Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Blogger Robin Snyderman: News, lessons from day one of ‘Partners in Innovation’ resonate in Illinois

By Robin Snyderman, Vice President of Community Development, Metropolitan Planning Council
Snyderman of NHC member organization Metropolitan Planning Council, served as moderator during the Partners in Innovation National Symposium on September 27, shares her thoughts on the day's events.

Well, that whet my appetite! After the first day of the “Partners in Innovation” symposium, I don’t know which I found more encouraging: The way Shelley Poticha kicked off the conference with frank and inspiring reflections on her first year at the helm of HUD's side of the Sustainable Communities Partnership? Her response to my closing question during the follow-up discussion? U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's videotaped remarks? Or the range of best practices shared at various break-outs?

Shelley's opening comments reminded all of us involved in community development not to be discouraged by others saying "it can't be done." When it comes to aligning housing and transportation policy and investment, yes, people need to get out of their comfort zones and learn new vernaculars and driving interests; but if the labyrinths represented by HUD and DOT can finally issue a joint Request for Proposals (RFP), then certainly the Illinois Linkage Group, co-chaired by my organization, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), can be successful in its efforts to encourage the same within Illinois. Take a look at what we can learn from what NHC and other national housing advocates are recommending for the Federal Transportation Authority! Every single state, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, submitted responses to HUD and DOT's recent RFPs, underscoring that Sustainability and Inclusion are not partisan or geographically-limited priorities. Communities across the country are asking for help getting the right mix of housing, retail and jobs near vibrant, pedestrian-friendly transit centers.

Shelley acknowledged that much of the Partnership’s progress to date can be attributed to the trust and chemistry she developed with her counterparts at DOT and EPA long before they landed their current jobs. This resonated with me, as I am often humbled by how much of MPC’s success every day is tied to our personal relationships with the good folks at Chicago-area organizations and agencies such as the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Clearly, the demand for the Sustainable Communities Challenge and Planning Grants underscore the need to pass the Livable Communities Act. That said, building on past conversations with Shelley, I also asked about two other ways her office could help scale up the interagency progress achieved in D.C.:
1. How could they empower regional HUD, DOT and EPA offices to deepen their own relationships in the field, and to build the trust and capacity needed to advance this Administration's aggressive goals?
2. And how could HUD provide further incentives to get employers at the table, demonstrating their impatience with bureaucracy that prevents their workers from accessing affordable homes near jobs and transportation options, investing in Employer-Assisted Housing, and supporting live-near-work and live-near-transit policies and developments?

“Carrots are nothing but big sticks painted orange””

James Corless, Director Transportation for America
This was just one of many insights passed along by James Corless in his remarks at the morning plenary session at Tuesday’s Partners in Innovation Policy Forum in Denver. The forum was sponsored by NHC and the MacArthur Foundation and focused on the preservation of affordable rental housing around transit. Corless, Director of Transportation for America, spoke to his experiences in his previous role as senior planner for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Attendees at the Forum have been encouraged to think of themselves not as housers or representatives from the transportation industry, but rather as part of an integrated system. And Corless laid out several ways that MTC used its transportation money and authority to promote affordable, inclusive transit-oriented development:

Planning grants: By issuing planning grants in amounts up to $750,000, MTC gave communities the capacity to plan for and undertake the land use changes and outreach necessary to enable and build acceptance for development around transit stations.

Capital and infrastructure improvements: MTC funding for walkways, parking, and other necessary improvements in some cases made the difference in allowing proposed TODs to pencil out.

Data and research: Through ridership data, MTC was able to demonstrate that if you build it, they will ride, making the case for transit-oriented development in communities throughout the region.

Corless concluded with key lessons from the 15-year evolution of MTC’s transit-oriented development approach, including the notion that money talks.”He cited the recent Race to the Top competition as an indication that states and localities will adopt preferred policies just to get in the door and qualify to access federal funds. This may be a principle that can be applied to the transit-oriented development world: As we continue to raise the bar, activities that today earn points on funding applications may someday be prerequisites to get in the game.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guest Blogger Melinda Pollack: Preserving Affordable Housing Near Transit

Preserving Affordable Housing Near Transit Report
When we think about transit-oriented development (TOD) we typically think of new, high-density development near a rail or subway station. Affordable housing doesn't usually jump out at us. But it should. In a new study, Preserving Affordable Housing Near Transit, Enterprise, NHT and Reconnecting America looked at four cities that are leading the charge in maintaining housing near public transportation for their most vulnerable residents.

The case studies seek to highlight strong examples of how regions are ensuring its citizens will have access to rental homes they can afford and the transit they need.

The study focuses on Denver, Atlanta, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Each city has plans to expand its public transportation systems, and is actively working to ensure that families and individuals with low-and moderate-incomes will have access to affordable apartments near jobs, educational institutions, grocery stores, medical facilities and cultural and entertainment centers.

TOD introduces complex questions about how to best preserve housing located in areas that may currently - or will soon - be located in areas that can justify much greater density. Should housing always be rehabilitated? Can preservation in transit areas be defined as one-for-one replacement, or the creation of new affordable housing at higher densities? Should we emphasize the preservation of units that were previously unsubsidized if they are at-risk as communities gentrify and become more expensive as a result of transit access?

So how should regions address these challenges? Each region has different resources available to them, but a few broad suggestions derived from the report are:
1) tap zoning and related incentives to lower capital cost of affordable housing near transit;
2) seek flexible acquisition financing to hold properties until financing is available; and
3) encourage joint land use and transit planning at a regional level to guide equitable development and investment in preservation. 
These concepts were explored at this week's symposium in Denver, Partners in Innovation: Including Affordable Workforce Housing within Transit Oriented Development.

If you would like a copy of the study, please visit beginning on Monday, September 27.

Melinda Pollack is the Director, Vulnerable Populations at Enterprise Community Partners. Enterprise Community Partners is a national nonprofit with more than 25 years of experience in the community development and affordable housing field. 

Poticha: Optimistic despite Challenges

On Monday, Shelley Poticha, the Director for HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, gave the keynote address at NHC and the Center’s Partners in Innovation: Including Affordable and Workforce Housing within Transit-Oriented Development national symposium. Poticha’s remarks painted a clear picture of the difficulties to be expected in creating sustainable, equitable, transit-oriented communities.

Within HUD, a full appreciation of how the combined costs of housing and transportation can burden low- and moderate-income families has yet to be developed. There are also significant interagency hurdles to overcome when working with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to lack of collaborative history and organizational differences.

However, Poticha’s keynote gave several reasons to be optimistic about the positive changes that are already underway. In an exciting break with tradition, HUD asked for public comments as it developed the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program and thousands answered the call. The action signaled HUD’s new emphasis on designing programs which consider and respond to local community needs. One emerging theme from these letters was the importance of inclusion and equity in the development of transit-oriented communities.

HUD received applications for the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program from all 50 states, coming from not only the largest metro areas but from communities of all sizes. The overwhelming response to the program showed the enthusiasm for creating transit-oriented communities that include workforce housing was nationally recognized and desired.

Poticha concluded in saying one of HUD’s roles is to make sure that policies and programs are in place to capture the new found enthusiasm and make sure local efforts add up to positive national change moving forward. To keep the momentum, sustainability officers have been appointed in HUD's ten regions to work with regional staff at DOT, EPA, and the Department of Agriculture to ensure the goals of the federal inter agency partnership are advanced outside of Washington.

Monday, September 27, 2010

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood video remarks at NHC Partners in Innovation National Symposium in Denver: Americans “calling for more sustainable options”

During Monday's luncheon plenary session at NHC and the Center's Partners in Innovation National Symposium in Denver, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood delivered video remarks keying in on the sentiments of many across the country, who want to see a shift to more livable communities that incorporate affordable housing close to transit and job centers.

“As I travel around the country it’s clear that Americans are…calling for more sustainable options to get from one place to another – not instead of, but in addition to, our highways. They’re asking for investments in sidewalks and bike paths, in buses, commuter rail and light rail. And they’re asking for policies that bring affordable housing in closer proximity to good schools and quality jobs.”

LaHood’s remarks further emphasized those of NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar, who kicked off the symposium by discussing the importance of the affordable housing world working with key partners, namely the Department of Transportation, to promote transit-oriented development across the country that incorporates affordable housing. Click here to view NHC’s Housing’s New Era video.

LaHood also stressed the importance of partnership and coordination as the key to creating sustainable and inclusive communities. He highlighted the interagency partnership for sustainable communities initiated last year between the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Partnership achievements and recent initiatives include DOT and HUD coordination on the TIGER II/Sustainable Communities Challenge Planning Grant Program, which will provide $75 million to communities for planning and technical assistance to help local and regional partners develop blueprints for innovative, mixed-income transit-oriented development.

“For the first time ever our agencies are working hand in hand to spur the creation of affordable housing and thriving businesses in clean, healthy communities," remarked LaHood, "and tearing down the traditional silos between our agencies makes it easier to partner with your cities and states to provide them with federal resources.”

Check back with the Open House blog for more updates from Denver.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hot Off the Press: NHC and the Center are Hitting the Road and Hosting a 2-Day Transit-Oriented Development Extravaganza

National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy will be hitting the road and heading to Denver, CO. Next week, NHC, the Center for Housing Policy and our partners are hosting two events in the Mile-High city focused on the intersection of housing and transportation.

On, Monday, September 27, NHC and the Center are hosting Partners in Innovation Including Affordable and Workforce Housing within Transit-Oriented Development. This national symposium examines the challenges and opportunities for developing and sustaining transit-oriented development (TOD) that includes affordable housing opportunities for working families and families with low- and moderate-incomes. The symposium is designed to develop stronger state and local policies supportive of more equitable TOD.

Tuesday, September 28, NHC and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will be hosting Partners in Innovation: Preserving Affordable Rental Housing Near Transit. This policy forum will focus specifically on the connection between affordable rental housing preservation and transit. This forum marks the last in a series of three Partners in Innovation regional forums hosted by NHC and the MacArthur Foundation.

Attendees at both events include a variety of stakeholders, including federal, state and local policymakers; developers; housing and sustainability advocates; planners and funders. You can follow these Partners in Innovation events on Twitter using #HousingConnect. You can also join the conversation through a new Transit-Oriented Development discussion group on the Forum.

For updates on these events, continue to check back at NHC’s Open House!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guest Blogger Sasha Forbes: Creating Equitable Communities through Mixed-Income Transit-Oriented Development

National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy is gearing up for our National Symposium and Policy Forum in Denver, CO September 27-28. The goal of the symposium is to examine the challenges and opportunities for developing and sustaining Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) that includes housing opportunities affordable to working families and families with low- and moderate-incomes. The policy forum will bring together federal, state, and local officials, industry leaders, and advocates for a critical dialogue on the connection between rental housing preservation and transit. In our continued effort to strengthen the dialogue and messaging of housing in the industry, we will be posting several guest blog posts from our respective partners and participants taking part in the symposium and/or policy forum.

Sasha Forbes Of Reconnecting America

Equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) promotes healthy and inclusive communities, however creating such communities is not an easy task. In reality, perhaps a utopian and preferred reality, equitable and sustainable TOD should be the standard and not the after-thought that it often becomes. Promoting communities that provide economic, social and environmental opportunities for all residents, regardless of income should be integrated in the entire TOD discussion. Yet, often the financial reality of the economic and commercial benefits of development near transit wins. Higher end housing wins. Luxury condos win.
Jobs geared toward higher paid professionals win. But they don’t have to.

Though the topic can be daunting, tools do exist to help communities promote equitable TOD. One such tool is the Mixed-Income Transit-Oriented Development (MITOD) Action Guide developed by the Center for Transit-Oriented Development. The online Action Guide at is designed to help local jurisdictions, planners and other stakeholders develop strategies to encourage mixed-income transit-oriented development (TOD) around planned transit stations.

The tool walks users through a multi-step analysis in order to identify mixed-income housing strategies that help practitioners think about the most appropriate and effective planning tools in any neighborhood — depending on the local market, the housing stock, and an inventory of existing development activity.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NHC Announces New Partnership with Young Leaders

NHC is pleased to announce its new partnership with the Young Leaders in Affordable Housing –a dynamic network for students and professionals under 35 years of age focused on providing professional development and leadership opportunities for its members in the affordable housing field.

In line with NHC’s mission, the Young Leaders are committed to advancing the goals of providing housing to low- and moderate-income individuals and families and to revitalizing communities nationwide. Activities hosted by the Young Leaders Network will include networking events, site visits to successful affordable housing developments, and educational programs designed to introduce the Young Leaders to a variety of industry topics, which may be complementary to the work they are performing in their careers.

In order to celebrate this collaboration, NHC and the Young Leaders will be co-hosting a number of events over the next few months.  These include an "Introduction to NHC" reception on October 27th, a kick-off event to launch the Young Leaders in November, and a Young Leader’s holiday party in December.

To become a Young Leader, please go to NHC’s website and register. There will be a small membership fee of $50 for the full-membership level (for those with careers in affordable housing who want leadership opportunities, event planning input, voting privileges, etc.) and $25 for the associate membership (for full-time students looking for a career in affordable housing, government fellowships, interns, and Hill staffers). Individuals may begin signing up and paying dues as a Young Leader starting on September 22, 2010. This introductory fee will cover membership through December 2011.

We look forward to helping cultivate the next generation of leader in affordable housing as we move forward with this exciting new partnership. If you are interested in helping develop this group by mentoring a Young Leader, speaking at or sponsoring a Young Leader event, please contact Clare Duncan, NHC’s Policy Associate and liaison to the Young Leaders Network, at or (202) 466-2121, Ext. 228.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Evolving View of Home in America

The is the 1st in a series of video clips from NHC's Housing Communications Network Launch

Jody Shenn, of Bloomberg news, explores the images of home in America and in what ways the financial and mortgage crisis has contributed to the evolving view of home. Shenn shares his thoughts on America's love affair with their homes and the how homeownership has traditionally been viewed as the best path to wealth, generational wealth transfer, and the appearance of affluence. We're now in a time of reassessment of the "American Dream". 

Will the current crisis lead to a change in the way Americans view housing and homeownership or is the "American Dream" so ensconced in American culture that it will survive the current crisis? What do you think?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Agencies are Here to Serve

On the heels of some disturbing data released by the Census Bureau that 1 in 7 people live in poverty, HUD released its own report today whose findings can be seen as a sign of relief for those hardest hit. According to the report, the Moving to Work (MTW) program found that housing authorities are serving more families, improving residents’ quality of life, and preserving housing by operating under the program. The report concludes that the program be extended and doubled in size.

“The lessons learned under MTW are that locally designed programs, with input from stakeholders, can significantly improve lives and make better use of existing resources,” said Sunia Zaterman, Executive Director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities.  “This is especially important at a time when demand is surging.”

PHAs used the program to increase the number of families served, help revitalize public housing units and the program was also found useful in addressing rent reform. 

Image: via,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Launching into a New Era of Housing

National Housing Conference successfully launched its newest initiative, the Housing Communications Network, on September 14 in Washington, DC. Over 90 people participated in a dynamic forum hosted at Collingwood Communications that was the first of many convenings to discuss how Americans perceive housing in this new era. Moderated by Erika Poethig, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development at HUD, the panel was composed of communications experts: John Buckley, Managing Director of the Harbour Group, Tony Fratto, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary in the George W. Bush Administration, and Jody Shenn, Mortgage and Housing Reporter for Bloomberg News.

Participants felt energized and stimulated by the discussion that delved into the change in the framing of housing pre- and post crisis, who is a credible messenger and how advocates can be effective promoters of affordable housing. It was suggested that messaging on housing needs to be rebalanced to disclose the attributes of homeownership and rental housing and that communities thrive with a mix of both.

In this New Era of Housing we can only be successfully if we work together to move affordable housing to a first-tier issue on the national agenda.

There's No Place Like Home

There has always been a certain iconography surrounding housing, from the perfect family standing near their perfect home, to the image of housing as an ATM. The image and message has almost always been positive. In the post-housing-crisis world, new iconic images are taking hold: a house with tall grass and a foreclosure sign in the lawn with an accompanying negative message about housing. In reality, housing has always been a more complicated than the imagery and housing options are as varied as the people that live in it. That’s never been truer than today as people’s housing situations have changed dramatically.

The new image and message that is taking hold, however, pose real risks to everyone who is advocating for housing including home builders, realtors, and affordable housing advocates. Perceptions become reality, whether accurate or not. And those perceptions may not be conducive to getting the message out that many Americans have real housing problems in need of solutions. This growing image and message needs to be countered with one that is more reflective of what has been true for quite some time; that people call a variety of places “home” and that whether that home is owned or rented it is still an integral part of what we call community and the American experience.

The National Housing Conference, as the “United Voice for Housing” has stepped up to address this issue through yesterday’s successful launch of their Housing Communications Network (the Network). The launch featured a panel discussion with communications experts John Buckley, Managing Director of the Harbour Group, Tony Fratto, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary in the George W. Bush Administration, and Jody Shenn, Mortgage and Housing Reporter for Bloomberg News. The panel was moderated Erika Poethig, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Please join us in crafting a new message for housing that is both more accurate and reflects the many positive attributes associated with the place we call “home”. In the process, we will elevate housing to a first-tier issue getting the attention it so rightfully deserves. NHC has formed a Working Group that will meet regularly. Please give us your thoughts on how we can create some new housing icons in Housing’s New Era!

Images: via, and

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Guest Blogger Tom Flanagan: USGBC Affordable Housing Summit

For all of us in the residential green building movement, these are truly remarkable times. Despite a relentless slump in most corners of the housing sector, we continue to see remarkable growth in green affordable housing, driven in large part by interest from affordable housing developers and local government incentive programs.

As the LEED for Homes certification program has grown over the years – to more than 7,300 certified units as of this week, with 30,000 more in the pipeline – affordable housing has emerged as a truly outstanding leader. To date 43% of all LEED-certified residential projects are affordable housing (at least 80% AMI) – up from a still-remarkable 30% just over a year ago. What’s more – fully 55% of registrations year-to-date are affordable housing units.

But despite the growing success of the LEED for Homes program the fact remains that there are 120 million homes in the U.S. that are not certified under any green banner, and another half million new homes coming to market in the next year. There is still much work left to do.

With that in mind, we’re proud to convene this year’s annual USGBC Affordable Housing Summit in Chicago, Nov. 16-17. USGBC’s Affordable Housing Summit brings together leaders in the green affordable housing industry for educational sessions, networking opportunities and interactive project charrettes. This year’s event will focus on innovative policy efforts, as well as proven design and construction techniques aimed at ensuring long-term affordability and improving living conditions for low-income families across the country.

For more information on the USGBC Affordable Housing Summit, please visit We hope to see you in Chicago!

Tom Flanagan works for USGBC in Residential Market Development. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wanted: A Unified Message in Support of Affordable Housing

The housing and financial crisis in the U.S. has forever changed Americans view of affordable housing and the housing industry. With foreclosure rates at a record high and the threat of double-dip recession looming, the future of the housing industry has never before been more unstable and uncertain. And the affordable housing industry finds itself in an especially precarious situation, with some unfairly blaming the victims of the crisis.

Against this backdrop, the National Housing Conference today launches its’ new communications initiative– the Housing Communications Network (the Network). The network of housing policymakers and communications professionals is designed to promote affordable housing as a positive force in American communities and raise it to a first-tier issue on the national agenda. A change in the way we talk about housing is sorely needed given the recent changes to the housing market and the fractured nature of affordable housing advocacy. Through the Network, NHC hopes to start a dialogue that will lead to a more unified message in support of affordable housing. And that support means support among ordinary Americans as well as policymakers.

The launch of the Network in Washington, DC today includes a series of events, including a stimulating panel discussion among communications experts John Buckley, Managing Director of the Harbour Group, Tony Fratto, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary in the George W. Bush Administration, and Jody Shenn, Mortgage and Housing Reporter for Bloomberg News. Panel moderator Erika Poethig, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will lead the discussion on the communications challenges facing housing today.

The panel follows the first convening of the NHC Housing Communications Network Working Group of housing communications professionals and culminates with a rooftop networking reception. The launch events will be attended by more than 100 housing industry leaders, advocates and policymakers.

Check back throughout the day for updates, pictures and tweets from the event!

 Image, via

Friday, September 10, 2010

Centerpiece: Meet Mortgage Mediation

The Center for Housing Policy has been an occasional contributor to Open House for a long time, but, starting today we are making it official. Every Thursday the Center will post a column called Centerpiece. It will be a place for the Center to contribute in an informal way to the wider housing policy discussion, and hopefully point readers to useful resources and research.

Centerpiece’s opening remarks are penned by Laura Williams, Research Associate for the Center.

Some of the useful research the Center intends to bestow among Open House readers can be found on one of my pet projects, Yes, it is sad to say, but foreclosure is still a big problem, even as the situation -- nearly three years in --begins to feel normal and our best efforts in the face of it futile.

But there is hope! Some of the most promising programs to prevent foreclosures are in mortgage mediation. Instead of a one-size-fits-most approach mandating refinancing, payment plans or other measures, mediation lets homeowners and their loan services work things out in the way that best suits everyone involved. It’s not a new idea, but it’s one that is gaining traction.

Mediation is an excellent policy tool because it not only gets the parties – homeowners and loan services – talking, but it does so in a regulated context in front of a neutral third party who can referee negotiations and bridge impasses. Some of the best programs are happening in Philadelphia and Connecticut, but many cities and states are pursuing programs that appear promising. And what’s even better in a poor economic climate is that most of the programs have cost little or no money to implement.

We recently updated our mediation policy section with lots of information on how to design and implement a mediation program, based mostly on the excellent work of Andrew Jakabovics and Alon Cohen at the Center for American Progress. Their reports It’s Time We Talked and Now We’re Talking are a comprehensive analysis of current policies nation-wide, and must-reads for anyone dealing with foreclosures.

Mortgage mediation seems to be a no-brainer. It empowers the homeowner, makes the foreclosure process more transparent and can make a real impact with very little investment. Philadelphia’s very thrifty mediation program has allowed nearly 50 percent of homeowners to stay in their homes, and most of the rest have achieved a graceful exit. Talk has never been so cheap, or so worthwhile.

Image: via,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Around the Block: Apple Pie Edition

Staying Afloat In the ongoing effort to stave off further damage to the housing market and to continue recovering from the mortgage crisis the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded an additional $1 billion in funding on Wednesday, September 8. This funding was allocated among all states along with a number of counties and local communities struggling to reverse the effects of the foreclosure crisis. This grant represents the third round of funding through HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), which is designed to provide emergency assistance to targeted state and local governments to acquire, redevelop or demolish foreclosed properties.

The Great Debate Tyler Cowen believes housing prices need to fall in order for the housing market to recover, but can’t see how we can let them. While David Leonhardt believes that housing prices have fallen as much as they can, or as he so aptly put it “the bubble seems mostly deflated.”

Reexamining the American Dream Last week’s controversial Time magazine cover story took a critical look at homeownership and how, why, and even if it should be considered part of the American Dream anymore. David Indiviglio, of the Atlantic, responds to the Time article by examining what defines the American Dream. He concludes only three criteria need to be met to qualified as “American Dream” material: capability, versatility, and essentialness. In Indiviglio’s opinion, homeownership fails to meet any of the criteria mentioned.

Image: via,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

NHC's Newest Addition

National Housing Conference is happy to welcome our newest addition. Ranjani Prabhakar is the Executive Assistant for NHC. Ranjani is a recent 2010 graduate of Emory University, with a Bachelors Degree in History and Political Science. She moved to Washington, DC in hopes of learning more about policy work, nonprofits and advocacy. Ranjani was most impressed by NHC's fast-paced, mission-driven and initiative-rich atmosphere. She is excited to jump start her post-college life and grow, shape and mature into her career in policy and advocacy at NHC.

Please join us in welcoming Ranjani!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Housing Matrix: Providing Housing Under One Virtual Roof

With housing becoming an increasingly nationally recognized issue of importance, the amount of information on the topic from a diverse variety of outlets can be overwhelming. If you find yourself drowning in the sea of news, opinions and insights on housing, Housing Matrix may just be the solution. Housing Matrix acts as a clearinghouse for information, products and services that impact the housing industry.

The site boasts an impressive amount of resources for housing professionals – all under one roof and free of charge. In addition to providing commentaries from notable housing professionals and tips, tools and tricks for those serious about sales and marketing in relation to housing, the site also serves as an aggregator by providing an RSS feed for nearly every webpage. A weekly radio webinar is hosted by mortgage veteran, David Lykken, every Monday on such timely topics as “Conventional vs. FHA Mortgages” and “The Changing Face of Real Estate.” Housing Matrix also links to pertinent news coming from housing organizations and associations nationwide, as well as numerous federal agencies.

Image: via

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Donovan Announces "First Look" at REO Summit

On September 1, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD)Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a new partnership with the National Community Stabilization Trust to launch the HUD National 'First Look' Program at the Federal Reserve Board REO Summit on Neighborhood Stabilization.

Recognizing the vital edge 'First Look' creates for NSP grantees, including select state and local governments and nonprofits, to beat private investors to the foreclosed properties most strategically important to their local programs, HUD is throwing its support behind First Look as an essential component in the NSP toolbox. HUD's National First Look Program is based on the existing Stabilization Trust 'First Look' model, and the Stabilization Trust will be serving as the operations engine behind the new national program.
As with the existing Stabilization Trust program, the HUD National First Look Program allows NSP grantees to benefit from an exclusive window of access to evaluate and subsequently acquire new real estate-owned(REO)listings before these properties are listed for the broader market.
"This groundbreaking agreement will help rebuild neighborhoods that have been struggling with blight and declining home values due to foreclosures," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "Local communities will now get an exclusive option to buy foreclosed properties in targeted neighborhoods so they can turn the homes into affordable housing or, in some cases, tear them down. This agreement helps us level the playing field to give communities a better chance to stabilize these neighborhoods."
The country's leading financial and government institutions are participating and represent approximately 75% of the REO market nationwide. These include: Bank of America, Chase, CitiBank, Deutsche Bank, GMAC, Nationstar Mortgage, Ocwen Financial Corporation, Saxon Mortgage Services, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Additional financial institutions are being invited to join.

Image: via,

Around the Block: Singin' in the Rain Edition

As the East coast braces for Earl, we bring you the top 5 reasons to stay optimistic:

Irwin Predicts Blue Skies

Post writer Neil Irwin breaks down the top 5 reason to stay, or start to become, optimistic about the economy.

  1. Savings: Americans have doubled their savings since the start of their recession. Although, the penny-pinching may have initially hurt the economy now people have saved enough to start spending again.
  2. Credit: There is a gradual healing process in place although it may take months before the affects are felt in the market and in people’s pockets.
  3. Manufacturing: Both industrial production and the index of activity in the manufacturing sector rose.
  4. Housing: Recent housing activity, most notorious of which are July’s existing home sales and new home sales data, have shrunk so much that it would be hard for it to drain the economy any further.
  5. Trade: With other economies faring better than the US, exports are currently at a dismal level, a rise in import requests from the more financial stable countries is expected which would help domestic growth.

Electing Out of Foreclosure

The increase of foreclosures could have an unforeseen logistical consequence in this year’s midterm elections. By law, voters must register in the county in which they reside meaning a home address is necessary. But, for those undergoing foreclosure proceedings, deciding what address to use can get confusing. People decide on a variety of living options while their home is in foreclosure: stay and live in the foreclosed property, move out but maintain right of redemption, live in temporary property or move from place to place.

Image: Gene Kelly sees the silver lining even under the grayest of clouds via,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Around the Block: Living on the Edge Edition

Banks on the Brink Banks posted their largest quarterly profit in nearly three years. However, with the number of banks at risk of failure rising to 11%, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair cautions banks are in no way out of the weeds: “Given the economic uncertainties, we believe all banks should continue to exercise caution and maintain strong reserves.”

Housing Limbo Home prices continue to rise but at a slower rate suggesting, given the sensitive market and hesitant buyers, that prices could start to fall in the coming months. With a trend leaning toward a downward shift in home prices, why haven’t we seen more buyers in the market? According to Wellesley College economist Karl Case there are “a whole bunch of people who are sitting and waiting in the wings.” The question is how long are prospective buyers willing to wait?

The Epic Comes to an End We reported all summer on the David and Goliath struggle between small towns and mortgage giants over the Property Assessed Clean Energy, PACE program. Tuesday, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac informed homeowners they must pay off their PACE loans before they can refinance their mortgages. Proponents of the PACE program argue the program helps them make the often expensive energy improvements to their house, while at the same time creating jobs.

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