February 27, 2017

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

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Mnuchin Aiming for Tax Reform by August

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he wants to get tax reform legislation enacted by the time Congress leaves for its August recess. "It will be very significant. It's going to be focused on middle-income tax cuts, simplification and making the business tax competitive with the rest of the world," Mnuchin said on CNBC in his first television interview since his confirmation. Congressional GOP leaders have laid out a similar timetable for tax reform, but there will be challenges to getting legislation enacted quickly. House Republicans have been working on a bill based off a blueprint they released last year. However, a key part of that plan, known as border adjustment, has been facing increasing opposition from a number of businesses and GOP lawmakers, particularly in the Senate.

Fannie Mae's Focus Will Not Change with New Administration, CEO Says

The arrival of President Trump has not changed Fannie Mae's plans for 2017, especially its emphasis on automated loan validation and other customer-focused innovations, CEO Timothy Mayopoulos said Friday. "The change in administration hasn't affected our approach to our business,” Mayopoulos said in an interview after the company’s fourth-quarter media call. “We've been in conservatorship now for over eight years, and it's very clear to us what our business objectives are." The government-sponsored enterprise is "focused on enhancing the housing finance system and bringing innovation to the market, things like [the loan-validation product] Day 1 Certainty that we think will be good for the housing finance system regardless of whatever changes might get made by this administration or any future administration," he said.

Every State Will Likely Lose Housing Vouchers, Unless Congress Boosts Funding

Without the funding, the number of low-income families receiving help to pay the rent will fall sharply this year. Under a continuing resolution that freezes voucher funding for all of 2017 at last year’s level, for example, vouchers for more than 100,000 families would be unfunded, a loss of assistance that would be greater than what the 2013 sequestration cuts caused. Larger states like Florida, California, New Jersey, and North Carolina would lose the most vouchers, but smaller states like Maine and West Virginia would also lose rental assistance for hundreds of low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children. Such cuts in housing vouchers would undermine communities’ efforts to address housing insecurity and homelessness, and do so at a time when the number of low-income households struggling to pay the rent and make ends meet has been rising dramatically. A growing gap between rents and tenant incomes has increased the cost of renewing housing vouchers in 2017. Due to this gap, along with policymakers’ recent actions to restore vouchers lost under sequestration and reduce homelessness among veterans, the cost of renewing all housing vouchers in 2017 has risen to an estimated $18.86 billion.
Number of households using housing vouchers, 2016 - 45,853
Number of housing vouchers cut under Senate bill, 2017 - 550
Number of housing vouchers cut under continuing resolution for 2017 - 2,247

The Mortgage Market is Now Dominated by Non-Bank Lenders

Quicken Loans has seized a larger share of the mortgage market but rising interest rates and anticipated deregulation under President Trump could change things. Most borrowers, whether they are purchasing property or refinancing their home, focus on their mortgage rate and loan terms rather than the type of lender they choose. Yet the landscape of the lending market has shifted dramatically over the past few years from domination by big banks to a market where more loans are made by non-banks — financial institutions that only make loans and do not offer deposit accounts such as a savings account or checking account.

February 15, 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.

#LoveThatLot: Show your love for revitalization projects!

(RECAP: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Why not celebrate it by sending Valentine love to your favorite revitalization projects and community champions?)

HUD Launches Eligibility Tool for Housing Counseling Agencies

(RECAP: HUD’s Office of Housing Counseling recently announced the launch of a new tool that allows organizations to determine if they meet the basic requirements to apply to become a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency.)

How Immersive Virtual Reality Can Be a Boon to City Planners

(RECAP: The American Society of Landscape Architects calls virtual reality (VR) a “powerful tool for anyone involved in designing our built and natural environments.” The immersive nature of VR, which allows viewers to encounter a simulated 3-D landscape from multiple points of view, can be a boon to city planners. They can use it to redraw streets and neighborhoods, offering real and imagined views of existing and proposed developments.)

Top 10 Ways to Make Your Planning Commission More Relevant in Your Community

(RECAP: To avoid being seen as “just part of the system,” or even worse, as a group that simply interferes with progress, here are 10 ways to solidify your planning commission’s significant and demonstrable bearing on your community.)

Combining Policy and a Vision to Enable the Rebirth of Struggling Neighborhoods

(RECAP: The value of preventing and rapidly addressing abandonment and the net budgetary gain from a strong code enforcement department is clear. The visionary and future-focused element of the work, however, can be easily overlooked when removing problems rather than creating something new.)

Want to join the CFPB’s advisory board and councils?

(RECAP: In the fall of 2017, seven seats on the Consumer Advisory Board, two seats on the Community Bank Advisory Council and six seats on the Credit Union Advisory Council will become available. The deadline to apply is March 1.)

February 14, 2017

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

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President Trump Signs Executive Order Calling for Review of Federal Financial Regulations

President Trump recently signed an Executive Order directing the Secretary of Treasury to review all current federal regulations pertaining to the nation's financial system. The Order also outlines six principles that the Administration will use when reviewing and shaping its financial policy. The six "Core Principles" the Administration intends to follow when regulating the financial system include:
  • Empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;
  • Prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts;
  • Foster economic growth and vibrant financial markets through more rigorous regulatory impact analysis that addresses systemic risk and market failures, such as moral hazard and information asymmetry;
  • Enable American companies to be competitive with foreign firms in domestic and foreign markets;
  • Advance American interests in international financial regulatory negotiations and meetings; and
  • Restore public accountability within Federal financial regulatory agencies and rationalize the Federal financial regulatory framework.

Realtors Ask Trump to Reinstate FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium Cut

Estimates reduced MI premiums could bring in 40,000 new homebuyers

The National Association of Realtors believes that the Trump administration’s recent decision to suspend a reduction in the Federal Housing Administration’s annual mortgage premiums will keep as many as 40,000 potential homebuyers from becoming actual homebuyers in 2017, and wants the premium cut reinstated “as soon as possible,” the trade organization said last week. In one of the Trump administration’s first actions after President Donald Trump took the oath of office, the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs suspended a cut to the FHA’s mortgage insurance premiums, which was announced by the outgoing Obama administration in early January. The cut had not taken effect when the Trump administration announced its intention to suspend the MI premium reduction, but in a letter addressed to Ben Carson, Trump’s choice to lead HUD, NAR said that the suspension of the FHA mortgage insurance premium cut caused “uncertainty and confusion” in the housing market and cost many consumers the opportunity to buy a home this year. “NAR estimates that the premium reduction would have reduced costs for 750,000 to 850,000 homebuyers in 2017 with mortgages backed by the FHA. In addition, it would have made homeownership possible for an additional 30,000 to 40,000 homebuyers,” the trade organization said in its letter to Carson.

FHFA Extends Deadline for Public Input on Potential Chattel Loan Pilot in Duty to Serve Program

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is extending the deadline, from Feb. 17, 2017 to March 21, 2017, for stakeholders to respond to a request for input on potential manufactured home chattel loans pilot initiatives for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) as part of the Duty to Serve underserved markets.  FHFA now requests input through its dedicated webpage, www.FHFA.gov/DTS, on potential manufactured home chattel loans pilot initiatives by March 21, 2017.

As Older Adult Demographics Surge, Advocates Call for Housing Changes

By 2035, more than one in five people in the US will be aged 65 and older and one in three households will be headed by someone in that age group, according to a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. The report, Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Adults 2015-2035 (http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/housing-a-growing-population-older-adults), said as the Baby Boomer population ages, the U.S. population aged 65 and over is expected to grow from 48 million to 79 million, while the number of households headed by someone over 65 will increase by 66 percent, to nearly 50 million. This growth, the report said, will increase the demand for affordable, accessible housing that is well connected to services beyond what current supply can meet. Chris Herbert, director of the Joint Center, said older homeowners will require universal design elements such as zero-step entrances, single-floor living and wide halls and doorways. However, Herbert noted only 3.5 percent of homes offer all of these features. "The housing implications of this surge in the older adult population are many and call for innovative approaches to respond to growing need for housing that is affordable, accessible and linked to supportive services that will grow exponentially over the next two decades," Herbert said.

February 8, 2017

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

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Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Reform Will be High on Mnuchin's Agenda 

Maybe GSE reform will happen quickly after all?
Despite Fitch Ratings’ analysts suggesting recently that reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may be slowed by the Trump administration’s other legislative efforts, one of President Trump’s top economic advisors said Friday that Fannie and Freddie reform will be high on Steve Mnuchin’s agenda once he is confirmed as Secretary of the Department of the Treasury.
Making the rounds Friday to discuss Trump’s financial reform plans, Gary Cohn, the White House National Economic Council Director and a former top executive at Goldman Sachs, told CNBC that government-sponsored enterprise reform is “definitely on our agenda.”

Trump Signs Executive Order to Overhaul Dodd-Frank

Directs Treasury Secretary to review financial laws
As expected, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday that begins to roll back the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, the landmark legislation passed in wake of the financial crisis. Word of Trump’s plans for signing the executive order first began to leak out Friday morning, with Trump himself saying that his administration plans to “cut a lot of out of Dodd-Frank.” Trump signed the order with Gary Cohn, the White House National Economic Council Director and a former top executive at Goldman Sachs, and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, by his side.

Hispanic Homeownership Rate Surged in 2016

Only ethnic demographic to increase homeownership rate
The homeownership rate for Hispanics increased in 2016, contrary to other ethnic groups, who all saw a decrease in homeownership. The homeownership rate among Hispanics increased to 46% in 2016, up from 45.6% the year before, according to a report from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the overall homeownership rate dropped from 63.7% in 2015 to 63.4% in 2016. At the same time, the African-American rate also dipped from 43% to 42.2% and the Asian-American rate dropped from 56.5% to 55.5%. Hispanics were the only ethnic demographic with an increase in their homeownership rate. Hispanics also led the nation in household formations with a net increase of 330,000 households in 2016.

New RIHA Study Details Shifts in Rented vs. Owned Housing Stock

The Mortgage Bankers Association's Research Institute for Housing America released a new study examining the trends in existing housing stock between owner-occupied and rental over time, noting substantive shifts from owner-occupied to rental over the past 15 years. The study, Owned Now Rented Later? Housing Stock Transitions and Market Dynamics, authored by Stuart Rosenthal, Maxwell Advisory Board Professor of Economics at Syracuse University, found that between 2000 and 2014, 6.5 percent of homes built prior to 2000 and 10.3 percent of homes built in the 1990s, shifted from owner-occupied to rental status. "Homes transition quite frequently, with rising prices shifting rental units into the owner-occupied sector and falling prices having the opposite effect," Rosenthal said. "Over a decade, roughly 2 percent of the housing stock moves from owner to rental occupancy."

February 3, 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.

Strongest Town Contest | A March Madness-Style Competition

RECAP : We know that no one's town is perfect. StrongTown.org inviting readers and residents to nominate towns based on Strong Towns principles. This contest is about showcasing towns that are doing their best to be strong, that have the building blocks in place to be strong towns today and in the future. Strong Town believes a strong town naturally blends housing styles at many different price points. The deadline for submissions is February 17 at 11pm CT.

The Case for Small Home Design as a Component of Sustainability Efforts

(RECAP: At the 2016 convention of the American Institute of Architects, Michael Fifield, director of the Housing Specialization Program at the University of Oregon, held a session titled “Smaller Residential Unit Design Principles as a Key to Sustainability.” His session made a case for including small home design within larger efforts to reform land use patterns for achieving sustainability. According to Fifield, small homes could not only help meet current housing demand generated by demographic shifts but also reduce energy use.)

Celebrating placemaking: The role of arts and culture in community development

(RECA: Placemaking, wielded skillfully, is a powerful tool to preserve, respect, lift up, and celebrate the culture of a community in ways that go far beyond aesthetics. Giving placemaking and, within that, arts and culture, a seat at the table when community development decisions are made can help to support more equitable outcomes. This can be especially critical in neighborhoods grappling with significant vacancy and abandonment challenges.)

This Jacket Designed For Homeless People Takes Wireless Donations Electronically

(RECAP: With fewer and fewer people carrying cash, this makes it much easier to give—and gives the homeless a bank account to help build savings.)

Placing housing costs in context

(RECAP: National data on an issue like housing affordability is important to informing the creation of good federal policy. However, as with most things, the national perspective can miss the multitudes of experiences for different communities. Part of this comes from the relationship between housing costs and the other costs that households have to negotiate.)