May 31, 2016

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

Bipartisan Policy Center Releases Report Highlighting Housing and Health Care Troubles Facing American Seniors 


The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) published a report about America's expanding senior population and the challenges it will bring to the country's existing health care and housing networks. The report, Healthy Aging Begins at Home, was developed by the BPC's Senior Health and Housing Task Force, which is led by former HUD secretaries Henry Cisneros and Mel Martinez and former U.S. Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Vin Weber. According to the report, by 2030, seniors 65 and older will account for more than 20 percent of America's population, a 6 percent increase from today. The report also says that the increasing number of aging Americans will place a substantial burden on existing systems, including senior housing and health care.


House Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2017 HUD Funding Bill 


The House Appropriations Committee approved its Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) funding bill by voice vote. The full Committee did not modify HUD program funding levels from those reported by the THUD Subcommittee on May 18. The bill would fully fund project-based rental assistance contracts and funds the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) at its FY 2016 level of $950 million. The bill does not include language preventing implementation of the Housing Trust Fund (HTF), a welcome relief after the FY 2016 House-approved THUD bill included language that would transfer funds from HTF and prevent further capitalization of the program.


Representative McCarthy Introduces Moving to Work Expansion Bill 


House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced April 29 The Moving to Work Reformation and Expansion Act of 2016, H.R. 5137, which would remove the cap on the number of public housing agencies (PHAs) that can participate in Moving to Work (MTW) and change the status of MTW from a demonstration to a program. H.R. 5137 also would authorize HUD to provide technical assistance to PHAs participating in MTW and evaluate housing reforms undertaken by MTW participants to identify replicable program models. Thirty-nine PHAs currently participate in the MTW demonstration which provides PHAs with exemptions from many existing public housing and Housing Choice Voucher rules and greater flexibility to use Federal funds to pursue MTW's three statutory objectives: reducing costs and improving cost-efficiency for Federal dollars; promoting residents' economic independence; and increasing housing choices for low-income families. Under H.R. 5137, MTW agencies would still be able to combine their Public Housing Operating and Capital Funds and Housing Choice Voucher funds and use these funds interchangeably.


USDA Allows State RD Offices to Reallocate Unused Rental Assistance 


The USDA Rural Development (RD) office on May 24 published an "Unnumbered Letter" allowing state RD offices to reallocate unused rental assistance (RA) within their states without approval from the national office, reversing a policy in place since 2013 requiring state offices to return unused RA to the national office to be recaptured. NCSHA opposed the policy USDA established in 2013 and sought a change giving states the ability to use unused RA for other projects within the states, as the new policy allows.


HUD Affirms HFAs' Ability to Provide Down Payment Assistance with FHA
Loans 


Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Housing and Head of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Ed Golding issued a statement reaffirming that loans that include HFA down payment assistance (DPA) are eligible for FHA insurance. The statement also says that HFA DPA programs are legal and consistent with federal housing law. The statement is the result of internal deliberations between FHA, OIG, and senior HUD officials. These deliberations began after the HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an Audit Report last summer that found that NOVA Financial Investment Corporation, an Arizona-based mortgage lender, violated FHA policy by originating FHA-insured loans that included DPA grants from two local HFAs that the OIG says utilized "premium pricing" to pay for the grants.


HFAs to Receive Over $10 Million for Foreclosure Prevention Counseling  


NeighborWorks® America announced that it has awarded nearly $40 million in funding to support counseling for struggling homeowners to help them avoid foreclosure through the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) program. The recipients include twenty-one HFAs that combined will receive almost $10.8 million. Funding will also be distributed to 19 HUD Counseling Intermediaries and 60 local NeighborWorks affiliates. NFMC was established by Congress in 2007 to increase the availability of counseling for homeowners on the verge of foreclosure. NeighborWorks has administered the program since its inception. The recently announced grants are the tenth round of funding provided through NFMC, each one funded through congressional appropriations. Including this latest round of funding, NFMC has awarded over $800 million in funding to support counseling and legal assistance for struggling homeowners.

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