Thursday, November 21, 2013

How a post-nuclear Senate could help affordable housing

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference 

Today the Senate changed its rules to eliminate filibusters on presidential nominees (apart from Supreme Court Justices). The so-called nuclear option invoked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), paves the way for nominees to be confirmed by simple majority votes, which means that Senate Democrats can prevail without Republican votes if they remain united.

With the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) still pending, this rule change could have major impacts for affordable housing. FHFA has been pursuing many actions that reduce affordable housing options for America, getting pretty far ahead of a Congress that is finally making bipartisan progress on mortgage finance reform. NHC supports the nomination of Rep. Watt and hopes the Senate will now move swiftly to confirm him.

Most recently, Bloomberg reported FHFA is planning to forge ahead with reductions to the multifamily production of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, despite widespread comments that such action reduces affordable housing and hurts the long-term value of the GSEs (NHC’s comment is one among many). A bipartisan group of House lawmakers even wrote directly to FHFA opposing the multifamily reductions.

In the long term, of course, this rule change could come back to bite the current majority party if and when they become the minority party once again. But as John Maynard Keynes said, in the long run we’re all dead.

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