April 29, 2016

Here’s the Plan for VCU’s Plan-Off 2016!

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Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs is holding its 5th Annual Plan Off! today, April 29. The tournament will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Virginia Housing Center, 4224 Cox Rd. in Glen Allen. The event is open to the public.

Co-sponsored by the Wilder School and VHDA, Plan-Off 2016! enables 13 graduate students in the school’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program to compete against each another by pitching their solution to a real-world planning, public policy or management problem before a panel of judges.

Pitches represent a condensed version of a semester-long project developed by each student for an actual client. This year’s plans cover a variety of topics in eastern Virginia, from extending bus service in Richmond to promoting tourism in eastern Henrico County to redevelopment in Stafford.

“The Plan-Off allows our students to showcase the skills they have developed to a panel of professionals,” said Dr. Meghan Gough, chair of the Urban and Regional Studies/Planning program. “The MURP program blends both theory and real-world experience to give students the knowledge they need to successfully pursue their interests.”

For more information, see the Plan Off 2016! event page or contact Dr. Meghan Gough mzgough@vcu.edu.

April 27, 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.

Key Guidelines for Developing Adaptive-Reuse Projects

(RECAP: The preservation of iconic, even historic, properties can help to strengthen the fabric of a community and act as a catalyst to reinvigorate areas suffering from economic stagnation. Adaptive-reuse projects aren’t just good for communities. They represent an excellent opportunity for developers. With interest in adaptive-reuse projects continuing to grow, there are three key guidelines for developers to consider.)

Why Every City Needs Workforce Housing

(RECAP: Workforce housing is a topic that is receiving much greater attention today among officials at all levels of government and the real estate community, as well as those concerned with housing policy and affordability. It’s a complex problem as it is both a housing supply problem, as well as an affordability problem since the incomes of moderate- and middle-income households have essentially been stagnant for the last 20 years or so.)

Disability Housing: What’s Happening? What’s Challenging? What’s Needed?

(RECAP: This paper from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University explores the issues facing individuals, families, providers and policy leaders across the country. Case studies profile four providers with differing approaches to housing and service delivery. The paper concludes with recommendations for organizations and policymakers.)

Beginning the implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule

(RECAP: In July 2015, HUD published the final rule to affirmatively further fair housing. While the implementation is being phased in over the coming years, local and state governments are already beginning to think about how to complete their Assessments of Fair Housing (AFH), using an Assessment Tool and relevant data provided by HUD, instead of the previous Analysis of Impediments.)

A Digital Library for All Your Community-Building Needs

(RECAP: A new resource launched by the nonprofit buildingcommunityWORKSHOP makes it a lot easier for community members to articulate what, exactly, they want from their public spaces — and to accomplish whatever that may be themselves. It’s called the People’s Design Library, but it’s not a library so much as it is a digital aggregate of guides and planning documents that activists, designers and neighbors can access at any time.)

Retired TAP leader puts decades of nonprofit expertise into book

(RECAP: After 40 years at the helm of Roanoke’s Total Action for Progress, Ted Edlich has authored a book, “Navigating the Nonprofit Rapids: Strategies and Tactics for Running a Nonprofit Company.” Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond are considering adopting it as a textbook.)

April 25, 2016

VHDA Featured in VML Magazine

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Did you catch the November 2015 edition of Virginia Town & City magazine? The magazine of the Virginia Municipal League had a five-page spread with stories about the positive impact of VHDA's mixed-use/mixed-income (MUMI) loans in localities across the state.

The cover featured a photo of VHDA's Director of Rental Housing Development, Dale Wittie, and developer Buddy Gadams, in front of The Law Building in Norfolk (one of the properties highlighted). The article explains how a recent expansion of VHDA's MUMI loan program is sparking revitalization, by giving local governments and developers more options to finance rental properties and serve a broader range of income levels.
Read the Article

Learn More

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

April 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.

When Housing Becomes a Community

(RECAP: Micaela Connery, a 2009 UVA graduate, dreams of — and is working on a business plan for — an inclusive residential community for people with and without disabilities, which would employ trained disability services workers to support residents who need those services. The facility would also provide programming to help build community among all its residents.)

How the Federal Government Plans to Stop the 'Worst-Case' Housing Crisis

(RECAP: Most housing programs, including Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, don’t generate housing for extremely-low-income or very-low-income households. HUD is developing criteria to try to make that happen with the National Housing Trust Fund. Funds geared toward creating new and permanently affordable housing.)

Inviting Them In: Using Story as a Planning Tool

(RECAP: The facts don’t speak for themselves. More often than not, we put the facts out there and then become frustrated when converts don't flock to our camp. In doing so, we’ve overlooked our most powerful communication tool: story. Storytelling is the universal human language. A primer on how story can be used in community planning.)

2016 Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference

(RECAP: September 28-30, approximately 1,000 urban change makers will gather in Baltimore for the national Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference. The conference will explore strategies to strengthen neighborhoods being left behind in the housing recovery and serve residents who continue to face the impacts of vacancy, abandonment and disinvestment. Sessions will highlight work from around the country.)


April 19, 2016

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

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FHFA Announces Limited Principal Reduction Plan for Underwater Fannie and Freddie Borrowers 

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced a new program under which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will forgive certain borrowers' outstanding mortgage principal to help them stay in their homes. The new Principal Reduction Modification program marks the first time that FHFA has allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer struggling borrowers principal reductions.  The scope of the program is limited. To be eligible, a borrower must occupy the home as a principal residence, have been at least 90 days delinquent on their mortgage payments as of March 1, have a remaining mortgage principal balance of $250,000 or less, and have a total outstanding mortgage balance that is at least 115 percent above the current value of their home. FHFA estimates that 33,000 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac borrowers will be eligible for assistance through this initiative. In a fact sheet describing the program, FHFA argues that the program's narrowly tailored eligibility standards will allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to help struggling borrowers without putting the firms at risk of substantial financial losses.

House Financial Services Committee Advances Bill to Subject CFPB Funding to Congressional Review  

The House Financial Services Committee recently voted to favorably report the Taking Account of Bureaucrats' Spending Act of 2015, H.R. 1486, which would authorize Congress to set annual funding levels for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The bill, introduced by Committee member Andy Barr (R-KY), passed on a party line vote of 33-20.  Under current law, CFPB receives funding for its annual operations from the Federal Reserve. CFPB's supporters argue that providing the agency with an independent source of funding ensures that it will receive adequate funding every year and shield it from undue political influence.

Why Fannie and Freddie Cannot Be Recapitalized, Building capital with earnings would take decades

How much capital would Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need if operated as private companies? The question is likely to remain a theoretical one for the foreseeable future. The chances of the companies being released from conservatorship is extremely low. A far more probable outcome is that the companies eventually get wound down and replaced by a new system, perhaps along the line of the National Mortgage Reinsurance Corporation recently outlined in a paper by Jim Parrott, Lew Ranieri, Gene Sperling, Mark Zandi and Barry Zigas. Yet it is a question worth considering, if only to highlight just how high the hurdle to privatizing the companies would be.

April 18, 2016

Are You "MCC-Ready?"

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Our MCC program is picking up steam as we roll out a marketing campaign to raise awareness among consumers.

So far, 44 lenders are approved to participate in VHDA's MCC program. We've been providing training to make sure they are "MCC-ready" and prepared to answer questions from homebuyers.

We've also held webinars for members of the VHDA Real Estate Agent Connection to help them understand how an MCC could help make homeownership more affordable for clients.

Before attending a training session or webinar, lenders and real estate agents are encouraged to watch our four-minute animated video which illustrates how an MCC from VHDA could save their eligible clients thousands of dollars by reducing the amount of federal tax they owe.
Watch Video

More MCC Resources:
MCC Educational Tools - Download a flyer, get tips for sharing MCC info on your own social media pages (including some suggested text for a post) and more. Get Tools
MCC Web Page - Get details including participating lenders (or how to become one), how to apply for an MCC and contact info. Learn More
Questions? Send us an email. MCCInfo@VHDA.com

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

April 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.

Housing Virginia Debuts Rural Housing Initiative Newsletter  

As a part of Housing Virginia’s Rural Housing Initiative, they’ve launched a newsletter specific to rural issues in housing and services in Virginia. They hope to connect with rural housing and service providers around the state to inform them of the latest rural workshops and events, and keep them updated on the initiative.

New ULI Report Looks at Projects Tailored to Those Who Prefer Cycling and Walking Over Driving

(RECAP: The report examines the impact of the growing interest in active transportation on economic development, public health, air quality, community design and real estate design and investment.)

The Next Step in Supportive Housing

(RECAP: Health and housing are inextricably linked, and residents who have access to wrap-around supportive social services are better equipped to live healthy lifestyles. Investing in the health of the resident population creates successful and more stable communities.)

Strategies for project review under a form-based code

(RECAP: While many cities and towns have determined that they need not have additional project review for development that conforms with the code, others are establishing or streamlining project review systems. Arlington, Virginia, developed the Columbia Pike code with a two-tier process.) 

Encourage Future Generations of Planners

(RECAP: Inspire children to consider careers in planning. Access American Planning Association Q&As with various planners, and share with children what it takes to be a planner, why people choose the profession and how they recommend students get involved.)

Assisted Living Provider Finds Formula for Massive Community Engagement

(RECAP: A 40-unit standalone assisted living facility in Massachusetts strives to eliminate a sense of isolation that tends to go hand-in-hand with aging to instead bring life and vitality to senior housing. Half of the building is common space to draw nearly 2,000 non-residents from the surrounding community through the door each month.)

April 12, 2016

New VHDA Board Member Announced

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We are pleased to announce that the Chairman of the Board of Housing and Community Development has appointed Shekar Narasimhan to the VHDA Board of Commissioners. Shekar, of Mclean, is the Managing Partner at Beekman Advisors and a current member of the Department of Housing and Community Development board. Learn more about our newest Commissioner. Visit VHDA's website for more details about VHDA's Leadership.

Photo by Dementi Studio

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

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Assessing How Parents Experiencing Homelessness Make Preschool Decisions: Policy and Practice Implications

Research suggests that early childhood education can help mitigate the developmental delays and decreased academic achievement often observed in children experiencing homelessness. Yet very few of these children are enrolled in preschool, and the reasons why have not been fully explored. In a recent study, “A Qualitative Assessment of Parental Preschool Choices and Challenges Among Families Experiencing Homelessness: Policy and Practice Implications,” researchers interviewed families who had recently experienced homelessness to determine what factors influence preschool participation. Based on their findings, the researchers make policy and community practice recommendations to facilitate preschool enrollment for children experiencing homelessness.

HUD to landlords: Rent to ex-convicts - Or else face the consequences

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro revisited they are not going to tolerate landlords banning renters with criminal records from leasing their properties. According to HUD, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings and in other housing-related activities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin. HUD’s Office of General Counsel issues this guidance concerning how the Fair Housing Act applies to the use of criminal history by providers or operators of housing and real-estate related transactions. Specifically, this guidance addresses how the discriminatory effects and disparate treatment methods of proof apply in Fair Housing Act cases in which a housing provider justifies an adverse housing action – such as a refusal to rent or renew a lease – based on an individual’s criminal history.

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) 

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced the availability of $65.8 million through the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative to develop new strategies for economic growth and worker advancement for communities that have historically relied on the coal economy for economic stability.  Communities and regions that have been negatively impacted by changes in the coal economy, including mining, coal fired power plants and related transportation, logistics and manufacturing supply chains, can apply for resources to help strengthen their economies and workforces.

HUD Releases FY 2016 Income Limits

HUD has released its FY 2016 Median Family Income estimates and FY 2016 Income Limits. The FY 2016 Income Limits were published and became effective on March 28, 2016. These income limits are used to determine income eligibility for HUD’s assisted housing programs, including public housing, Section 8, Section 202 and Section 811. According to HUD, the U.S. median income and the national non-metropolitan median income limits have decreased from 2015 to 2016.

April 11, 2016

Down Payment Assistance Update

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In March of 2015, VHDA launched a Down Payment Assistance (DPA) grant as a pilot program. Due to overwhelming success, VHDA is offering DPA grant resources as a permanent program.

The DPA grant provides eligible first-time homebuyers with funds for their down payment. The maximum grant is 3 - 3.5% of the purchase price, based on the down payment required for the eligible VHDA loan.
Learn more: vhda.com/downpayment

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

April 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.

Why Reston, Virginia Still Inspires Planners 50 Years Later

(RECAP: A new documentary traces how the D.C. suburb’s pedestrian-centric, mixed-use approach came to dominate urban design.)http://www.citylab.com/design/2016/03/reston-virginia-urban-planning-suburbs-robert-simon/474729/

Tax Credit Proposed For Disability Caregivers

(RECAP: Parents and others who provide care for people with disabilities could be eligible for a tax credit under a new proposal. “This is more than just another tax credit,” said U.S. Rep. Sánchez, D-Calif., “This is about how we can help older adults and people with disabilities live independently in their own homes and communities.”)

Cookbooks and Community Development: Made with Love, Recipes for Community Change

(RECAP: This book is chock full of strategies for bringing communities together around small placemaking projects  – from gatherings that celebrate community members’ individual and collective strengths, to art installations that reclaim vacant urban space.)

Is evaluation valuable for every nonprofit?

(RECAP: Nonprofits are increasingly expected to use data and evidence to demonstrate that they are producing positive results for the clients they serve. How can nonprofits — and their funders — navigate the maze of resources and recommendations about what research tools to use to drive results?)

Housing Agency Waiting Lists and the Demand for Rental Assistance 

(RECAP: This Housing Agency Resource Kit was created to provide a more accurate count of families that would be waiting for housing assistance if lack of resources didn’t force housing agencies to close waiting lists. It also tries to better understand the socio-economic context of where and why families might wait longer for assistance. The kit can be tailored by housing agencies for use in media outreach, advocacy efforts, social media postings and planning activities.) 

Workforce Shortages and Creative Partnerships

(RECAP: HomeAid Northern Virginia brings together construction trades and homelessness service providers. The hope is to create a virtuous cycle: build capacity in the local skilled labor workforce and change the lives of vulnerable individuals by providing them job skills and a path to employment with our partner companies.)

April 5, 2016

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

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HFA Program Loans Exempt from Final USDA QM Rule 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a final rule establishing the underwriting standards that loans originated through the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP) must meet to be considered "qualified mortgages." Loans that do not meet these standards will no longer be eligible for insurance under SFHGLP as of April 28. The definition of "qualified mortgage" set in the final rule is largely similar to the definition USDA initially proposed last year. To be eligible for SFHGLP insurance, loans will have to meet the program's underwriting standards, and upfront points and fees must not exceed three percent of each loan's total principal, with adjustments made for smaller loans.

HUD Issues Report on 2013 Housing Credit Tenant Data 

HUD released the second annual report on households residing in Housing Credit units, providing demographic and economic data submitted by Housing Credit allocating agencies. The report provides information about the race, ethnicity, family composition, age, income, use of rental assistance, disability status, and monthly rent burden of tenants living in Housing Credit properties as of the end of 2013. Congress mandated the collection and publication of this data when it passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008. While Congress authorized funding for this initiative as part of HERA, it never appropriated those funds; therefore the states and HUD have been forced to rely on existing resources to meet the law's requirements.

How Policymakers Can Help More Millennials Become Homeowners

If you’ve been paying attention to this year’s political debates, you’ve probably read or heard a lot more about the inability of the younger generation to get a foothold in this economy than in previous elections. The financial challenges in today’s world are real. And to some groups it often feels like the hill to climb gets steeper by the year. We can all agree the world economy has changed tremendously in the past 50 years and that owning a home (not renting for a lifetime) remains a central component to building wealth and financial security. Both political parties during the course of this year’s presidential campaigns have heard from young people about the lack of affordable housing, stagnant wages and rising education costs. It’s no secret that the Washington-area housing market is pricey, consistently ranking in the most expensive places to live in the United States. It’s also true that our local housing market is dependent on younger buyers leaving their rentals to become first-time buyers. This provides a market for the sellers of entry-level homes, who can in turn buy so-called move-up properties. The owners of the move-up homes can then buy more expensive homes. It’s like one big game of dominos where home owners are dependent on the buyer behind them in order to move forward.

April 1, 2016

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

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Lack of Housing for 7.2 Million of Lowest Income Renters

The Gap: The Affordable Housing Gap Analysis 2016, a new report released recently by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), paints a bleak picture of the nation’s growing affordable housing crisis. The reports finds that there is a shortage of 7.2 million affordable and available rental units for America’s 10.4 million extremely low income (ELI) renter households, those in the bottom 30% of income in their communities. Seventy-five percent of ELI renter households spend more than half of their income for housing, leaving them without enough money for food, medicine, child care, transportation, and other basic necessities, much less a cushion for emergencies. They are at high risk of frequent moves, eviction, and homelessness. NLIHC calls for greater federal investment in the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and other housing programs to close this ever widening gap. The Gap provides data about the shortage of affordable and available housing for ELI renter households in each of the states, the District of Columbia and the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

NCSHA Submits Comments on FHFA Proposed Duty to Serve Rule

NCSHA recently submitted a letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) commenting on its proposed Enterprise Duty to Serve Underserved Markets rule. FHFA's proposal, which was released in December, would require the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to develop and implement plans to serve lower income families through activities related to manufactured housing, rural areas, and preservation. Congress mandated that the GSEs support such activities in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. NCSHA previously summarized the proposed rule on its blog.

Industry Experts Propose New Housing Finance Reform Plan

An independent group of housing industry experts recently released a report proposing a plan for overhauling the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The proposal was drafted by Jim Parrot of the Urban Institute, mortgage investor Lew Ranieri, former presidential advisor Gene Sperling, Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, and Barry Zigas of the Consumer Federation of America. The report, entitled "A More Promising Road to GSE Reform," calls for the GSEs' single-family and multifamily operations to be merged together into a new government corporation, the National Mortgage Reinsurance Corporation (NMRC). Just as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do today, the NMRC would purchase mortgage loans and package them into mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and sell the MBSs to investors. NMRC would charge a guarantee fee (g-fee) for each mortgage it purchases. Unlike the current system, MBSs issued by NMRC would be explicitly backed by the federal government. NMRC would also be expected to enter into syndicated risk-sharing arrangements for all securities it issues that put private investors in a first-loss position.

Cantwell Launches National Campaign to Increase Federal Resources for Affordable Housing

Senator, Mayors Murray, Strickland and Stephanson, along with advocates announce ambitious goals to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit - an important federal tool for financing affordable housing.  U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, and the A.C.T.I.O.N. campaign – a coalition of more than 1,300 national, state, and local affordable housing advocates who are urging Congress to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) – kicked off a national campaign to increase federal resources for affordable housing. Senator Cantwell called for a 50 percent expansion of the LIHTC, reforms to better target the lowest income populations with LIHTC projects, and unveiled her report, “Addressing the Challenges of Affordable Housing & Homelessness: The Housing Tax Credit.”

Representative Waters Introduces Emergency Relief Legislation to End Homelessness

House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced the Ending Homelessness Act of 2016, H.R. 4888, which would provide $13.27 billion over five years to housing and services programs with the goal of ending homelessness in America. Announcing her new legislation, Representative Waters argued that homelessness is not an insurmountable problem but requires "the political will to put the necessary resources behind the solutions we know will work" and called on Democrats and Republicans to come together to end the homelessness crisis through increased resources.