Friday, October 29, 2010

NHC Responds to Washington Post Editorial

Recently, much has been said in the news about the current state and future of affordable housing and NHC, as the United Voice of Housing, would like to respond. The Washington Post ran an editorial, titled Structural Redesign on October 25, focused on a report released by the federal regulator in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The editorial provided some good and some not so good insights.

The Not So Good:
“Developers, builders, real estate agents and advocates of low-income housing may plead their various cases for more and more subsidy. But America is overbuilt. In the second quarter of 2010, 10.6 percent of all apartments and 2.5 percent of houses stood empty, according to Census Bureau statistics. Both rates are roughly double what they were 30 years ago.”
While vacancy rates have increased in recent years, the need for affordable housing has not disappeared. In fact, even with the current financial and housing crisis, there is still a strong need for affordable housing, particularly affordable rental housing. According to a recent brief titled Rental Housing Affordability released by NHC’s research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, for every three units added to the rental stock between 1995 and 2005, two units were demolished or lost from the inventory, and many of these new units are priced at the higher end of the market and therefore unaffordable to lower-income renters.

By 2013, the need for affordable rental housing will become increasingly dire because more than one million subsidized units will be at the end of their use restrictions allowing property owners to “opt out” of their affordability contract, thereby threatening the loss of even more critically-needed affordable rental housing. The October 25th NYT piece on the state of public housing, where tenants’ requests for repairs are three years backlogged, only highlights the urgent human need for a newly revived housing policy.

The Administration clearly believes the continuation and improvement of the nation’s affordable housing program is important. On October 13th the White House, Treasury, HUD and USDA sponsored a meeting with a group of invited practitioners, advocates, academics, Administration officials, and congressional staff to discuss rental housing policy.

The conference explored many ideas, including the desire to integrate housing policy with other areas, such as education, energy, transportation, and health to improve people lives and enable them to secure affordable housing in locations that provided a variety of important amenities. Another theme was the importance of policies that support economic development and independence.

Given the importance of multifamily rental housing in meeting American’s housing needs, any reform of the nation’s housing finance system must ensure the continued availability of capital to preserve and develop multifamily rental housing. NHC recently released ten key principles for strengthening the nation’s system for financing multifamily rental housing, and argues that private capital by itself – without government backing in some form, such as a federal guarantee – is not sufficient to reliably meet the full range of the nation’s multifamily finance needs.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NHC Executive Committee Member Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

LISC NYC's celebrated it's 30 years of building sustainable communities at their annual Big Apple Innovation Awards ceremony on October 26, 2010. Each year LISC NYC recognizes those who made significant contributions to community development in New York City.

Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development received the Robert Brandwein Public Partner award. Bridge Street Development Corporation, 300 Putnam Avenue, received the Innovation of the Year award.

Of particular note, Carol Lamberg received the Leah Schneider Lifetime Achievement Award. Like Leah, Carol is an incredibly smart, creative and tireless advocate of affordable housing and community development. This award reflects her innovation and continued dedication to creating economically and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Marc Jahr, President of the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), presented Carol with the award.

Since 1983, Carol has served as Executive Director of Settlement Housing Fund which has produced over 8,700 apartments in 56 developments in NYC. She is co-chair of NHC's affiliate, the New York Housing Conference (NYHC), and serves on our Executive Committee.

NHC would like to congratulate Carol on all her achievements, for her inspiration and dedication to the housing field, NHC and NYHC.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Will Halt on Foreclosures Wash Americans' Worries Away?

The Washington Post ran an article today on a recent poll which found that most Americans worry about their ability to pay their mortgage or rent. Since 2008, in the aftermath of the housing and financial crises, concerns over making housing payments have spiked. 53% say they are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about having the money to make their monthly mortgage payments.

Additionally, worries are most intense among those with lower incomes and African Americans.

It is no surprise where these concerns arise from: jobs, or the lack thereof. With the unemployment rate still very high and those with jobs concerned about losing them there is very good reason to be anxious over ability to pay future mortgage payments or rent.

According to a recent brief titled Rental Housing Affordability released by NHC’s research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, only one in three poor renters actually benefit from housing assistance and as a result, nearly half of all renters pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing. This makes the need to sustain and create more affordable housing critical to uphold and improve the quality of life for all in America.

The brief also found that the need for affordable rental housing is only going to become increasing scare. By 2013 more than one million subsidized units will be at the end of their use restrictions, allowing property owners to “opt out” of their affordability contract and threatening the loss of even more critically-needed affordable rental housing.

Given the importance of multifamily rental housing in meeting American’s housing needs, any reform of the nation’s housing finance system must ensure the continued availability on capital to preserve and develop multifamily rental housing. NHC recently released ten key principles for strengthening the nation’s system for financing multifamily rental housing, and argues that private capital by itself – without government backing in some form, such as federal guarantee – is not sufficient to reliable meet the full range of the nation’s multifamily finance needs.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Around the Block: Freeze, Thaw and Melt (down) Edition

What People Want
According to an article by Patrick C. Doherty in the New America, of the Washington Monthly, the only thing to pull us out of the Great Recession is the same thing that got us into it – housing. But now, there is a new face, and name, to what the people want: homes in central cities and closer-in suburbs where one can walk to stores and mass transit or “walkable urban.” Such “walkable urban” real estate has experienced less than half the average decline in price from the housing peak.

The obvious reasons for the growing demand for walkable neighborhoods are the ever-worsening traffic congestion, fear of the 2008 spike in gasoline prices returning, and the fact that many cities have become more attractive places to live.

 But the biggest factor is demographic. The baby boomers and their children, the millennial generation, are looking for places to live and work that reflect their current desires and life needs. Boomers are downsizing while the millennials, or generation Y, are setting out on their careers with far different housing needs and preferences. Both of these huge demographic groups want something that the U.S. housing market is not currently providing: small one- to three-bedroom homes in walkable, transit-oriented, economically dynamic, and job-rich neighborhoods.

Waiting for the freeze to thaw
Housing Predictor recently released a survey reporting that more than two out of three people surveyed believe the housing recovery will be delayed as a result of banks freezing foreclosures. The new Housing Predictor poll found that a huge number of respondents feel negatively about the move by four of the nation’s largest lenders.

Growth Spurt Delayed
The Washington Post reported that home prices in 20 U.S. cities rose at a slower pace than forecasted in August from a year earlier, reflecting slumping sales as the effects of a tax credit waned.

"Prices are declining in line with the widening imbalances between housing demand and supply, and we can expect this trend to continue," said Michelle Meyer, a senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research in New York, who correctly forecasted the year-on-year change. "Home prices are likely to decline, probably on a choppy basis, through at least the middle of next year."

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Secretary Speaks: What's Happen's Next

U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan wrote a piece that ran in the Huffington Post on October 17, 2010, which addressed the halting of foreclosures and what the Obama Administration is doing and plans to do.

1) The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force has made this issue priority number one. Bringing together more than 20 federal agencies, 94 US Attorney's Offices and dozens of state and local partners to form the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud, the Task Force is examining this issue and the Attorney General has said publicly that if it finds any wrongdoing the members of the task force will take the appropriate action.

2) The Federal Housing Administration and Federal Housing Finance Agency have launched reviews to make sure servicers are in full compliance with the law.

3) The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has directed seven of the nation's largest servicers to review their foreclosure processes, fix the processing problems and determine whether there is specific harm that has been caused in individual cases.

Finally, the Secretary made his recommendations as to what the banks should do.
"Banks need to provide more help, more people, more resources to those families facing a crisis long before they ever get to a foreclosure -- so more families can keep their homes. And where foreclosure is not avoidable, having been processed legally and appropriately, banks should help families transition to sustainable housing situations with dignity."
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TOD: The Ultimate Combo

Denver 16th Street Mall is a TOD Dream
Hardly a day goes by without a story about the housing downturn appearing on the front page of the newspaper. Dramatic changes in the housing market over the last two years have reinforced the importance of affordable homes – homeownership and rental units- for families of all incomes. But it isn’t enough to consider whether a home is affordable or not; it is critical to consider where homes are located too.

According to A Heavy Load: The Combined Housing and Transportation Burdens of Working Families, a study of 28 metropolitan areas by the Center for Housing Policy, housing, transportation and utility costs together account for some 57 percent of the income of families earning between $20,000 and $50,000 in 2000, with transportation accounting for slightly more than half of these costs. Households that spend less on housing often offset those savings by spending more on transportation, and vice-versa, such that the overall percentage of income spent on the combined costs of place remains relatively constant. As the rapid increase in gas prices in 2008 showed, families located far from jobs, schools, and other amenities experienced dramatic increases in household transportation costs, highlighting their vulnerability to fluctuating energy costs and the potential for their combined cost burden to be much greater.

Many local, regional and state entities have initiated efforts to coordinate policies across housing and transportation agencies to support transit-oriented development (TOD) in an effort improve housing affordability and also reduce traffic congestion and overall greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, ensuring that TOD provides housing opportunities for households with a range of incomes is very complex. After all, in many places with a mix of land-uses that are well-served by transit, land values tend to be very expensive, making it difficult to preserve and expand affordable housing where it is needed most.

To assist policymakers and practitioners tackle challenges and share successes associated with affordable TOD, the Center for Housing Policy launched the Transit-Oriented Development discussion group on the Forum. The Forum is a place to pose questions, exchange ideas, and learn from the experience and expertise of others. There are currently ten different discussion groups on the forum about affordable housing issues ranging from rental housing preservation to neighborhood stabilization.

Within the new Transit-Oriented Development discussion group, you can ask questions and respond to others’ posts about affordable housing and TOD. Most recently, the group featured three discussion threads dedicated to the Partners in Innovation events in Denver held on September 27-28. Including Affordable and Workforce Housing within Transit-Oriented Development, was a day-long national symposium on September 27, which examined the challenges and opportunities for developing and sustaining Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) that included housing opportunities affordable to families with low- and moderate-incomes. Preserving Affordable Rental Housing Near Transit, a policy forum held on September 28, was designed to examine the connection between preserving affordable rental housing near transit.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Hawaii Wrap-Up: NHC on EAH

As the sun rose over Waikiki Tuesday, NHC and National Association of REALTORS hosted their final Bring Workers Home forum of 2010.

More than 90 participants from over 14 states gathered to learn about housing affordability and employer-assisted housing. A hot topic was Hawaii’s circumstances as an expensive, global housing market with a tourism-based economy that does not provide many high-paying jobs. In fact, according to James Hardway of the Hawaii Workforce Development Council, most of the top 20 occupations in Hawaii fall below 80 percent of the area median income and qualify for housing assistance through the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation. The Center for Housing Policy’s Paycheck to Paycheck database further illustrates the severe housing cost burdens in the state.

In short, Hawaii has a severe mismatch between the jobs available on the islands and the housing stock. Land use regulations and a lack of transit and other infrastructure further hinder the development of local affordable housing options.

Employer-assisted housing is a truly viable solution here, as demonstrated by several speakers from other tourist destinations. Connie Ealey from Funding Partners in Colorado and Sharon Kerrigan from South Tahoe Association of REALTORS both spoke about successfully using EAH programs to bridge the housing affordability gap in high-end resort communities.

Carol Marx, a Bank of Hawaii senior vice president, an NHC member, spoke on an afternoon panel about the financing solutions the bank offers to employers in the islands, and how productive partnerships make for winning affordability solutions. Other speakers from local advocacy organizations, developers and banks offered their own thoughts on what’s needed to bridge the gap between jobs and homes: education about what affordable housing is and means, smarter land use regulations, better jobs and increased engagement of local employers.

Visit NHC's website for additional materials including PowerPoint presentations from the featured speakers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

From Hawaii Five-O to ‘Hawaii $500,000’

NHC and NAR hosted the final of four forums on workforce housing in Honolulu, HI on October 12, 2010. Ryan Sherriff, researcher for the Center for Housing Policy, recaps the issues facing workforce housing in Hawaii - Hawaii Five- O style.

Life wasn’t easy for Officer Steve McGarrett in the original
Hawaii Five- O. He led a Hawaiian state police force responsible for dealing international secret agents, organized crime syndicates and an array of other well-tanned felons that menaced the islands. But one thing McGarrett didn’t have to worry about was workforce housing issues.

Back in 1970, just a couple years after McGarrett took his post, a household making the median income in Hawaii of $10,675 could afford a median price home of $35,100 without suffering financially.

Fast-forward 40 years and enter the world of Detective Chris McGarrett, the lead character in the new Hawaii Five-O. Not only does the new McGarrett have to deal with more sophisticated, heavily armed criminal gangs, but now he and fellow detective Danny “Danno” Williams have to struggle with the state’s current astronomical housing costs.
In 2009, the median home value for Hawaii was almost $518,000.

To stress the severity of the situation the ratio of median home value to the median household income in Hawaii jumped from 3.8 to 8.1 between 1970 and 2009. Gang warfare and high profile abduction cases may have to take a backseat for a few episodes while McGarrett and Danno figure out how to stretch their paychecks. According to the Center for Housing Policy’s Paycheck to Paycheck (P2P), a household living in the Honolulu area would have to make over $134,000 a year to afford a median priced home in 2009. For reference, police officers in that area make on average $55,000 a year.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Honolulu Plays Host to Final Regional Forum on Workforce Housing

Today, local, state and national housing leaders came together in Honolulu to identify effective solutions to the workforce housing challenge. Essential workers in many communities, like Honolulu, cannot afford safe and appropriate housing near their place of employment. Highlighting solutions and bringing together diverse groups in search of practical solutions has been the mission of National Housing Conference (NHC) and National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Bring Workers Home regional forums.

Tourism accounts for nearly seventy-five percent of Hawaii’s economy and many jobs in this sector do not pay enough for workers to affordably obtain homeownership or rental homes, according to the Center for Housing Policy's Paycheck to Paycheck--an interactive database comparing wages and housing costs for 200 metro areas.

The Bring Workers Home forum in Honolulu provides a unique opportunity to bring together regional leaders and experts to discuss and exchange ideas on how to make affordable workforce housing a reality – not only for working families and individuals in the Hawaii, but throughout the nation.

The forum focused on how to create, sustain and advance workforce housing both through public-private partnerships and privately funded employer-assisted housing programs. Keynote speaker Darlene Porter, Second Vice President for Employee Relations/Talent Management at Aflac™, shared the success of their employer-assisted housing program, which provides down payment and closing cost assistance to its employees through a first-time home buyer grant program.

Today’s forum was the final in a series of four regional workforce housing events that NHC and NAR sponsored across the nation this year. Forums in Atlanta, GA (June); Minneapolis, MN (July) and Austin, TX (August) helped to identify both the challenges and solutions for workforce housing in those markets. One key theme that emerged from each forum is that despite the current housing crisis and falling home prices, working families continue to struggle with their housing costs and policy innovations are still needed at the local, state, and federal levels.

World Habitiat Day Raises Awareness for Health of Urban Poor

"Shelter plays a critical role not only in the health of individual families but in the well-being of communities and ultimately our larger global connection." 
- Jonathan Reckford, CEO Habitat for Humanity International
(Watch the CEO's address World Habitat Day here)

World Habitat Day was held on Monday, October 4. World Habitat Day’s purpose is to call attention to the current global state of the human habitat and push toward adequate housing for all.

By raising awareness and advocating for universal decent housing, the hope is to dismantle and alter the systems that reinforce and entrench poverty housing. In doing so, we can make an affordable, decent place to live a reality for all.

World Habitat Day is a day for grassroots action and a day for people to be united in their efforts to eradicate poverty housing.

The 27th Carter Work Project spearheaded World Habitat Day events in six U.S. cities Oct. 3–8. Volunteers will join in building and rehabilitating houses with Habitat homeowner families, former President Carter and Mrs. Carter and other celebrities. The cumulative event, featuring the Carter’s, was held on October 4 in Washington, DC.

In addition, Habitat for Humanity International released their 2011 Shelter Report – Housing and Health: Partners against Poverty in conjunction with World Habitat Day on October 4. The report urges the U.S. government to recognize the link between health and housing around the globe as well as recognizing that addressing the issue of adequate housing and healthy communities together is key in any successful health-focused strategy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NHC Welcomes Mary Hanlon as the New Vice President of Policy and Advocacy

NHC is happy to announce Mary Hanlon has been hired as our new Vice President of Policy and Advocacy. With 25 years in the housing industry, Hanlon comes with a wealth of public, non-profit, and private sector experience with a special focus on real estate development and management of complex projects. Her expertise and numerous accomplishments are in line with NHC’s mission and policy priorities in housing’s new era, making Mary the ideal person for the position.

For the last 14 years, Mary has been the Principal and Owner of Hanlon Development & Consulting working out of New York City, Washington, DC and Portland, OR. She has provided consulting services to private companies, government agencies and non-profit organizations on a wide range of issues including single and multifamily housing, real estate development finance - including private, bond and tax credit financing, public private partnerships, elderly housing, commercial and mixed-use developments, and sustainable and transit-oriented design. Additionally, she has developed and owned real estate for her own portfolio.

Mary has served in government as senior staff member at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In that position, she assisted Secretary Cisneros with critical housing legislation, the structural reorganization of HUD and the Pacific Region Community Empowerment Board, including managing and supervising the implementation of the $44 million Oakland Enhanced Enterprise Community and the $3 million San Francisco Enterprise Community.

Mary attended the UCLA graduate school of Architecture and Urban Planning and holds a Bachelor of the Arts from the University of California - Berkeley. She has served on several boards during her career and presently volunteers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Please join us in welcoming Mary as the newest member of the NHC team. She can be reached at We look forward to having her on board as our organization enters an era of unprecedented housing advocacy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Foreclosures are Halted Nationwide

On October 1, Bank of America along with J.P. Morgan and Ally Financial announced a moratorium on foreclosures in 23 states in order to review whether correct procedures were being applied, particularly regarding court documents, given allegations that crucial documents were being mishandled. In addition, Connecticut, as well as other states, has halted foreclosures for all banks. Other companies are expected to halt additional foreclosures given the prevalence of the problem.

Maureen Friar, NHC President and CEO, gave her insight in a piece that ran on a local DC FOX news station on Monday, October 4.

NHC Makes Recommendations to Policymakers to Strengthen the Nation's Multifamily Housing Finance System

Village of East Lake
The National Housing Conference (NHC) issued a policy statement underscoring the importance of the nation’s multifamily housing finance system on October 4. The policy statement urges policymakers to ensure Americans will continue to have a strong and stable supply of multifamily rental housing. The only way to ensure renters have an adequate supply of multifamily properties with affordable rents is to address multifamily housing finance directly and separately from single family finance. 

Some 15 million U.S. households live in multifamily rental housing, which is defined as rental housing with five or more units. These households represent more than 13 percent of all U.S. households and nearly 43 percent of U.S. renters. A stronger multifamily finance system would help address the nation’s shortage of affordable rental housing. (See for background on the nation’s rental housing affordability challenges.)

Lorington Apartments
NHC’s policy statement on multifamily finance is based on the results of a report NHC commissioned from Recap Real Estate Advisors to analyze the current state of multifamily housing financing. The report found that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have provided essential liquidity for multifamily housing during the financial crisis and that government support will be needed to ensure the availability of credit for multifamily rental housing during any future economic downturns.

The NHC policy statement outlines ten key points for strengthening the nation’s system for financing multifamily rental housing, which are summarized below. The full policy statement may be accessed at

1. Any restructuring of the nation’s housing finance system must ensure the ongoing availability of capital to preserve and develop multifamily rental housing.
2. Multifamily housing finance must be addressed directly, not as an afterthought to the larger debate that will focus primarily on single-family housing.
3. Private capital is indispensable for funding multifamily rental housing, but private capital without some sort of government backing is not sufficient. Government backing is needed to ensure the ongoing availability of long-term fixed rate mortgages and provide countercyclical liquidity so financing is available when private credit retreats during downturns.
4. Government support for multifamily lending should be provided thorough multiple channels to meet the diverse range of multifamily housing needs and ensure that a competitive marketplace exists.
5. A government guarantee wrap of the mortgage-backed securities that are backed by one or more multifamily loans underwritten by the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) or their successors is the most effective way to provide the backing needed to ensure continued access to capital for multifamily housing.
6. The government’s principal interest is to guarantee loans for housing at rent levels affordable to low- to middle-income households throughout the United States.
7. Strong government regulation is necessary and desirable to ensure the safety and soundness of the multifamily financing activities of the GSEs or their successors. This regulation should also ensure that credit is available for underserved market segments, including small multifamily loans and rural, lower-income and other underserved markets.
8. The GSEs or their successors have important roles to play in supporting the financing of affordable housing.
9. The GSEs or their successors will need a limited portfolio capacity for multifamily housing to support many of their core functions. However, the large majority of their multifamily activities should involve packaging loans directly for sale to the capital markets.
10. It could take several years to transition to a new housing finance system. During this interim period, the existing GSE channels for supporting multifamily lending should be maintained to ensure the ongoing availability of credit for multifamily rental housing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

First-Ever Data Compilation on Seriously Delinquent Mortgages in All 366 US Metro Areas

The Center for Housing Policy, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Urban Institute have compiled and released the first data on seriously delinquent mortgages for all 366 U.S. metro areas.

“Seriously delinquent” mortgages are those that are delinquent 90 days or more or are in the foreclosure process. An analysis of these data for the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas reveals a 32 percent increase over a one-year period in the share of mortgages that are seriously delinquent. In March 2010, more than one in ten mortgages (10.2 percent) in the 100 largest metropolitan areas was seriously delinquent – up from one in 13 mortgages (7.7 percent) in March 2009.

The new delinquency data confirms the number of foreclosures is likely to continue to rise. But, by providing the first available information on foreclosure and delinquency rates for all 366 U.S. metropolitan areas, the team hopes to raise awareness of the continuing challenge of mortgage foreclosures and encourage policymakers and practitioners to use both time-tested and innovative solutions to help address this challenge.

The severity and the trajectory of the problem vary dramatically across the nation. Among the 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Austin metro area had the lowest share of seriously delinquent mortgages in March 2010 (4.4 percent) while, at the other extreme, 26 percent of mortgages in the Miami metro area were seriously delinquent.

To learn more about the data please see the press release or data.

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