October 18, 2017

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

Written Testimony of Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Before the House Financial Services Committee

Chairman Hensarling, Ranking Member Waters, and members of this Committee, thank you for inviting me to discuss the work we do at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and my plans for fulfilling our mission with fidelity to our Congressional mandate and the best interests of the American people.
First, please know that, right now, HUD is involved in the federal response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that damaged and devastated areas of Texas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. On a daily basis, in our interagency leadership role as the Coordinating Department for the Housing Recovery Support Function, HUD’s team is coordinating with our Federal, State, territorial, and local agency partners in the field, providing temporary and long-term housing solutions for survivors, and helping HUD-assisted clients and FHA-insured mortgage borrowers. In the long-term, HUD will play a key role in the recovery efforts in these disaster impacted regions as they rebuild. Helping the impacted communities in the aftermath of these storms is and will remain a priority for me and this Administration.

Treasury Report Calls for Extensive Regulatory Relief to Finance Industry

The U.S. Department of the Treasury released its second of four reports which called for sweeping financial reform, including changes that would weaken the Dodd-Frank Act. Back in February, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to examine the nation’s financial laws. Now, the Treasury published its findings in a 232-page report, the second of a total of four reports. It released its first report back in June this year. The report claims regulations enacted after the Great Recession made it more difficult for financial institutions to recover, and made for one of the weakest economic recoveries in U.S. history.

Can Your Home Make You Healthier — if it’s Designed Right? 

Aria Apartments in Denver is a new kind of affordable housing project. And if “affordable housing” brings to mind dimly lit, dilapidated high-rises, then tweak the mental picture and visualize a project that consists of 72 two-story walk-ups paired with 13 market-rate town houses, all of them brightly colored and spacious with a sleek, modern design. A daylit fitness room in the on-site community center looks out onto a grassy walkway where residents sit, stroll and play. Renters and owners alike can plant and pick their own produce at the 1-acre garden or buy it at a pay-what-you-can food stand. On the ground floor of each unit is bike storage, which gives residents the affordable and calorie-burning option of cycling to school or work.

Senators Ask - What's the Cost of Not Addressing America's Affordable Housing Problems?

A bipartisan group of Senators sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, asking them evaluate America’s “troubling” housing market.  And, to figure out where the government is letting down the American people in the housing market. The group of Senators includes Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Tim Scott, R-S.C., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Christopher Coons, D-Del., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo. The GAO, a nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. By sending the letter, the senators are requesting the agency to figure out how much it would cost taxpayers to fix affordable housing. In the letter to Gene Dodaro, comptroller general and head of the GOA, it asks him to assess, “What is the cost of inaction?” Or, in other words, “What is the long-term impact of failing to respond to the current conditions in the housing market with effective public-policy interventions?” As it stands, the current states of the single-family and rental sectors are “troubling,” the letter said.

Rental Market Finally Starts Cooling Down

The national average rent held steady for the fourth consecutive month in September, indicating the market may be starting to cool off, according to the latest report from RENTCafé. This lack of growth over the past four months represents the longest period of stagnation in recent history and the slowest annual growth rate in six years, according to the report, compiled by the nationwide internet listing service that enables renters to find apartments and houses for rent throughout the U.S.

Who is the New Face of American Homeownership?

The U.S. homeownership rate remains lower than it has been for more than 20 years, even though housing markets have largely recovered from the Great Recession (U.S. Census Bureau 2017). Most of the drop in homeownership is due to fewer renters choosing to purchase first homes than prior to the crisis. Researchers and policymakers have posited several possible reasons for the apparent shift in behavior, including:

  1. Increased regulation of mortgage lending and stricter underwriting criteria.
  2. Weak labor markets for young workers, leading them to delay household formation and homeownership;
  3. Millennials’ lower preferences for owning rather than renting; and
  4. High levels of student loan debt among younger households.

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