Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chris Estes highlights housing needs to senators on Capitol Hill

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

Chris Estes, NHC’s President and CEO, yesterday joined a group of housing leaders convened by the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, Senators Harry Reid and Mark Begich to address the nation’s housing challenges. Meeting in a closed-door session in the U.S. Capitol Building, the leaders present exchanged ideas about the right steps forward for housing policy.

Speaking for NHC, Chris offered several points that built on contributions from others, many of whom are NHC members:
  1. We need a balanced housing policy with attention to both homeownership and rental options. We’re seeing the result of past inattention to rental housing, with shortages of safe, decent, affordable housing options for low and moderate-income families in markets across the country.
  2. There are proven models for effective lending to low-wealth and low-income borrowers, particularly when accompanied by housing counseling. We have to make sure that the increased regulation of mortgage lending does not inadvertently exclude responsible low- and moderate-income families.
  3. The housing recovery is key to economic recovery—we can’t expect jobs alone to solve the housing problem. We should make sure that the deficit reduction solution does not reduce essential housing programs and thereby undermine the housing recovery.
  4. Tight credit and appraisal constraints are the hidden housing challenges that limit our ability to create new houses and apartments as well as get financing to responsible new homebuyers.
  5. Planning for a new mortgage finance system has to separate the essential government guarantee from the particular difficulties of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Otherwise, we may fail to provide sufficient liquidity for multifamily rental housing and single-family homeownership, a gap that could hurt low- and moderate-income families most severely.
Senators in attendance included Reid (NV), Begich (AK), Carper (DE), Schumer (NY), Blumenthal (CT), Boxer (CA), Akaka (HI), Cantwell (WA), Merkley (OR), Bennet (CO), Cardin (MD), Mikulski (MD), and Franken (MN). Other housing organizations represented included the National Multi Housing Council, the National Apartment Association, the National Leased Housing Association, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of Realtors, the Mortgage bankers Association, the American Bankers Association, the National Affordable Housing Managers Association, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, and the Housing Policy Council of the Financial Services Roundtable.

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