAP: Gentrification has long been a dirty word for forcing poor people out of neighborhoods across U.S. cities. Now, a new storyline is emerging that shows that it isn't fair to blame gentrification for displacing low-income residents and that there might actually even be some benefits.)

Ten urban innovations that may re-shape cities of the future 

(RECAP: Get ready for augmented mobility, smart water management and more shared space. These breakthroughs are among the next wave of innovations that could revolutionize cities, according to the World Economic Forum.)

So Much For The Death of Sprawl: America’s Exurbs Are Booming

(RECAP: It’s time to put an end to the urban legend of the impending death of America’s suburbs. With the aging of the millennial generation, and growing interest from minorities and immigrants, these communities are getting a fresh infusion of residents looking for child-friendly, affordable, lower-density living.)

Opinions on Housing                                                                         

The views and opinions expressed in Opinions on Housing are solely those of the original authors, and do not necessarily represent those of VHDA, our stakeholders or any/all contributors to this blog.

This is why the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit should be priority #1

(RECAP: What’s happening in the rental segment of the market affects demand for single-family homes, which in turn impacts the overall U.S. economy. It is all connected.)

November 24, 2015

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

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FHA's Capital Ratio Returns to Statutorily Required 
HUD recently released its 2015 Annual Report to Congress on the Financial Status of the Federal Housing Administration's (FHA) Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MMIF). The report finds that the MMIF, which funds FHA's single-family and reverse mortgage programs, has a capital ratio of 2.07 percent, slightly above the statutory minimum ratio of 2 percent. This is the first time the MMIF has met its minimum capital ratio since 2009.  According to the report, the MMIF began fiscal year (FY) 2015 with a net value of $24 billion, an increase of nearly $19 billion over the beginning of FY 2014. In FYs 2012 and 2013, due to losses caused by the financial crisis, the MMIF ran a negative balance. In September 2013, HUD was forced to request funding from the U.S. Treasury Department to keep it actuarilly solvent. In FY 2014, the MMIF returned to a positive balance, but its capital ratio was at only .41 percent.

HUD Publishes 2016 QCTS and DDAs Using New Small Area DDA Methodology 

HUD published on its website the 2016 Difficult Development Areas (DDAs) and Qualified Census Tracts (QCTs), which are eligible for the 30 percent basis boost under the Housing Credit program. As HUD has long planned, the methodology for determining 2016 metropolitan DDAs relies on new Small Area Fair Market Rents, and thus result in 311 zip code level small area metropolitan DDAs across 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. This compares to 35 full metropolitan statistical areas in 11 states plus Puerto Rico that HUD designated as DDAs in 2015.

Most Renters Carry Debt Each Month, Downpayments on a Home Not a Top Priority 

  • Gen Xers more likely than Millennials or Boomers to buy a home 
  • Millennials more likely to save for short- and long-term goals 
  • Renters offset rent hikes by spending less on essentials and are considering getting a roommate 
Renters indicate they still feel challenged with their finances and 66 percent are carrying debt each month, according to a recent Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) survey. Yet, the majority of renters (56 percent) are optimistic about managing their debt. Renters are also saving money for numerous priorities and a down payment on a home is not at the top of their list. In addition, Gen Xers are more likely than Millennials or Boomers to buy a home in the next three years.

House votes to revamp Qualified Mortgage rules; Presidential veto is looming

The House of Representatives voted recently to change the definition of “Qualified Mortgage,” opening the door to a potentially seismic change in the mortgage lending landscape.   By a vote of 255-174, the House approved the “Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act,” which would broaden the definition of qualified mortgages – those that qualify for the safe harbor – to include all mortgages held on a lender's balance sheet.  The new QM rule would recognize all residential mortgage loans held in portfolio by credit unions and other lenders as qualified mortgages for the purposes of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s mortgage lending rules.

November 19, 2015

All Aboard for the VHDA Bus Tour!

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Today’s post originally appeared in VHDA’s Fall 2015 eNews. Sign up for VHDA eNews.

A group of local government officials was recently in Richmond for the Virginia Municipal League's Annual Conference, and while they were here, they had the opportunity to go on VHDA's bus tour.

The tour took them to visit several locations where they were able to see firsthand how VHDA financing is helping to bring about much-needed revitalization and affordable, quality housing.

Points of interest included downtown historic structures such as factories, storefronts and warehouses that are being brought back to life as quality, affordable rental housing. They also toured new construction in the area and learned about its role in meeting local housing needs.

If you missed the bus tour and would like to see how local governments are using VHDA financing to revitalize neighborhoods and provide beautiful, quality housing, visit

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November 18, 2015

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.

Two new online tools from NHC’s Center for Housing Policy

(RECAP: The National Housing Conference’s Center for Housing Policy has recently released two online tools to help you analyze local housing affordability challenges and develop local policy solutions. The toolkit outlines various strategies for expanding housing opportunities at the local and regional levels, with examples of actual policies and programs.)

Three ways loan-modification and weight-loss scams are similar

(RECAP: There are three ways the campaign against loan-modification scams is similar to the fight against weight-loss scams. Understanding these similarities helps us better educate consumers on how to protect themselves.)

Fair Housing and Community Developers Can Work Together

(RECAP: When fair housing and community development groups collaborate and deal honestly with issues of racial and economic segregation, the need for truly comprehensive community revitalization and the challenges of gentrification, we can accomplish far more than we can on our own.)

High-rise mobile homes could revolutionize apartment living

(RECAP: The idea works like this: Rather than custom-designing every individual building, what if apartment buildings were mere frames, and apartments were mobile boxes that simply slipped into docks, the way cars park in a parking garage? It's a batty idea that may not work, but if it does, it could help to solve America's urban affordability crisis.)

Opinions on Housing                                                             

The views and opinions expressed in Opinions on Housing are solely those of the original authors, and do not necessarily represent those of VHDA, our stakeholders or any/all contributors to this blog.

Ask the Economist: Housing Industry Should Look Forward Instead of Focusing on ‘Recovery’

(RECAP: “Recovery” implies backward looking. Rather than trying to keep looking back and asking, “Are we recovered or not?” I think the more interesting challenge today is to focus on looking forward and saying, “Who are we going to be financing? Who are the first-time homebuyers of the future? What are the kinds of mortgage products that we need to create? What are the impediments to those communities for becoming homeowners in the future?”)

November 12, 2015

Word is Spreading About MCCs!

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Today’s post originally appeared in VHDA’s Fall 2015 eNews. Sign up for VHDA eNews.

Interest in VHDA's Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program is growing! An MCC from VHDA can boost the tax benefits of qualified first-time homeowners, potentially saving thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. The credit can be used each year, for as long as the borrower lives in their home.

There are now 30 VHDA originating lenders participating in the MCC program, and this number increases weekly as more lenders hear about the benefits to first-time homebuyers. In fact, many of the lenders who have recently applied to participate have done so at the request of borrowers -- or their parents!

November 11, 2015

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.

How Can the LIHTC Program Most Effectively Be Used To Provide Affordable Rental Housing Near Transit?

(RECAP: To answer this question, this study relies on qualitative analysis of interviews of more than 100 housing policy agency staff, developers and housing and transit policy experts, and on a quantitative analysis of more than 400 qualified allocation plans issued during an 8-year period.) 

This Modular Puzzle-Like House Can Be Arranged Into Any Shape

(RECAP: This innovative design is a house made entirely of modular corridors that can be rearranged, like enormous LEGO blocks, into a variety of configurations. Not only does this allow for a lot of flexibility in terms of layout, it makes them easy to ship as well.)

Opinions on Housing                                                                   

The views and opinions expressed in Opinions on Housing are solely those of the original authors, and do not necessarily represent those of VHDA, our stakeholders or any/all contributors to this blog.

The Nonprofit Agenda for Regional Affordable Housing: An Advocacy Manifesto

(RECAP: Does the scale of the affordable housing needs of metropolitan areas like metro D.C. deter nonprofits from wading into the debate? It shouldn’t. Here’s a blueprint for nonprofit affordable housing advocacy.)

November 10, 2015

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

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Number of First-Time Home Buyers Falls to Lowest Levels in Three Decades 

Figure represents third straight annual decline and lowest percentage since 1987
First-time home buyers fell to 32% of all purchasers in 2015 from 33% last year, the third straight annual decline and the lowest percentage since 1987, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The share of U.S. homes sold to first-time buyers this year declined to its lowest level in almost three decades, raising concerns that young people are being left out of an otherwise strong housing-market recovery.  First-time buyers fell to 32% of all purchasers in 2015 from 33% last year, the third straight annual decline and the lowest percentage since 1987, according to a report released Thursday by the National Association of Realtors, a trade group.   The historical average is 40%, according to the group, which has been recording such data since 1981.

New Housing Data 

On the good news front: RealtyTrac found that homeowners who sold during the third quarter realized an average price gain of $40,658 (17 percent) from the purchase price of their property–the highest average price gain for home sellers since the third quarter of 2007.  According to RealtyTrac, the average sale price of single family homes and condos nationwide during the third quarter was $263,976, a slight 0.2 percent rise from the previous quarter and a 2.4 percent jump from the third quarter of 2014. This marked the slowest year-over-year price appreciation in any quarter since the first quarter of 2012.  But not all of the news is pleasant. On the home purchasing front, first-time homebuyers continue to be an elusive commodity. New data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has determined that the share of first-time buyers declined to 32 percent this year, down one percentage point from a year ago. This marks the third consecutive year of that the number of first-time buyers is shrinking, and it also marks the second-lowest share NAR began tracking these numbers in 1981 and the lowest since 1987’s 30 percent reading.

Freddie Mac issues credit-scam warning to potential homeowners

For many consumers, the prospect of buying a home can be daunting. There are various factors that go into a lender’s decision whether to extend credit or not, and a buyer, especially one with some credit issues, has to make sure that their loan application is as red-flag-free as possible. That places many potential borrowers at risk for scammers who offer quick fixes to the buyer’s credit. And, there are 3 ways they do it.  In an effort to protect as many potential homeowners as possible, Freddie Mac is issuing a warning to buyers and lenders about scams that offer the promise of a raised credit score in exchange for money.  “Who doesn't want the highest credit score possible to garner the most-favored terms?,” Freddie Mac writes on its website.

No Longer a Niche, Consumer-Direct Lenders Lead Mortgage Innovation

"You have an opportunity to gain market share if you interact with people the way they are comfortable interacting," said Bill Emerson, CEO of Quicken Loans and the new chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association.  It wasn't long ago that the consumer-direct mortgage channel was a novelty catering to a niche segment of technology aficionados and refinance borrowers. But as consumers have increasingly embraced all manners of electronic commerce, these online lenders have seized on growing expectations for a digitally-focused and interactive experience to firmly establish their place in the industry.   In that context, the naming of Quicken Loans CEO Bill Emerson as chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association, serves as a (possibly overdue) acknowledgment that the digital channel is transforming the mortgage business, albeit not as rapidly as it has some other retail financial services.

Housing Counselors - Helping Consumers Make Better Financial Decisions

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HUD-approved housing counseling agencies provide trustworthy, free or low-cost advice. They help clients understand if they're financially ready to buy a home, and how much they can afford. They also offer expertise in rental housing, financial and credit counseling, foreclosure prevention and post-purchase counseling, including information on reverse mortgages.

These housing counseling agencies are available throughout Virginia to help people making major decisions about their finances and housing options -- but many people don't know they exist! That was the consensus of a VHDA survey sent to 32 non-profit, HUD-approved housing counseling agencies that receive HUD grant funding administered by VHDA. As a result of that survey, our Housing Education and Marketing departments worked with these agencies to develop a statewide awareness campaign about housing counseling.


The campaign presents online ads that link to a landing page on VHDA's website. The landing page provides information on the availability and importance of housing counseling and the various types of housing counselors. It also makes it clear that their services are often free. In addition, it explains how to prepare for a counseling session, including what documents to bring, and has a link to the HUD website where consumers can search for a housing counselor in their area.
© 2013 VHDA, All Rights Reserved. Please Review the Privacy Policy.

November 5, 2015

Find Art Doors Community Art Campaign Raises Awareness And Funds For Supportive Housing

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Illumination by
Binford Middle School;
Photo by Kevin Orlosky
We’ve written before about how community art projects can help improve quality of life, but Richmond-based Virginia Supportive Housing (VSH) recently partnered with Art On Wheels (AOW) to take the idea two steps further with the Find Art Doors campaign. This campaign created a unique public art installation by providing local artists with doors removed during renovation of a Virginia Supportive Housing apartment complex for formerly homeless individuals. The doors were installed around Richmond for everyone to enjoy, and a summer scavenger hunt for fun and prizes encouraged fans to locate all 40 doors.

Untitled by Chris Milk;
Photo by Kevin Orlosky
“By strategically placing doors in green spaces, on landmarks, outside of museums and in many little-known parks around the Richmond area, we really feel like we helped those going on the quest to rediscover their city,” said VSH’s Katelyn Heindel. “Many folks who joined in on the Instagram quest said in their posts that they found themselves in pocket parks they never knew existed, or were learning about community groups in the area for the first time. All of the doors also gave a quick synopsis of the missions of VSH and AOW, and most importantly, told a story of a VSH client who used to live behind each door.”

VHDA was happy to assist with the Find Art Doors campaign by sponsoring a door near our headquarters, which was painted by Chris Milk and located by the Oregon Hill Overlook.

However, the campaign wasn’t just about fun and art. Patrons have been encouraged to donate to show their appreciation, and the doors were auctioned to bidders on Oct. 24, with proceeds supporting both Virginia Supportive Housing and Art On Wheels.
© 2013 VHDA, All Rights Reserved. Please Review the Privacy Policy.

Down Payment Grant a Big Success: Reviewing Results, Considering Next Steps

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Today’s post originally appeared in VHDA’s Fall 2015 eNews. Sign up for VHDA eNews.

Earlier this year, VHDA introduced the Down Payment Assistance Grant as a pilot program. Since its launch in March 2015, through Sept. 30, when the grant reservation period came to an end, our Homeownership Division reserved in excess of 2,000 grants totaling approximately $12.3 million.

The program enhanced our ability to help first-time homebuyers, especially in Northern Virginia, with over 38 percent of grant resources serving that area. It also helped us serve a higher percentage of Hispanic borrowers in the Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads areas.

What's next? VHDA is now evaluating the results of the grant program, its impact on homeownership, who was served, and other factors, to see if any programmatic adjustments are required.

Questions? Email VHDA's Loan Programs Manager, Janice Burgess.

© 2013 VHDA, All Rights Reserved. Please Review the Privacy Policy.

November 4, 2015

Beyond Bricks and Sticks

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

Tips for Planners to Design Memorable Tourism Experiences

(RECAP: We all work to create excellent cities, and many of our communities express a desire to promote tourism. But what is it that makes a community desirable to tourists and how is that changing?)

Three good reasons to invest in Missing Middle Housing

(RECAP: Too often, the demand for walkable living is mistranslated into a demand only for city living. Many people, though, still want to live in neighborhoods. The demand for neighborhood living is high and unmet, providing an untapped market for developers and a call to city governments to step up. Missing Middle Housing is the solution.)

Opinions on Housing                                                          

The views and opinions expressed in Opinions on Housing are solely those of the original authors, and do not necessarily represent those of VHDA, our stakeholders or any/all contributors to this blog.

Alexandria's streets could be for people instead of cars, at least some of the time

(RECAP: Cities all over the world are trying out the concept of open streets, where a temporary event closes a street to cars so people can enjoy the space by doing things like walking, riding bikes, or roller skating. Alexandria could join the fun.)

Making the Case for Planning

(RECAP: Don't let planning be reduced to urbanism, urban design or urban planning. Find places for planning to be successful in rural communities, suburban communities and at the regional and national scale. Not because urban is a dirty word, but because it's not the only word.)

November 3, 2015

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

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House Housing Subcommittee Considers Chairman's Housing Reform Bill
The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance on October 21 held a hearing entitled “The Future of Housing in America: Federal Reforms that Create Housing Opportunity,” focused on the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, H.R. 3700, which Subcommittee Chairman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced earlier in October.  As NCSHA reported at that time, H.R. 3700 combines relatively noncontroversial policy changes from several individual housing bills that enjoy bipartisan support, including simplifying the project-based voucher program, permanently authorizing the USDA Multifamily Housing Revitalization Program, streamlining preservation under the Low-Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act, making improvements to HUD’s Family Unification Program to help youth aging out of foster care, and authorizing a pay-for-success demonstration program to improve water and energy efficiency in HUD-assisted multifamily developments.

HOME Coalition Report and Briefing Raises HOME's Profile in Congress
The HOME Coalition, which NCSHA chairs, unveiled its just-released report, Building HOME: The HOME Investment Partnerships Program’s Impact on America’s Families and Communities, at a briefing on the Hill for members of Congress and their staff. The first-of-its kind report analyzes HOME’s housing and economic impact at the national and state levels.  The briefing was standing room only, with more than 65 congressional staff members from both sides of the aisle and both chambers attending. Many of the congressional staff in the room work for the Appropriations Committees or in the personal offices of Appropriations Committee members.  The strong showing indicates that, thanks to NCSHA’s and our HOME Coalition allies’ advocacy efforts, members of Congress and their staff are paying attention to what happens to HOME.

House Financial Services Committee Examines HUD Outcomes Over the Department's 50 Year History
The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled, "The Future of Housing in America: 50 Years of HUD and its Impact on Federal Housing Policy" to review the effectiveness of HUD programs since the Department was established half a century ago.  Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said in his opening statement that though HUD has had notable achievements in the past 50 years, poverty is still endemic in America. He contended that HUD needs not only to provide housing, but to empower recipients to pursue happiness and proposed that new metrics must be established to determine progress, the regulatory burden accompanying HUD programs must be eased, and educational opportunity must be provided to program recipients to empower them to escape intergenerational poverty.

Rural Development Hearing Highlights Rental Assistance Contract Challenges
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies held a hearing titled “Review of Rural Development in 21st Century America” on October 21. Witnesses in the two-panel hearing included US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) officials and industry stakeholders.  The hearing focused on RD programs including Rural Utilities Service and Rural Housing Services (RHS).   During the first panel, Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) asked RD Undersecretary Lisa Mensah if USDA had underestimated its rental assistance renewal needs for Section 515 rural rental housing and Sections 514 and 516 farm labor housing, as laid out in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget request. Mensah acknowledged that funding rental assistance was an ongoing challenge and testified that requirements forcing USDA to submit budget requests two years in advance are partly to blame for the discrepancy. Chairman Moran urged Mensah to work with the Subcommittee to provide more accurate forecasts, explaining that appropriations bills have a fixed amount of funding to work from and this would affect other USDA programs.

Sharing The Guiding Principles of Homeownership

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VHDA and our partners across the Commonwealth have a record of providing homebuyer education and renter education, both in person and online. Our training helps thousands of people every year learn how to manage finances and credit, locate quality housing, navigate the mortgage process or work with landlords, and generally improve their quality of life through knowledge and experience.

Even after a homebuyer becomes a homeowner, education continues to play a role in successful homeownership. As part of our full spectrum of housing education, VHDA offers our Guiding Principles of Homeownership reference guide to new borrowers. This guide provides important information that can be used as a reference or a quick overview to help homeowners with a VHDA mortgage loan find answers to questions about:

  • Payment books
  • Payment due dates
  • Escrow accounts
  • What happens if you miss a payment
  • Alternatives to losing your home
  • Selling or renting your home
  • Maintaining your property
  • Important housing terms 
  • Useful phone numbers

Click here to download the Guiding Principles of Homeownership reference guide.
© 2013 VHDA, All Rights Reserved. Please Review the Privacy Policy.