Monday, December 22, 2014

A New Source for Metropolitan Housing Affordability data

by Janet Viveiros, National Housing Conference 


Have you read our annual Housing Landscape report and wondered what a “Landscape” report would look like if it just focused on your region?

Well, if you live in one the fifty largest metro areas you can now get metro area data on housing affordability, housing costs and incomes from our Housing Landscape metro area data reports. The reports present our analysis of American Community Survey data on the number of households in a metro area who are cost burdened (spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs) or severely cost burdened (spending more than half their income on housing). 

Cost burdened households spend more than what is considered to be affordable on housing and therefore must face difficult choices on where to cut back their spending. This often means they must go without other necessities such as health care, child care, transportation or food.

The reports also compare the housing affordability challenges of renters and owners to reflect the different dynamics of the home buying and rental housing markets.

The reports include graphs and charts with data on:
  • The number of households with a housing cost burden
  • Median income and housing costs for the metro area
  • The share of households at different income levels with severe housing cost burdens

The reports also examine the housing affordability challenges faced by low- and moderate-income working households in the metro area.

Check out housing affordability data for metro areas ranging from Atlanta, to Louisville, to Virginia Beach.

You can also get state level housing Housing Landscape affordability data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Congress passes tax extenders legislation

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

On Dec. 16, the Senate approved a one-year package of tax extenders, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (H.R. 5771) that will expire on Dec. 31, 2014. The House passed this legislation on Dec. 3. The law is essentially retroactive, so Congress will have to take up the same questions again in 2015. The package includes a long list of tax provisions with a few specifically on housing: Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and mortgage debt relief.
  • Fixed 9% rate for LIHTC. The Housing Credit rate was set at 9 percent minimum (as opposed to floating). However, most deals have already closed using the floating rate, so this provision has negligible value for LIHTC projects. A floating rate in 2014 has meant affordable housing projects receive 15-20 percent less equity making projects more difficult to finance and complete. The legislation did not include the 4 percent credit minimum proposal.
  • Tax relief for struggling homeowners. The bill includes mortgage debt tax relief which prevents homeowners from having to pay income tax on debt that gets forgiven in a mortgage modification or short sale. The provision will help homeowners who went through a modification or short sale in 2014, but homeowners will again face uncertainty in 2015. NHC has long advocated for mortgage debt relief; it helps prevent additional financial burden for distressed homeowners and enables decisions to help people move forward. This legislation was originally passed in 2007 and received extensions in 2009 and 2012. The number of short sales declined this year, which is partially because of an improved economy and fewer foreclosures, but also because of homeowner uncertainty about negative tax consequences.
The legislation also included an extension of the New Markets Tax Credit, energy provisions, and bonus depreciation. The earlier tax deal debated in late November included minimum 9 percent and 4 percent credit rates and mortgage debt relief for two years, through 2015, but because of the threat of presidential veto, that deal did not move forward. Congress will again have to address tax extenders in 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How will housing markets and policies respond to the “diversity explosion”?

by Lisa Sturtevant, PhD, National Housing Conference


William Frey of the Brookings Institution has written a new book titled Diversity Explosion. An intentionally provocative title for a book about seismic demographic shifts in the U.S., the book formed the basis for a presentation and panel discussion I attended on Monday. Diversity Explosion describes the important demographic trends that will shape the future of politics, policymaking and economic growth in the country over the next four decades. The way in which the demographics of the country are changing will have important implications for future housing demand and housing policy. Three key findings from the book and their effects on housing needs are discussed below.

The U.S. population will turn majority minority between 2040 and 2050. The shift to a majority minority population is a key message from Freys book. Regardless of the U.S.s immigration policy, the country will become increasingly diverse over the coming decades, and by 2044 we are expected to be a nation where no one racial or ethnic group accounts for a majority of the population. The increase in the minority population is largely due to the fact that minorities in the U.S. tend to be younger and more likely to be in childbearing ages than the white population. At the same time, the white population is growing very slowly and, in fact, is projected to begin to decline in actual numbers in coming decades.

Minorities, therefore, will drive household growth in the future. And while they do and will have a diverse set of housing preferences and needs, minority householdsoverall housing demand patterns look different from those of whites. Minority households are less likely to be homeowners than white households. In addition, the rates of homeownership among minorities declined faster during the housing downturn than they did for whites. Lower and declining homeownership rates are strongly related to the growing wealth disparities between minorities and whites.

Because the primary means by which the middle class builds wealth in the U.S. has been through homeownership, public policy related to the accessibility and affordability of homeownership will be critical as the nation becomes more diverse. So, too, will the pace of rental construction activity and policies that either promote or slow the production of affordable rental housing.

The aging of the white population highlights the divergent preferences between minorities and white. The age structures of whites and minorities in the U.S. are starkly different. According to the 2010 Census, the median age of non-Hispanic whites was 42. The median age of Asians was 35, the median age of African Americans was 32 and the median age for Hispanics was 27. Thus, the minority population in the U.S. is much younger than the white population.

Dependency ratios are one way to measure the age structure of populations. Dependency ratios are defined as the total non-working age population divided by the total working age population. The “old age” dependency ratio uses the number of seniors in the population as the numerator of the ratio; the “child” dependency ratio uses the population under age 18. The child dependency ratio is higher in the minority population compared to that in the white population; the old age dependency ratio is much higher for whites than for minorities and is rising quickly among the white population. This disparity in dependency ratios can lead to competition for public resources that can increasingly pit older whites against younger minorities. While the white population may increasingly advocate for more resources for seniors, minorities will see a greater need for public investment in children and young adults.

This struggle will play out in the demand for limited affordable housing resources. There may be pressure from whites for programs that give preferences to seniors, while the growing minority population may call for additional housing support for families with children. Policies that spell out how housing resources should be allocated—or who should be given preference for housing subsidies—will need to be drafted to recognize the growing divide in priorities between the shrinking white and the growing minority population.

Minorities have been moving more frequently to the suburbs. According to the 2010 Census data tabulated by Frey, for the first time, a greater share of African Americans lived in the suburbs of the nations largest metro areas than in the central cities. Growth in the suburban Hispanic and Asian populations has also been dramatic. In the Monday discussion, Frey commented on some of the positive implications of the suburbanization trend, specifically the possibility that minorities moving to the suburbs were able to access better education, employment and other opportunities than they were able to in the cities. But he cautioned that the suburban migration has not been uniform among all types of minority households. Specifically, minority households that are two-parent families with children have been more likely than single parents to have moved from cities to suburbs. And the panel did not dwell on the less positive issues around increased minority suburbanization, including gentrification of central cities that has priced out some minority households, and challenges associated with rising suburban poverty.

The increase in the number of minority households in the suburbs suggests a need for local housing policies that are designed purposefully to build inclusive and integrated communities. HUDs proposed affirmatively furthering fair housing rule, designed to better implement the obligations specified by the National Housing Act and to improve neighborhoods and housing opportunities for all, is an important step to help suburban communities recognize and address their diverse and changing housing needs. Local strategies like inclusionary housing with on-site (or near-site) affordability requirements can be effective tools to increase inclusivity.

As William Frey has made clear, demographic change is reshaping the population of the U.S. and the racial and ethnic make-up of cities and states across the country will look dramatically different in 2050. The trends outlined in Diversity Explosion are clear—we know where we are headed—so it is now incumbent upon the policymakers, developers and advocates to come together to plan for ways to meet the housing needs of our diversifying population.

Monday, December 15, 2014

DC is the latest city to prioritize public land for affordable homes

by Robert Hickey, National Housing Conference 


One of the better tools cities have for protecting economic diversity and improving housing affordability is using publicly owned land creatively to include affordable homes. Recognizing this, the Washington, DC city council recently voted unanimously to require that all new multifamily residential developments on city-owned land include at least 20-30 percent affordable housing. With the mayor’s acquiescence landing the day after Thanksgiving, this big news was easily overlooked. But the act’s passage is an important step for the city, and places the District in the company of other cities locally and nationally that have become more intentional about using “public land for public good,” and making affordable homes a priority.

Like neighboring Arlington County (Va.), Montgomery County (Md.) and the city of Alexandria (Va.), Washington, DC is seeking to incorporate affordable homes on more types of pubic properties – from surplus property sites to the grounds of new fire stations, libraries and community centers. Offering land in these contexts at a discount to developers that agree to include a significant share of affordable homes helps make new affordable homes more financially feasible. Given the shortage of affordable land in the District, especially in safe, desirable neighborhoods,  the new DC law can help ensure there are more reasonably priced housing options in well-served locations for long-time residents and essential workers who are increasingly priced out of the city.

Arlington Mill Residences, a 122-unit, affordable residential property built on public land alongside a new community center, opened in Arlington County last February. 
(Credit: Anice Hoachlander/ Hoachlander Davis Photography).

November was a big month for affordable housing policy in the District. In case you missed it because you were immersed along with the rest of us in our successful Solutions conference, the DC council also voted unanimously in mid-November to appropriate at least $100 million annually to the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund. This is another big step forward for housing efforts in the city, and an important complement to the city’s public land policy. 

In a forthcoming report from NHC’s Center for Housing Policy due out in January, my co-author Lisa Sturtevant and I look at lessons that can be learned from similar land policies and local case studies – including the recently completed Arlington Mill Residences. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 12, 2014

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing highlights successes and challenges in ending veteran homelessness

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

On Dec. 11, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing on Evaluating Federal and Community Efforts to Eliminate Veteran Homelessness. Nonprofit organizations focused on policy, housing, and service comprised the first panel; federal agency staff comprised the second panel. The first panel highlighted the success and progress they are seeing on the ground:
  • Since 2010, the homeless veteran population has declined by 33 percent, an unprecedented achievement which is a direct result of research-based interventions, federal leadership, and Congressional support and funding.
  • Having a combination of programs is working: HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH), Veterans Affairs Grant Per Diem (GPD), and Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF). These programs together offer a range of supports and interventions to meet the varying needs of homeless veterans and give them the resources necessary to be stable and self-sufficient.
The panel also raised some policy recommendations which will strengthen efforts in communities nationwide:
  • Non-VA case management is necessary in many places. Getting linked with a VA case manager can be a lengthy process and in some areas, VA case managers are simply not available. Using community partners to provide case management would improve outcomes for veterans.
  • SSVF could be even more effective with a higher funding level; GPD would benefit from greater flexibility so that different communities could use the program to target their specific needs. 
  • Congress, federal agencies, and housing and service providers all need to understand the changing veteran population. While Vietnam veterans are the largest group of veterans currently, the number of post-9/11 veterans is rapidly increasing. Female veterans are also growing in number as are female veterans with children.
Lastly, the panel discussed concerns for the future.
  • In most areas, there is not enough affordable housing stock. Additionally, rental costs have been on an upward trend, and this trend will continue. Developing affordable housing projects is not a quick process because of the time necessary to locate sufficient resources. Additional supply is a key aspect of ending homelessness.
  • Significant progress will only continue to be made on reducing and ending veteran homelessness with continued funding and research-based programs. Congress and the VA also need to be thinking about how to prevent veteran homelessness and how resources will need to be utilized to maintain our achievements of ending veterans homelessness.
Panelists on the first panel were Baylee Crone of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Steve Berg of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, John Downing of Soldier On, Phil Landis of Veterans Village of San Diego, Casey O’Donnell of Impact Services Corporation, and Jon Sherin of Volunteers of America.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Senate Banking subcommittee hearing highlights housing challenges and recommends policy changes

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

On Dec. 9, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development held a hearing on Inequality, Opportunity, and the Housing Market. The panelists discussed the range of challenges that continue to plague the housing recovery: concentrated foreclosures, negative equity, vacant and abandoned homes, tight credit, and households of color shut out of the conventional mortgage market. The hearing highlighted that despite overall economic improvement, many families and neighborhoods are being left out of the recovery. The panelists highlighted a number of policy recommendations that would improve family and neighborhood outcomes.

Areas for Congressional action
  • Complete housing finance reform in a way that ensures affordable access to credit. The uncertainty of the GSE’s future negatively impacts the housing market. NHC has repeatedly urged Congress to enact housing finance reform.
  • Pass the Mortgage Debt Relief Act through 2015. Homeowners considering short sales need certainty that they will not face negative tax consequences so they pursue this better option over a foreclosure or walking away. NHC has advocated on this issue along with many allies.
Areas for Federal Housing Finance Agency action
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should update their credit score models, using options like FICO 9 and Vantage Score, which are more refined and open up the mortgage market to more borrowers. This action could also encourage other lenders to update their credit score models.
  • Fund the National Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund, which would help create more affordable housing.* 
  • Continue work with other regulators to improve mortgage servicer rules.
REO Disposition
  • FHA’s Distressed Asset Stabilization Program (DASP) offers a viable way to preserve homeownership and stabilized neighborhoods. Though FHA has made some improvements to the program, it could make additional changes to DASP so that nonprofits were better able to participate like awarding extra points to Neighborhood Stabilization pool bidders committed to social outcomes. NHC discussed this program in a recent blog.
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) should strengthen its First Look program for REOs, so that homebuyers and nonprofits have a longer period to purchase those homes. The program could also be improved by considering how to give nonprofits and homebuyers access when prices decrease.
Panelists at this hearing were Wayne Meyer of New Jersey Community Capital, Julia Gordon of the Center for American Programs, Mabel Guzman of the National Association of Realtors and Deborah Goldberg of the National Fair Housing Alliance.

*On Dec. 11, the Federal Housing Finance Agency directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to begin setting aside and allocating funds to the Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund. You can read NHC’s blog post here.

FHFA orders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to fund affordable housing

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference 


This morning, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) ordered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to begin funding the National Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund, both of which support the creation and preservation of affordable housing. FHFA’s action is a major step forward for affordable housing, as each of these programs were authorized in 2008 but had yet to receive any funding from Fannie or Freddie. (The Capital Magnet Fund received one round of appropriated funds that was oversubscribed and quite successful.) It is also a much-anticipated action by FHFA Director Mel Watt reversing a decision by the previous director, Ed DeMarco.

Under DeMarco, FHFA had temporarily suspended contributions to the funds citing the financial instability of the two mortgage companies. To implement this new decision, FHFA sent letters to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that lifted the temporary suspension. In the letters, FHFA stated that “set aside and allocation would not contribute to the financial instability” of either company. It also stated that “the profit levels [Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac] has experienced since 2012 are not expected to be sustainable, reasonable projections indicate that [Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac] will remain profitable for the foreseeable future.” Watch NHC’s Openhouse Blog for updates on funding and implementation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Omnibus appropriations details for housing

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

On Dec. 9, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and his Senate counterpart, Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) released the FY 2015 omnibus appropriation bill. It follows the $1.014 trillion budget cap set in the Murray-Ryan deal in 2013. The bill will fund 11 agencies through Sept. 30, 2015 and will fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27, 2015. The House has announced plans to vote on the bill Thursday, Dec. 11, but may need to pass a short-term continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown. The Department of Housing and Urban Development would receive $45.4 billion in gross funding but because of a decline in projected FHA receipts, HUD’s program budget is actually $104 million below the FY 2014 enacted level. Below is a chart showing funding for selected HUD programs. Project based rental assistance, CDBG, HOME, and Choice Neighborhoods would all experience significant funding cuts. However, 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers would be funded at $75 million; Jobs Plus and Family Self Sufficiency would hold steady at $15 million and $75 million respectively. Full text of the bill is available here, and the Senate appropriations summary is available here.

Positive policy changes in the bill:
  • Raises the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program cap from 60,000 units to 185,000 units and extends the program through 2018.
  • Permanently extends RAD Component 2 (for Rent Supplement and RAP properties) and makes McKinney Vento single room occupancy dwellings eligible.
  • Authorizes residents in project based Section 8 to participate in the Family Self Sufficiency program for the first time.
Negative policy outcomes:
  • Prohibition on FHA funding for the Homeowners Armed with Knowledge (HAWK) Initiative.
  • No funding for “green” or “sustainable” programming.

      Other policy provisions include a prohibition on FHA financing for mortgages seized by eminent domain, no new FHA mortgage fees, and a provision requiring HUD to take enforcement actions if a property owner fails to maintain their HUD-assisted property. Project based rental assistance will also shift to calendar year funding.



      Red numbers indicate decreases compared to FY14 enacted levels, green numbers indicate increases, and black numbers indicate flat funding.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Project-Based VASH: Powering the Push to End Chronic Homelessness Among Veterans

by Debbie Burkart, National VP of Supportive Housing, National Equity Fund; and Director, LISC’s Bring Them HOMES initiative* 

NHC invites guest blog posters to write on important housing topics. The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.

In 2014, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Veterans Affairs (VA) significantly upped commitments to Project-base Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Vouchers, subsidies targeting homelessness among military veterans. Awards totaling $12 million are now funding over 1,700 of these vouchers, which prime funding for rehabilitation of aging housing stock and new construction of supportive housing.

As a policy tool, Project-based VASH vouchers target the root issues that lead to chronic homelessness – unaffordable housing, inaccessible support services, and physical and emotional isolation. But they represent a fraction of current spending on VASH subsidies. To date, the majority of VASH subsidies have been awarded as a tenant-based subsidy in the private rental market, and have not been leveraged to increase the supply of affordable housing for homeless veterans.VASH combines Section 8 rental assistance vouchers (administered by local public housing authorities) with case management and clinical services provided through local VA medical centers or community-based outpatient clinics.

While VASH programs overall have made significant inroads against veteran homelessness, more of HUD’s $75 million VASH budget for 2015 should be directed toward project-based vouchers.
  • Project-based VASH vouchers, in combination with low income housing tax credits (LIHTC), soft loan sources from public agencies and/or grant funds from foundations and corporations, create long-term affordable housing units. Capital funding restrictions lock in affordability for decades.
  • Project-based VASH vouchers in supportive housing can surround chronically homeless veterans who have mental, physical and addiction challenges with support services that facilitate recovery, improve stability and decrease the use (and public costs) of emergency shelters and hospital care. On Long Island, the 60-unit Liberty Village in North Amityville supplements affordable housing with on-site services and an adjacent community resource center housing local homeless service agencies and a job training program.
  • Project-based VASH vouchers create housing communities based upon shared experiences, helping support a veteran’s independence through interdependence. “Anyone with a home has neighbors,” said Sgt. Angel Romero, a resident at Liberty Village. “Here I’m with my brothers and sisters.” Said a case manager at Victory Gardens, a 74-unit facility at Newington VA Medical Campus in Connecticut: “People look out for each other, especially in the permanent supportive housing building. A common thread is that ‘I’m a vet, you’re a vet’ and it pulls residents out despite their inclination to isolate.”
Additional funding for project-based VASH vouchers will accelerate the end of veteran homelessness by building more permanent, supportive housing. While construction takes time, new developments are a long-term solution to the challenges shared by the men and women who heroically served our nation.

*LISC’s Bring Them HOMES is generously supported by Citi Community Development, Met Life Foundation, and Northrop Grumman. Over 25 years LISC-NEF has invested $1.9 billion to build 13,000 permanent supportive housing residences, which includes, through Bring Them HOMES, 2,500 homes specifically targeted to meet the needs of homeless veterans. Grants and technical assistance through the BTH Initiative will assist another 2,500 units in 40 projects in 17 states over the next three years.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What we have planned for 2015 and beyond

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference


With the midterm elections over, Washington turns to analysis of what the elections results mean and, more importantly, what the new power dynamic means and what newly elected members of Congress will do when they enter office.

For all of us the real question is, what does this mean for the affordable housing movement in terms of resources and legislation? This is what the next two years look like from my vantage point.

In the “lame duck” session we remain hopeful for passage of a tax extenders bill that will bring price stability to the 9% housing credit for one, ideally two, years. This session will also be an important test of whether Democrats will try and push some federal nominees through the Senate that could incite more pushback from Republicans. The same logic applies to any executive orders the President might make on issues such as immigration. These will provide an indication as to the tone we can expect when the new Congress takes over in January.

While some speculate that not much will change in terms of legislative action in the new Congress, I believe Republicans understand they need to govern to make a strong case for the 2016 election. We expect there to be much attention on tax reform which will require a lot of education from the housing community on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit with special attention to the 4% credit, which has much less congressional support. While Tax Reform is a major issue, trade, energy (Keystone Pipeline) and immigration are also major issues that could demand a lot of Congress’s time and energy.

Another major focus for NHC will be the budget process and funding for housing. It hard to know the likelihood of returning to regular order (as opposed to the continuing resolutions that been funding the government), but it seems likely that there will be additional pressure on housing funding, especially if military demands in the Middle East increase and the need for military spending further squeezes the budget.

While NHC will be very engaged in housing policy on the federal level, we also focus on issues impacting affordable housing and community development at the regional, state and local level. Next week we head to Oakland, Ca. for Solutions 2014, our national conference on state and local housing policy. We look forward to seeing our members there and learning more about the successes and challenges of developing affordable housing and improving neighborhoods in your local communities.

It is our belief that increasing support for policy and funding at the federal level begins at local level. It is where housing gets built and helps transforms lives and communities. It is also where we can work with all of you to build a movement of support with residents, government officials and the public.

Focused on our strengths: The Center’s recent work in its four key research areas

Developing solutions through research
by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D, National Housing Conference



The mission of the Center for Housing Policy, NHC’s research division, is to increase awareness of housing needs and to identify effective and promising policy solutions to housing challenges. The Center bridges the gap between research and practice through accessible and relevant research and outreach to practitioners and policymakers.

The Center’s work is organized around four research areas: Housing Affordability, Housing Intersections, Inclusive Communities and Housing Demand. In recent months, we have completed projects that highlight our expertise in these research areas.

In September we released the Paycheck to Paycheck report and online tool, which analyze housing affordability in 210 metro areas for 80 different occupations. The report focuses on workers in five important and growing health care occupations: medical records transcriptionists, medical billing clerks, home health aides, geriatric nurses and case managers.

To help demonstrate the ways in which housing intersects with other indicators of individual and social well-being, we produced case studies of innovative programs that combine housing with other services. These case studies were part of the MacArthur Foundation’s How Housing Matters conference held in October at the National Building Museum.

In the area of inclusive communities, the Center recently completed a report on inclusionary upzoning which profiles six localities that have adopted inclusionary housing policies tied to rezoning and increased development potential. The paper explores how neighborhood context, market context and policy design may affect the success of inclusionary upzoning policies and their potential for adoption in new areas of the country where inclusionary housing has not yet been implemented.
Finally, the Center is working with the Hampton Roads and Roanoke regions in Virginia to produce housing demand forecasts based on projected employment growth. These forecasts will help broaden the conversation about housing needs and explicitly make the link between economic growth and housing in these regions.

The Center’s work will continue to grow in these four research areas. And we will continue to actively link our housing research—and the research of other organizations—to people working on the ground to expand affordable housing opportunities.

And the Center has a new staff member!  Mindy Ault joined the team in September. Prior to joining NHC, Mindy worked with The Road Home, a homeless services provider in Salt Lake City , doing direct practice work with chronically homeless families and single adults. Her primary research interests are the effects of affordable housing on other aspects of community and individual well-being and housing policy as a means of poverty reduction. She earned a Master of Public Policy from American University with a concentration in advanced quantitative analysis. She will work on housing and health research and on Housing Landscape 2015.

Vermont Housing & Conservation Board awards $3.65 million for statewide affordable housing projects

News from NHC's family of members
by Radiah Shabazz, National Housing Conference



Last month NHC member Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) awarded over $3 million in grants and loans for land conservation and affordable housing projects across the state.  The funds will be used primarily to preserve, rehabilitate and create over 150 affordable homes and conserve almost 1,200 acres of farmland across the state.

The funds were dispersed to ten communities across Vermont and have been allocated to the Burlington Housing Authority, Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont, RuralEdge, Shires Housing, Windham & Windsor Housing and the Cathedral Square Corporation. The awardees will use the funds for a range of projects including construction of a community center, development of mixed-income apartments, rehabilitation of 55 apartments in 11 different buildings, conservation of dairy and beef farmland and much more.

“The Board is pleased to support these community-driven projects in all corners of the state,” VHCB Executive Director Gus Seelig said in a press release. “Housing developments receiving commitments of VHCB funding are located in Lyndonville, Brattleboro, Bennington, Burlington and Hinesburg, while land will be conserved in the towns of Ferrisburgh, Hinesburg, Hartland, Bridgewater and Reading.”

The funding pledged to develop and maintain affordable housing throughout Vermont will be of great assistance to the 21 percent of low- and moderate-income Vermont households that spend at least half their income on housing costs. Our Housing Landscape 2014 report shows that 16 percent of households in the state are severely cost-burdened, equal to the 16 percent national average. VHCB’s efforts to ensure access to more affordable housing options are a great step in countering the housing affordability challenges in the state.   


Since 1987, VHCB has awarded nearly $260 million to nonprofit housing and conservation organizations to develop nearly 1,500 projects across the state. 

NHC members celebrate opening of affordable housing developments in two Chicago neighborhoods

News from NHC's family of members
by Radiah Shabazz, National Housing Conference


Two Chicago neighborhoods recently celebrated the opening of affordable housing developments, and NHC members The Community Builders, Inc. and Volunteers of America were responsible for making the action happen.

In the Englewood neighborhood, Volunteers of America celebrated the opening of Hope Manor II, an affordable mixed-use development designed for previously homeless veterans, or veterans at risk of homelessness, and their families. Englewood’s Hope Manor II will house 73 veterans and their families, and provide free tutoring for children, family counseling, job training and other supportive services. Like its predecessor Hope Manor I, Hope Manor II was funded through low income housing tax credits and additional funding through the Illinois Housing Development Authority and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The opening of Hope Manor II will bring Chicago one step closer to meeting its goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. 

Meanwhile in Bronzeville, The Community Builders celebrated the grand opening of the Shops and Lofts at 47, the community’s first residential and commercial development in the area in 50 years. The new development will play a major part in revitalization of the Bronzeviile neighborhood as part of Alderman Toni Preckwinkle’s neighborhood renaissance plan. After nearly a decade of work to jumpstart the project, and more than a year since construction began, the community will have access to ground-floor retail via Walmart Neighborhood Market and 96 mixed-income affordable apartment homes. The new development revitalizes the neighborhood and allows the creation of 150 construction jobs and more than 100 full-time retail jobs to residents in Bronzeville and surrounding communities.

The need for affordable housing in Chicago and nationally is grave. Data from our annual Paycheck to Paycheck report shows that many community workers cannot afford the costs to rent or own in the Chicago metro area, and of five health care jobs studied, three (home health aides, medical billings clerks and medical transcriptionists) cannot afford to live in median fair-market priced apartments. These new developments will lessen the cost burden housing places on many lower-income families in Chicago.







The U.S can show Ireland the way on mortgages

What we're building
by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference



U.S. mortgage regulators made a wise decision last month to keep mortgage credit available to people of modest means, but Ireland may go in the opposite direction. Ireland’s central bank has proposed limiting most mortgages to those with a 20 percent down payment, but has recently signaled it may back off.  Our friends across the pond are facing, in essence, the same question we just resolved. How many people are we willing to exclude from homeownership in an attempt to avoid repeating the mortgage bubble?

After several years of study, debate, and (of course) bureaucratic wrangling, six separate U.S. regulators decided not to impose a 20 percent down payment requirement as part of the new risk retention rules, but instead to align with the product restrictions in the qualified mortgage rule. NHC and many other coalition allies in our un-ironically named Coalition for Sensible Housing Policy worked hard to clarify for regulators that high down payment restrictions do more to exclude responsible low-wealth borrowers than to reduce systemic risk (the best quantification of this tradeoff came from UNC’s Center for Community Capital). Simply put, having a down payment at all matters much more for the likelihood of default than how big the down payment is, and safe, stable 30-year fixed rate loans are far less likely to default than the no-doc, exploding rate loans eliminated by the recent qualified mortgage rule.

The housing crash and financial crisis hit Ireland even harder than the U.S. Property prices fell by more than 50 percent and the country coined a new term for abandoned, partly built developments: ghost estates. With that experience so recently with them, it’s no wonder Ireland’s financial regulator wants to prevent another housing bubble. U.S. regulators clearly felt the same way. But the Irish should take a page from our book and try to tailor new policy to keep out risky loans while allowing responsible households to take out mortgages, buy homes and help the economic recovery along.

Ireland’s Taoiseach (or prime minister) has already offered a plan to deploy government insurance to get around the central bank’s proposal and allow down payments as low as 10 percent, in part because he recognized that keeping people out of homeownership puts even more pressure on stressed rental markets. The comment period for the central bank’s proposal remains open, and I expect others there will weigh in before the new rule would take effect on Jan. 1. I’ve sent some of our work to fellow housers across the pond, along with hope and encouragement toward a path that keeps housing affordable for all.