Tuesday, June 30, 2009

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Delivers Special Remarks at NHC and Center Chicago Learning Conference

Today U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan delivered special remarks at the Solutions for Working Families: 2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy in Chicago sponsored by NHC and its research affiliate the Center for Housing Policy.

Secretary Donovan detailed the integral policies that will help the nation move beyond the current foreclosure crisis, as well as HUD's renewed focus on building and preserving affordable rental housing.

He also touched on new Obama Administration initiatives that will help to create sustainable “communities of choice” that incorporate transit, employment and educational opportunities.

In addition, Secretary Donovan spoke about the critical state and local partnerships that are necessary to helping ensure the success of these key initiatives:

"As President Obama has said so eloquently time and again, America has always been strongest when we work in partnership to build communities that are vibrant, durable and inclusive," said Donovan.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Update on Today's Events at the Learning Conference

In just 30 minutes the Solutions for Working Families Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy will begin its daylong Rental Preservation institute, sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

As you can see from this finalized agenda, this institute will feature a variety of housing experts including Julia Stasch, Erika Poethig and Debra Schwartz of the MacArthur Foundation, Chuck Wehrwein of Housing Partnership Network, Bill Kelly of Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, Vince O'Donnell of Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Michael Bodaken of the National Housing Trust, Jim Grow of the National Housing Law Project, Mary Vasys of Vasys Consulting Ltd., and Barry Zigas of Zigas, Associates LLC.

Participants attending this institute will examine crucial issues concerning the rental housing market in light of the ongoing affordable housing crisis.

It is important to note that the institute will break for a special lunchtime policy discussion with Bruce Katz, vice president at the Brookings Institution and founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Recently, Katz played a crucial role serving on the Obama transition team and as senior advisor to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

This event will conclude with an evening reception.

Check out #SWF2009 on Twitter for additional updates throughout today's institute and greater conference.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guest Blogger Maya Brennan: Taking Neighborhood Stabilization Beyond NSP at "Solutions for Working Families"

One of the highlights of day one of "Solutions for Working Families" is the day-long Foreclosure Prevention and Neighborhood Stabilization Institute.

In just one hour, Alan Mallach of the Brookings Institution will encourage us to think about how neighborhoods are destabilized in order to craft solid stabilization plans. His remarks will assert that neighborhood stabilization is more than just reusing vacant foreclosed homes. According to Mallach, a successful stabilization plan must include other activities as well, such as crime prevention measures, code enforcement, and other tools to strengthen the quality of life in the area and make the neighborhood a desirable place to live – a place that residents have confidence in.

Mallach’s appearance on the HousingPolicy.org "Out Loud" Podcast in March similarly suggested that communities take a deeper look at their neighborhood stabilization strategies.

Taking that advice and putting it into practice at the state and local levels is the goal of "Solutions for Working Families." Following these remarks, lunchtime roundtables will dig deeper into communities’ specific needs while afternoon breakout sessions will include additional expert perspectives and opportunities for considering how to take the leap from advice to on-the-ground reality.

Whether or not you are able to join us in Chicago to be a part of this discussion, you can continue the conversation with conference attendees on the HousingPolicy.org Forum.

Maya Brennan is a research associate for the Center for Housing Policy.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jeffrey Lubell Focuses on How "Solutions for Working Families" is Intented to Help State and Local Leaders

Today marks the start of NHC and the Center for Housing Policy's "Solutions for Working Families: 2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy" in Chicago, IL. The conference, which runs through Tuesday, June 30, is focused on convening state and local leaders to address the housing challenges faced by communities across the nation.

Jeffrey Lubell, executive director of NHC's research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, spoke about how the conference is intended to help state and local leaders address their housing needs. To learn more about the conference, please view Lubell's remarks below.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Solutions for Working Families" Kicks Off This Weekend

Pre-conference activities for "Solutions for Working Families: 2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy" begin tomorrow. If you haven't registered for the conference, on-site registration is still available! Don't miss out on the opportunity to participate in two timely, day-long institutes -- one focused on foreclosure prevention and neighborhood stabilization, and the other focused on rental housing preservation.

If you're already attending "Solutions for Working Families," be sure to check out ways to connect with your peers through platforms like Facebook and Twitter while you are there. In particular, if you are on Twitter, make sure to follow NHC and the Center for Housing Policy at twitter.com/NHCandCenter and use the hashtag #SWF2009 in your tweets!

Additionally, "Open House" will feature posts about conference-related topics both during and after the event. For more information about topics covered at "Solutions for Working Families," please View the Agenda.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

DC Receives Affordable Housing Funds Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Earlier this week, the District's of Columbia's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) announced that the city was granted $33.7 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While DHCD Director Leila Edmonds didn't specify which housing projects would benefit from this grant, she stressed that "funds like these are especially necessary in this difficult financing market."

To learn more about the receipt of these funds, please Read the Full Story on DCMud.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Housing High Risk, Low-Income Neighborhoods

How do you build a sufficient number of safe homes capable of surviving natural disasters in low-income neighborhoods or Section-8 public housing?

That was a key question at a panel in Washington, DC Wednesday titled, “Housing: Innovative and Affordable Mitigation Solutions for Low-income Populations.” The panel was part of the “Safe Homes for All Leadership Forum” that was keynoted by U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. The Congressman unveiled legislation he is introducing at the Forum that will make protection of low-income Americans from hurricane damage a much greater priority.

“There will be another Katrina,” warned Bill Stallworth of the Hope Community Development Agency. Stallworth argued that pre-disaster mitigation is the key to both keeping families safe in their homes and helping to save money over the long term.

Miles Anderson of the Florida Emergency Management Agency agreed. Anderson argued “all the stakeholders need to work together” to make small changes in policy. Anderson held up Rebuild Northwest Florida as a potential model. Rebuild Northwest Florida was organized by a group of local business leaders with the support of community stakeholders in 2004 in response to Hurricane Ivan. The group originally focused on home repairs but has increasingly dedicated itself to pre-disaster mitigation.

But the group continues to run into challenges. It’s important that mitigation dollars get to local communities quicker because the local communities have a greater understanding of their specific needs, Anderson argued. “We can’t let the process get in the way of progress,” he said.

Craig Tillman of WeatherPredict Consulting, Inc. stressed new technologies that can protect homes from roof cover damage due to high winds. For example, existing buildings can be spared from hurricane winds by improving the aerodynamics of their roofs to prevent uplift forces from ripping them off.

All of the panelists stressed the need to bring all stakeholders. But who are the stakeholders? Almost everyone, according to Tillman. Renters and owners, insurers and local, federal and state government all have important motivations for leveraging mitigation to reduce risk of human life to the known and increasing risks of natural disasters.

This post was submitted by Safe Homes for All. NHC member partner WealtherPredict Consulting, Inc., is the primary organizer of the Safe Homes for All Forum being held today in Washington, DC. .

Monday, June 22, 2009

Treasury Announces $268 Million More in Recovery Act Funding for Affordable Homes

Today the U.S. Department of Treasury announced $268 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funding to help spur the development of affordable housing in Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee and Washington, DC.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Treasury Department have been implementing new efforts designed to help homeowners while providing important assistance to homebuilders. Today's announcement is part of an innovative Treasury program that will provide more than $3 billion from the Recovery Act to put people to work building quality, affordable housing for individuals and families affected by the current housing crisis.

Under the program, state housing agencies are provided with the funding in order to construct affordable housing developments or renovate affordable housing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Administration's New "Rules of the Road" Would Mean Sweeping Changes for the Nation's Financial Regulatory System

On Wednesday, President Obama proposed a set of new “rules of the road” to change the way the nation’s financial system is regulated. Obama's proposal, which is outlined in an 88-page white paper, calls for fundamental shifts in financial oversight to help stabilize the economy and help prevent future crises from happening.

Specifically, the plan would make the Federal Reserve the regulator of some of the largest and most interconnected institutions in the financial world, an idea that has some institutions and lawmakers concerned. Among other initiatives, a separate council, chaired by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, would watch over the financial system to flag new products or trends that may be risky. The plan would also create a new consumer protection agency that would take oversight of mortgages and require lenders to give borrowers loans with straightforward and affordable terms. For full details, please visit the Treasury's Web site.

Yesterday, Secretary Geithner spoke before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs about the Administration’s proposed overhaul of the supervision of financial markets. Defending the proposal, he said that the country “cannot afford inaction” in light of the current economic crisis. To hear Secretary Geithner’s testimony, please watch the video below.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

HUD Secretary Donovan Joins Outstanding Lineup of "Solutions for Working Families" Keynote Speakers

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will now be a keynote speaker at a Town Hall Plenary at Solutions for Working Families: 2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy on June 30.

Donovan will join an outstanding lineup of Town Hall Plenary speakers, including: Nic Retsinas, director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies; William Klein, director of Research and Advisory Services at the American Planning Association; George McCarthy, director of the Urban Opportunity Unit at the Ford Foundation; and Shelley Poticha, president and CEO of Reconnecting America.

These speakers will explore the nexis of a variety of issues related to housing and community development to kick off the last day of the conference.

To learn more about Solutions for Working Families, or to register for the event, please visit: http://www.housingpolicy.org/learningconference.html

For additional information about the conference agenda, please contact Lynn Ross, director of state and local initiatives for NHC and the Center for Housing Policy, at lross@nhc.org or (202) 466-2121, Ext. 237.

NHC Applauds New “Livable” Communities Partnership Between HUD, DOT and EPA

Yesterday, NHC's President and CEO Conrad Egan issued a statement in response to the Administration’s new “Livability Principles,” announced at a joint hearing, which are focused on cooperatively addressing housing, transportation, environmental and energy concerns. To learn more, please read Egan's statement below:

"Today’s joint hearing held by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee with Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson underscores the Administration’s clear commitment to developing comprehensive plans for communities that will cooperatively address the nation’s extensive housing, transportation, environmental and energy concerns.

Specifically, we applaud their introduction of a comprehensive set of 'Livability Principles' that will serve as the core objectives for this new HUD, DOT and EPA partnership, including: promoting equitable, affordable housing; providing more transportation choices; enhancing economic competitiveness; supporting existing communities; coordinating and leveraging federal policies and investments; and valuing communities and neighborhoods. These principles will also include an important ‘affordability index’ that will measure utility costs, encourage energy efficient mortgages and retrofits, or upgrades, that will translate into savings over the long-term.

NHC strongly supports the enthusiastic and strategic partnership taking shape between these critical departments and agencies. We are pleased that these leaders recognize the challenges associated with breaking down the current structures and then integrating them into a new inclusive planning process. We look forward to working with our partners in the Administration, in Congress, as well as at the state and local levels, to translate these principles into the creation of affordable, vibrant and healthy communities."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NHC Completes Paper on Implementation of ARRA

NHC recently completed this analysis entitled, "Housing-Related Funding Opportunities for State and Local Governments in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009," which organizes affordable housing programs included in the economic recovery package according to the type of institution eligible to apply for the assistance provided.

This paper details eligibility requirements and provides guidelines on how to apply for funding in order to assist organizations in search of assistance.

For additional information, NHC also finished this executive summary of the paper. If you have any questions about this publication, please contact NHC Policy Associate Megan Richardson.

Pictures from NHC's Annual Budget Forum Now Available

On June 4, NHC held its Annual Budget Forum, during which panelists discussed highlights from the President's 2010 Fiscal Year Budget, with an emphasis on rental housing preservation programs in the new Administration's first budget.

If you missed out on this year's event, the individual speakers and corresponding photos can be found below. To view a full set of photos from the event, please visit NHC's Flickr Page.

Xavier Briggs, associate director for general government programs, Office of Management and Budget

Gail Laster, deputy chief counsel, Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives

Doug Bibby, president, National Multi Housing Council

Sheila Crowley, president, National Low-Income Housing Coalition

**These pictures were taken by Dave Scavone and should be attributed to him if used for other purposes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Administration Prepares to Release Plans for Financial Reform

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Director of the National Economic Council Lawrence Summers contributed this Opinion Editorial in today’s Washington Post to discuss the Administration’s plans for a new financial system.

The President plans to release details of this anticipated financial overhaul in a press conference later this week.

For more information, read this White House blog post from earlier today.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rising Interest Rates Could Make It Difficult for the Economy to Get Back on Track

While news about the economy’s turnaround is starting to make headlines, new information indicates that rising interest rates could slow down the recovery process, in particular when it comes to housing. According to an article in today’s Washington Post, in just the past two weeks, the rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has risen from 4.9 percent to 5.6 percent.

Although home sales have started to stabilize, and some first-time homebuyers are taking advantage of the market, these sales have been largely the result of borrowers taking advantage of lower interest rates. However, if interest rates continue to climb, it could take even longer for the nation to recover from the economic and housing crisis.

To learn more, please Read the Article.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Highlights from NHC's 2009 Budget Forum

On June 4, NHC hosted its Annual Budget Forum at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. At this year's Forum, panelists detailed affordable housing programs in President Obama's Fiscal Year 2010 Budget, and also discussed programs and proposals to create and preserve affordable rental housing.

The featured speaker for the event was Xavier Briggs, associate director for general government programs, Office of Management and Budget. Panelists included Gail Laster, deputy chief counsel, Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives; Sheila Crowley, president, National Low-Income Housing Coalition; and Doug Bibby, president, National Multi Housing Council.

Check out the video below to view highlights from this year's event.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"This American Life" Discusses Roadblocks Associated With Executing Mortgage Modifications

This American Life, a program on Chicago Public Radio, recently featured a show entitled “The Mod Squad,” which discusses the roadblocks associated with executing mortgage modifications.

While modifying mortgages and keeping people in their homes seems like a win-win for both the borrower and the lender, reporter Chris Arnold shares why many homeowners aren’t getting the attention they need. In particular, Arnold notes that many servicers enforcing foreclosures are doing so simply because they don’t have a system in place to handle the volume of loan modification requests they receive.

While the episode highlights reasons why big banks are unable to process these requests, it also features Ocwen – a smaller servicer that has had success in modifying a large number of loans. In fact, the company says that about 75 percent of the time, they can create a plan that accommodates what homeowner can afford.

To learn more, please Listen to the Episode.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Congressional Update on Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations

Congress has resumed session for a busy four-week work period. During this time, policymakers will continue to work on legislation to authorize the government to spend money during fiscal year 2010.

Leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives have stated that it is their goal to complete work on all 12 appropriations bills before the August recess; meanwhile, the Senate hopes to complete this work by September 30, 2009, which marks the end of the fiscal year.

In keeping with this goal, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on proposed fiscal 2010 appropriations for programs under its jurisdiction at 9:30 a.m. next Thursday, June 11 in Room 138 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NHC Hosts Annual Budget Forum

Tomorrow, NHC will host its Annual Budget Forum from 10 a.m. until Noon in the Congressional Auditorium at the Capitol Visitor Center.

The forum will feature special guest speaker, Xavier Briggs, the associate director of governmental programs at the Office of Management and Budget.

Afterwards, Conrad Egan, president and ceo of NHC, will moderate a panel that will highlight affordable housing and community development programs included in the president's Fiscal Year 2010 Budget.

The panel will also discuss programs and proposals to create and preserve rental housing. This conversation will include implementation of the National Housing Trust Fund, efforts to preserve HUD-subsidized rental units, and new programs to "green" rental properties and create sustainable communities.

Featured panelists include:
  • Gail Laster, deputy chief counsel, Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Sheila Crowley, president, National Low Income Housing Coalition
  • Doug Bibby, president, National Multi Housing Council

If you are interested in attending this complimentary event please register here. On-site registration is also available the day of the event.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

NHC Honors Ron Terwilliger and Congressman Barney Frank at Tomorrow's Gala

Tomorrow, NHC will honor J. Ronald Terwilliger, chairman of both Trammell Crow Residential and NHC Member Partner Habitat for Humanity International, with the prestigious NHC 2009 “Housing Person of the Year” Award at its 37th Annual Gala in Washington, DC. The award will recognize Terwilliger as one of the nation’s leading affordable housing advocates, particularly for his ongoing commitment to multi-family, affordable and workforce housing.

At the Gala, NHC will also present Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) with the “Carl A.S. Coan, Sr. Award” for his long-time advocacy on behalf of affordable housing and community development, as well as his recent leadership role in addressing the current financial and housing crisis. The award was established in 1984 and is named after Carl A. S. Coan, Sr., who was widely regarded as one of the most effective housing staff directors on Capitol Hill.

If you are still interested in attending the Gala, please contact NHC's Thea Beckering.

Guest Blogger Doug Rice: "2010 HUD Budget a Step Forward, But Major Challenge Remains

The new HUD budget marks a decisive break from the decade-long pattern of treating rental housing as the neglected stepchild of federal housing policy, but it doesn’t respond adequately to the growing need for rental assistance. This poses an enormous political challenge for the affordable housing community: how to help HUD push rental housing higher on the list of federal priorities.

To be clear, the budget is a major step forward. It provides enough funding for the major rental assistance programs to assist roughly the same number of families in 2010 as they do now. It also invests $1 billion in the new national Housing Trust Fund, which will preserve or develop about 29,000 rental housing units over five years. (Our preliminary analysis of the budget is available here.)

However, the budget lacks a strategy to make significant progress against what Secretary Donovan describes as the “structural gap between household incomes and housing prices and the persistent un-affordability of [rental] housing.” Moreover, those affordability problems are likely to worsen, as the unemployment rate is expected to continue rising in coming months.

What conclusion should the affordable housing community draw from this? HUD needs our help in persuading the rest of the Administration (as well as Congress) that expanding affordable rental housing should be major priority — a key strategy both to advance the Administration’s goals in education, energy, and health care and to help low-income Americans prosper.

Douglas Rice is a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which conducts research and analysis to help shape public debates over budget and tax policies and ensure that policymakers consider the needs of low-income families and individuals in these debates.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Guest Blogger Dvora Lovinger: A Brief Look at Three New Programs in the FY 2010 HUD Budget

At a recent briefing, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan provided details on the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 HUD budget. The budget contains several new housing initiatives that Enterprise Community Partners is closely following. Here’s a brief look at a few proposals:

  • $250 million for Choice Neighborhoods
Choice Neighborhoods builds on the successes of HOPE VI, which demolished the worst public housing projects and replaced them with mixed income, better designed, less dense housing with supportive services

Recognizing several additional challenges of fighting poverty, this proposal would expand the eligible uses and recipients of funds, and link community investments with both work incentives for residents and intensive school reforms. The broadened scope of activities envisioned in this proposal is matched with a call for $130 million over last year’s appropriation for HOPE VI.

  • $150 million for a Sustainable Communities Initiative
An important component of housing affordability is access to transit, jobs, retail, and other necessities. Too many low-income families live far away from these amenities, and have to spend their scarce resources on transportation. The Sustainable Communities Initiative aims to lower transportation costs (which now exceed housing costs for many families), create energy savings, and enhance access to employment and educational opportunities.

Under this proposal, funds would go towards regional planning that integrates transportation and housing goals, assistance for localities that implement zoning and land use reform, and to research the program’s efficacy and share best practices.

  • $100 million to create an Energy Innovation Fund

This program is designed to help catalyze the retrofit market by accelerating private investment in cost-saving residential energy-efficiency retrofits. These innovative strategies will lead to reductions in energy consumption, operating costs, and a smaller carbon footprint for both affordable and market-rate housing.

Before these proposals become law, they must first be vetted by Congress and funded through the annual appropriations process. For more information visit Enterprise’s Public Policy Web-site.

Dvora Lovinger is the Senior Director of Government Affairs for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. where she leads the development and implementation of a national affordable housing and sustainable community development federal policy agenda. Prior to working at Enterprise, Dvora was a senior advisor to U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD). As Senator Mikulski's Legislative Director, Dvora advised the Senator on all legislative strategy and policy, including her committee work on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Committee on Appropriations. Before becoming Legislative Director, Dvora served as the Senator’s Legislative Assistant for education and labor policy and was her Research Director on her 2004 re-election campaign. Prior to working on the Hill, Dvora worked at several non-profits focusing on women’s issues. Dvora has a bachelor’s degree in English from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a master’s degree in political science with a concentration on Women, Politics, and Political Leadership from American University.