Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Home Sales Take Dive Despite Recent Stabilization in Housing Sector

Despite news of recent stabilization in the housing sector, the Commerce Department released data yesterday revealing a tumble in new home sales. While analysts had predicted that sales would increase, new home sales fell 3.6 percent in September from the previous month after five consecutive months of rising activity.

Specifically, sales fell 11 percent in the West and 10 percent in the South; however, these decreases were partially offset by a 34 percent jump in activity in the Midwest.

Overall, sales were down 7.8 percent compared with September 2008.

Last week, an industry report brought good news, showing a 9 percent jump in sales of previously owned homes in September. New home sales currently account for approximately 8 percent of the market, down from 15 percent traditionally, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guest Blogger Sharon Price: Reflecting on Rhode Island's Creative and Effective Use of NSP Funds

Across the country, Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) grantees and their partners are busy implementing their programs—working with mortgage servicers to purchase properties and with local partners to rehabilitate homes and secure new homeowners and renters. Under NSP1, HUD allocated $3.92 billion on a formula basis to 309 states, territories and local governments. The program was designed to stabilize communities across America hardest hit by foreclosures.

As a small state, Rhode Island received the minimum allocation for state grantees of $19.6 million. They have taken a number of creative approaches to utilizing their funds quickly and efficiently. Within the NSP guidelines, their statewide NSP plan set parameters for their grant funds which are being utilized in 11 communities. They began an NSP Homebuyer Assistance Program in targeted communities, and have already reserved all funds set-aside for that purpose. As this recent article shows, they are also rehabbing foreclosed properties in communities such as Warwick across the state through local partnerships between municipalities and nonprofits.

To learn more, please view the information below, which details how and where NSP funds are being used in Rhode Island.

Funds are targeted to areas:
  • With the greatest percentage of foreclosures;
  • Highest percentage of homes financed by subprime mortgage related loans; and
  • Identified as likely to face a significant rise in rate of home foreclosures.
Eligible activities include:
  • Establish financing mechanism for purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed upon homes and residential properties, including such mechanisms as soft-seconds, loan loss reserves, and shared-equity loans for low- and moderate- income homebuyers;
  • Purchase and rehabilitate homes and residential properties that have been abandoned or foreclosed upon, in order to sell, rent, or redevelop such homes and properties;
  • Establish land banks for homes that have been foreclosed upon;
  • Demolish blighted structures; and
  • Redevelop demolished or vacant properties.
Sharon Price serves as NHC's policy director.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NHC President and CEO Conrad Egan Honored With CHAPA Community Service Award

Yesterday, NHC President and CEO Conrad Egan received the Community Service Award from the Citizens' Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) at their 42nd Annual Dinner and Meeting. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to furthering the goals of affordable housing over the long-term.

In addition to Egan, David Harris, managing director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School, also received a Community Service Award from CHAPA. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan gave a keynote speech at the event to recognize both the work of CHAPA and the award recipients.

CHAPA is a non-profit organization for affordable housing and community development activities in Massachusetts. CHAPA’s mission is to encourage the production and preservation of housing which is affordable to low-income families and individuals.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Guest Blogger My B. Trinh: Reflecting on Leveraged Funds

Tight credit markets are having a profound effect on community development practitioners and the communities that they serve. Now more than ever, effective use of public resources is critically important. It is perhaps time then, to reflect upon fund leveraging in recent years.

Leveraging public dollars can multiply the availability of capital in a particular market. For example, the New York City Acquisition Fund was created with $40 million from local government and foundation sources which was leveraged to raise over $190 million of lending capital from private institutions.

A recent study by Enterprise of the New York City Acquisition Fund and other leveraged funds revealed that they were able to provide a large number of acquisition loans at very favorable terms while supporting affordable housing objectives. It also revealed that a successful fund requires the following local factors:
  • City government support;
  • Takeout financing;
  • Foundation support;
  • Bank investment;
  • Ability to generate high loan volume;
  • Established CDFI partners; and
  • Housing development capacity in the target market.
However, recent changes in the market have slowed loan production. Facing lower loan volume, the New York City Acquisition Fund is seeking ways to alter the fund to provide resources for affordable housing preservation beyond the short-term acquisition loans that it already provides. The New Generation Fund in Los Angeles is also facing underutilization due to market conditions. It is seeking to reposition the fund to address the local issue of maturing acquisition loans on properties that cannot move forward with development due to the state’s fiscal crisis.

Leveraged funds have proven their ability to bring large amounts of capital into a market in the form of acquisition loans with very favorable terms. However, the market’s deterioration in recent years has demonstrated the importance of any given fund’s flexibility to ensure that it can be repositioned for maximum utility.

My B. Trinh is the Bart Harvey Enterprise Fellow 2008-2010. She recently completed an in-depth study of three acquisition funds designed to leverage capital for affordable housing development.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NHC and the Center for Housing Policy Announce Web 2.0 Suite Using Interactive Social Media Release

NHC and its research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, officially announced their Web 2.0 suite today via an interactive Social Media Release as part of an overall goal of encouraging affordable housing supporters to join them in connecting, sharing and exchanging ideas online. Specifically, NHC and the Center have worked to develop a host of new and social media tools that includes the NHC “Open House” Blog, the Center’s Online Discussion Forum, as well as a strong and growing presence on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Flickr.

In addition to "Open House," the Online Discussion Forum has been integral in generating and sharing ideas among policymakers, practitioners and advocates, in particular, through its “Live at the Forum” series, which has focused on a number of timely issues such as stabilizing communities affected by concentrated foreclosures. To learn more about the Forum, check out the video below featuring the Center's Rebecca Cohen.

To help encourage use of new and social media tools by affordable housing advocates, NHC and the Center hosted a communications workshop and session on integrating Web 2.0 with traditional media strategies as part of the “Solutions for Working Families: 2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy” held this summer.

Visit the full NHC and Center Web 2.0 Suite today!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Administration Announces New Initiative to Bolster HFAs, Help Distressed Borrowers, and More

Yesterday, as part of the Making Home Affordable program, the Obama Administration announced a new initiative to help strengthen state Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs) and their efforts to stimulate first-time home buying, help distressed homeowners and provide affordable rental homes for low- and middle-income borrowers over the long term.

This initiative, developed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in partnership with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was created to maintain the viability of HFA lending programs and infrastructure. Specifically, this plan has two parts: a new bond purchase program to support new lending by HFAs, and a temporary credit and liquidity program to improve the access of HFAs to liquidity for outstanding HFA bonds.

According to an article in today’s Washington Post, the effort also reflects the priorities of the Administration and its increasing preference for moderate-size initiatives over another large stimulus program.

To learn more about this initiative, please view these documents and resources from NHC Member Partner the National Council of State Housing Agencies, which includes their statement written in support of these new measures.

Resources from Last "Making It Work" Webinar Now Available

On October 6, NHC, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the National Community Stabilization Trust and NeighborWorks America, hosted the last Webinar in the "Making It Work" series. This session focused on several techniques designed to capture quantitative and qualitative outcomes from community stabilization activities. In particular, the panelists also talked about traditional and creative measures needed to help practitioners meet reporting requirements and "tell their story."

Presenters included:
  • Michael Schramm, Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development, Case Western University;
  • Chris Walker, Local Initiatives Support Corporation; and
    Nancy Kopf and Jessica Anders, NeighborWorks America.
For more information on this session, please see this thread on the Forum.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Part II of II: Guest Blogger Paul Graziano - HOPE VI and Beyond, The Baltimore Experience

HOPE VI brought a critical mass of blight elimination and new community building to spark major economic development in Baltimore. However, a larger and more flexible program is urgently needed to address broader community issues beyond the boundaries of a public housing site and to encourage community and economic development including addressing distressed Federal Housing Administration (FHA) multifamily properties, which often co-exist near deteriorated public housing sites.

In Northeast Baltimore, one such transformation is well underway where a functionally obsolete public housing site (Claremont Homes) and a severely distressed FHA property (Freedom Village) were replaced by a mixed income community. Due to the lack of HOPE VI funds, a variety of funding sources were cobbled together including the now moribund FHA Upfront Grant, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, project-based Section 8 vouchers, HOME and State Development Funds, as well as state infrastructure funds.

Transformation stories like Baltimore’s have been replicated throughout the nation. Arguments still rage about the success of HOPE VI and especially the fate of residents. Whether more could or should have been done for the former residents of public housing will be long debated. What is indisputable is that no man, woman or child should have to live in the nightmare world of pre-HOPE VI public housing. What is also indisputable is that HOPE VI in Baltimore has been a major catalyst for broader transformation. A larger more flexible program would build on the success of HOPE VI.

Paul Graziano serves as the commissioner of Baltimore Housing. This entry is the second in a two-part series of posts by Comissioner Graziano. You can read his first entry here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Multi-Housing News Magazine to Cease Publication at Month’s End

Yesterday, NHC learned that Multi-Housing News Magazine (MHN) will cease publication on October 30, 2009. As a go-to source for those in the multifamily housing industry, this is particularly sad in light of enhanced initiatives at the federal level to encourage the preservation and development of affordable rental housing in the U.S.

Despite a slimming of the magazine over the past few years, MHN is to be applauded for working to increase their online presence by featuring exclusive editorial content and videos on their Web site, as well as by using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Part I of II: Guest Blogger Paul Graziano - HOPE VI and Beyond, The Baltimore Experience

In the recently published From Despair to Hope, Secretary Henry Cisneros recalls his visit to Lexington Terrace in Baltimore, where he and then Mayor Kurt Schmoke were urged by the police not to enter one of the high rise public housing buildings as their safety could not be assured. He was appalled at the thought that a Mayor and the highest-ranking housing official in the nation could not (even with a police escort) safely enter a building that young mothers with their small children were expected call home. This experience brought into focus the urgency of implementing the recently enacted HOPE VI program.

Unfortunately, the situation at Lexington Terrace was not unique either in the city or the nation. Downtown Baltimore was encircled by a ring of high-rise family public housing sites, each with comparable levels of deterioration and despair.

Through more than a decade of hard work and with a huge assist from five HOPE VI grants and over $60 million in special state funds, this aggregation of misery has been replaced with five new mixed-income communities where public housing residents now live in secure, clean, and well-managed homes. In addition, over 2000 former residents have been or will be able to relocate to low-poverty communities of opportunity utilizing a scattered-site development program and Section 8 vouchers with extensive counseling.

HOPE VI brought a critical mass of blight elimination and new community building to spark major economic development in Baltimore. In East Baltimore, a land swap between the Housing Authority Baltimore City and Johns Hopkins related to the Broadway HOPE VI project (featured on page two photo in Cisneros’ book) enabled Hopkins to move forward with over $1 billion worth of investment. This effort has been buttressed by the $1.8 billion mixed-use East Baltimore Development Initiative on 88 acres to the north.

In West Baltimore, the redevelopment of two public housing sites, including the infamous Lexington Terrace, encouraged the University of Maryland to undertake its own BioPark. This was the first major expansion across Martin Luther King Boulevard, which historically demarcated the end of the Central Business District.

Paul Graziano serves as the commissioner of Baltimore Housing. This entry is the first in a two-part series of posts by Comissioner Graziano. You can read his second entry here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Video Highlights "From Despair to Hope" Discussion in Atlanta

In late August, more than 200 people gathered in Atlanta, GA, to participate in a community discussion as part of an event celebrating the publication of From Despair to Hope: Hope VI and the New Promise of Public Housing in America's Cities, which was co-edited by Lora Engdahl and former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, chairman, NHC Member Partner CityView.

Specifically, the event in Atlanta showcased the chapter authored by Renee Glover, president and CEO, NHC Member Partner the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA), about the success of housing assistance reform in Atlanta.

AHA recently released a video highlighting the event, which can be viewed below.

Friday, October 9, 2009

World Habitat Day-Related Event Presents Findings from Report on Mission Entrepreneurial Entities

Yesterday, NHC, in partnership with NHC Member Partner the Housing Partnership Network and the Affordable Housing Institute (AHI), hosted a World Habitat Day-related event covering a new study, Mission Entrepreneurial Entities (MEEs): Essential Actors in Affordable Housing Delivery, which examines the characteristics of MEEs, their role and importance in housing delivery, and their principles of success.

MEEs are defined as private companies – usually nonprofit housing companies – whose focus is on change-making that involves developing sustainable organizational and financing infrastructure for the creation of affordable housing. By converting ideas and resources into tangible results, in the form of successful housing developments and outcomes, these organizations play an important part in developing communities and also serve to influence change in both policy and economic realms.

Panelists for the event included:
  • Gaynor Asquith, principal, arc4 Consulting, Manchester United Kingdom;
  • Thomas Bledsoe, president, Housing Partnership Network;
  • Ray Christman, former CEO, Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta;
  • Carol J. Galante, deputy assistant secretary for multifamily programs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development;
  • Michael Pitchford, president and CEO, Community Preservation and Development Corporation;
  • Debra Schwartz, director of program related investments, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and
  • David Smith, CEO, CAS Financial Advisory Services (moderator)

If you missed the presentation, or would like to view information from the study, please see the resources below.

MEE Study Presentation
MEE Report Extracts and Selected Exhibits

More About World Habitat Day
The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day, with the idea being to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. The day is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bring Workers Home: 2009 Eastern Regional Forum on Employer-Assisted Housing

Employer-assisted housing (EAH) is often described as a win-win-win tool because employers, employees and the community each benefit. As the nation continues to seek solutions to the housing crisis facing our country, EAH presents itself as one proven tool to help recruit and retain productive, stable workforces and revitalize and stabilize neighborhoods.

If you’re interested in learning more about EAH and are located in the Eastern region, then mark your calendar and plan to join your colleagues on Thursday, November 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for a one-day, complimentary forum entitled “Bring Workers Home: 2009 Eastern Regional Forum on Employer-Assisted Housing,” hosted by the National Association of REALTORS® and the National Housing Conference in Philadelphia, PA.

The goal of the forum is to expand awareness of EAH as a proven housing solution among state and local leaders—including REALTORS®, REALTOR® association staff, business leaders, state legislators, city council members, other elected and appointed officials, and human resource and employee benefit professionals. This regional forum will also provide learning opportunities for housing planners, economic & community developers, practitioners and advocates.

Speakers for the event include:
  • Joe Canfora, NAR Regional Vice President for Region 2
  • Ed Collins, New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency
  • Peter Elkowitz, Long Island Housing Partnership
  • Jim Flaherty, City of Philadelphia Commerce Department
  • Cynthia Karnai-Crossan, Delaware State Housing Authority
  • Dr. Lucy Kerman, Greater Philadelphia Urban Coalition
  • Mayor Michael Nutter, City of Philadelphia (invited)
  • Sharon Price, National Housing Conference
  • Ed Robinson, The Maryland Real Estate Team
  • Robin Synderman, Metropolitan Planning Council
  • Steve Wing, CVS
In addition, real estate professionals can maximize their regional forum experience by participating in the complimentary Home from Work™ continuing education credit class on Wednesday, November 18 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, just one day prior to the main event. This class will outline the benefits of EAH and explain how to work with employers to assist them in implementing an EAH benefit plan at their workplace.

To attend one or both of these free events, make sure to Register Here. Please note that registration will close on October 30.

For more information, please contact Lynn Ross at the National Housing Conference at

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Guest Blogger Renee Glover: The Impacts of Concentrated Poverty on Children

Fifteen years ago, we knew that we must abandon the model of concentrating poverty in public housing projects and move in the direction of creating economically integrated, market-rate quality, mixed-income communities. We knew that the concentrated poverty of traditional public housing projects was having an insidious and corrosive impact on the lives of the residents, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the entire Atlanta community.

What we had not fully comprehended was the negative impact these residential areas with concentrated poverty were having on the neighborhood public schools and the educational outcomes of the children who attended those schools.

As my dear friend Dr. Norman Johnson, a former professor at Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon and Florida A&M, and a former Atlanta public school board member, puts it, "If you concentrate poverty in the residential arrangement, you cannot help but concentrate poverty in the neighborhood school. And, if you concentrate poverty in the school, it doesn't work."

As administrators of housing programs, real estate developers or professionals in related fields, we know that concentrating poverty in public housing projects or other residential arrangements leads to terrible human failure. We must never forget that a huge percentage of the people living in public housing projects are children. Thus, the toxic impact of concentrated poverty has had a disproportionate impact on our children, setting the stage for generational devastation.

By adopting and implementing policies that result in the creation of economically integrated communities, we can embrace a strategy and a sociological design for the schools that has a proven track record. Deconcentrating poverty in housing and schools is a great idea and even better public policy.

To read more, please see the post by Renee Glover entitled "Children Face the Greatest Risk" on the Atlanta Housing Authority's "Lessons Learned" blog.

Renee Glover is the president and CEO of NHC Member Partner the Atlanta Housing Authority.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Last "Making It Work" Webinar Focuses on "Performance Measurement"

Tomorrow, NHC, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the National Community Stabilization Trust and NeighborWorks America, will host the last Webinar in the "Making It Work" series. This session will focus on several techniques designed to capture quantitative and qualitative outcomes from community stabilization activities. Drawing from their academic and on-the-ground experience, panelists will talk about traditional and creative measures needed to help practitioners meet reporting requirements and "tell their story."

The Webinar will begin with a conference call from 2-3 p.m. EDT and will be followed by a question and answer session with the presenters on the Forum from 3-4 p.m. EDT.

To participate, please Register for this Webinar. You must also register for the Forum to participate in the second part of the event.

If you were unable to attend previous Webinars in this series, you can view presentations from the sessions outlining "Disposition Strategies" and "Acquisition Strategies."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Opinion Editorial by Conrad Egan in Today's American Banker: Our System for Housing Finance Must Be Fixed

The following opinion editorial is by NHC President and CEO Conrad Egan and was published in the Viewpoints section of today's American Banker. The views expressed are from the "Ten Key Principles" for repairing the U.S. mortgage market and addressing the foreclosure crisis, which were developed by an industry-wide taskforce commissioned by NHC.
"The foreclosure crisis has made one thing very clear: It is time to get back to basics by putting consumers first.

This is particularly true when it comes to strategies for repairing the housing finance system. Precipitated by loose lending practices and unregulated financial products, the foreclosure crisis has reemphasized the need for the federal government, in partnership with the private sector, to develop more practical, straightforward housing finance policies focused on better meeting the needs of consumers.

To help ensure this goal's achievement, the government must maintain its key role in the housing finance system even after the current crisis has abated. With private lenders and mortgage insurance companies continuing to tighten credit standards, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan banks and Federal Housing Administration/Ginnie Mae or their successor agencies must continue to play central roles in providing funding and liquidity for new mortgages as part of the secondary mortgage market.

Absent a federal role in the housing finance system, it is unlikely that the private sector alone would be able to supply long-term, fixed-rate financing for single-family and multifamily affordable housing in all markets at all times and on reasonable terms.

The government and the private sector must also focus on supporting more balanced housing policy — that is, recognizing the importance of both homeownership and rental housing options to address the needs and interests of individuals and families nationwide. This means supporting programs that ensure access to credit for both owner-occupied and renter-occupied housing. Though homeownership is an important goal for many Americans, it is essential that the housing finance system also develop a stronger infrastructure focused on supporting rental housing finance, particularly for developers that serve low- to moderate-income families.

A fully functioning housing finance system also must provide transparent transactions for consumers, including ample educational opportunities for both homeowners and renters. For homeowners, the rules governing the primary and secondary mortgage markets should ensure adequate disclosures and protections and provide effective consumer-based prepurchase and post-purchase counseling.

Renters, too, must be made aware of their rights as tenants and have access to financial education and counseling services. These are crucial steps that would help restore confidence among consumers while also creating a better prepared generation of homeowners and renters.

The dramatic effect of the foreclosure crisis on our economy makes it hard to deny that the components of a well-functioning economy — such as educational opportunities, good jobs and civil society — are largely tied to healthy, affordable homes in safe neighborhoods.

Ultimately, housing is a basic need and an essential part of family and community life whether a family owns or rents. The federal government and the private sector must work together to create a stronger, balanced homeownership and rental housing infrastructure. This is essential not only to helping consumers and repairing the housing finance system but also to the economy as a whole."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Making It Work" Webinar Outlines Disposition Strategies for NSP Properties

On September 29, NHC, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the National Community Stabilization Trust and NeighborWorks America, hosted a "Making It Work" Webinar focused on disposition strategies for Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) properties. During the session, Ben Nichols from the Cleveland office of Enterprise Community Partners highlighted best practices in Cleveland, including lease-purchase programs, for-sale subsidies, and long-term rental strategies using the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. Additionally, Chris Pahule, assistant director of Community Development at the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Authority, outlined the city's rationale and process to develop mortgage assistance programs and marketing strategies to further NSP efforts. If you missed the event, or would like to listen to the presentation again, please view the video below.