Thursday, July 31, 2014

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development announces changes to Maryland Homefront initiative

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

NHC member Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) announced last month new rate reductions to its Maryland Homefront initiative that will make homeownership more accessible and affordable for veterans and active-duty military members. The initiative makes veteran and active military homebuyers eligible for a reduced interest rate on a mortgage loan through Maryland’s Mortgage Program and a discount on fees from the Maryland Home Credit federal tax credit. 

Changes to Maryland Homefront will allow borrowers to see a 0.25 percent rate reduction on current rates of loans issued through the Maryland Mortgage Program. Buyers who purchase their homes before Dec. 15, 2015 will be eligible to receive 25 percent of their mortgage interest paid as a federal tax credit up to $2,000 through the Maryland Home Credit. Other benefits of the program include down payment assistance and homebuyer education services.

“Despite all that has happened the last few years, including the recession and the collapse of the national housing market, [we] still believe in homeownership,” DHCD Secretary and NHC Board of Trustees member Raymond Skinner said in a press release. “Homeownership helps stabilize neighborhoods, helps stimulate our economy and helps hardworking families build for the future. We are pleased to build upon our past programs for veterans and military families with this initiative."

NHC has worked with our members and partners to keep housing at the forefront of the conversation about the needs of America’s veterans. The financial and personal stability provided to veterans and their families by programs such as DHCD’s is vital to ensuring veterans enter civilian life on a strong footing..

The program is open to all active duty military personnel and honorably discharged veterans and disabled veterans. Since the launch of Maryland Homefront in 2012, 161 veterans and military families have qualified for more than $35 million in fixed-rate mortgage assistance. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Housing Partnership Network wins $38 million in New Markets Tax Credits

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

Last month NHC member Housing Partnership Network (HPN), in partnership with Affirmative Investments, Inc., was awarded $38 million in funding from the New Markets Tax Credits Program. HPN and Affirmative Investments will use the funding in collaboration to provide investment capital to new and existing projects.

On the combined strength of HPN’s membership in target service areas and the experience Affirmative Investments has in structuring and closing New Markets Tax Credit deals, the award will jump-start HPN’s support of mixed-use development projects in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Nevada. HPN will provide management support, pipeline developments and organizational oversight to the joint venture.

“The New Markets Tax Credit program is a tremendous catalyst for essential community cornerstones such as jobs, education and health services, and I’m excited about the mixed-used projects we’re exploring,” said Rebecca Regan, president of Capital Markets Companies for HPN.  “HPN members are leading-edge organizations, transforming lives and neighborhoods through housing. Affirmative is a pioneering real estate and finance company with a creative approach and successful track record of New Markets Tax Credit developments. Together, we’re natural collaborators,” she said.

New Markets Tax Credits are a fundamental source for community development funds in underserved regions. They are a valuable source of financing for neighborhood revitalization and stabilization projects, work that NHC is proud to support. We’ll highlight it this fall at our annual Solutions Conference in Oakland. Our restoring neighborhoods track will feature panels focused on how we can stabilize neighborhoods through foreclosure prevention, eliminating blight and much more. You can learn more about our restoring neighborhoods track and Solutions 2014 here.

In addition to its collaboration with Affirmative Investments, HPN will work with its member ACTION-Housing in Pittsburgh to finance multiple developments, including a community center and library, and Nevada HAND-another of its members-to establish developments in Las Vegas. Financing will also be allocated to United Teen Equality Center's Hub for Social Entrepreneurship, a program in Lowell, Mass. designed to combat teen gang violence.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty plan means for housing

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference 

Last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) proposed a policy agenda to reduce poverty and increase opportunity. It builds on some traditional Republican themes of consolidating programs and block-granting assistance, but takes on a broad range of issues aims to stimulate a policy conversation. For housing, there’s some good stuff and some bad stuff, and housing stakeholders should give it a careful read.

Here’s a quick and slightly oversimplified summary of the Ryan proposal for safety net programs. It would create a pilot program in which states could combine multiple federal assistance programs at their current total funding level, get more flexibility on program rules, and provide aid to recipients through case managers. The aim is to reduce the bureaucratic burden on people receiving assistance and improve outcomes while also removing disincentives to work and counterproductive interactions among programs. Those are laudable goals, but achieving them may be tricky, particularly with housing programs that deal with long-term investments in real estate.

From an initial read, here’s my quick take from a housing perspective. I’ve divided points into “good stuff” and “bad stuff” for simplicity. I take Rep. Ryan at his word that this is a discussion draft open to modification, so take my observations in the same spirit.

Good stuff
  1. Emphasis on case management and service coordination. The proposal supports individualized case management for recipients across many fronts, so that a single professional will help people with housing, child care, basic needs, job training, financial literacy, savings and more. In housing, we know how valuable that can be (foreclosure prevention is a great example) and have struggled for years to get more funding for service coordination and counseling. It’s unclear how the plan would pay for and train new service coordinators.
  2. Potentially bipartisan message on addressing human need. Poverty has an individual element (people needing skills, education, and opportunity) and a structural element (mismatch between income and wealth vs. need and human potential). If we can get past the callous and politically stale question of “Who deserves help?” and on to the fruitful question of “How can we provide help effectively to those in need?” we might actually make a dent in poverty. The proposal at least starts to address the individual level through program reform and the structural level through expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Both could move the conversation in the right direction.  
  3. State-level experimentation. States are good labs for trying out new programs. The Section 236 mortgage program for affordable rental housing arose at the state level and became a federal program through FHA. In the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, states change their allocation plans every year, often modeling these changes on other states’ successes in areas like preservation of existing housing, green standards and permanent supportive housing. State-level experimentation can go wrong, too, which is why the strict outcome measures and accountability are important.
  4. No cuts, at least to start. The proposal explicitly does not reduce total funding for assistance. It’s a proposal to change the form of assistance, not reduce it. Although I do worry about how the block grant formula will address natural increases in rental costs once the program is separated from the specific property-level rental assistance, that’s conceivably something fixable in program design.
Bad stuff
  1. Potential loss of federal investments in housing. The proposal would consolidate people-based programs like TANF, food stamps, the Housing Choice Voucher program and others with property-based assistance like Section 8, public housing and USDA rural rental assistance. However, rental housing properties and the people living in them depend on reliable funding from those federal programs. Diverting it, even to worthy uses, risks destroying federally funded investments that took years to create and could last for years to come.  This area of the proposal needs much more thought.
  2. Political vulnerability of block grants. The proposal isn’t a typical block grant, but it suffers from the same weakness. When federal funds pass to the state, it’s not clear to recipients exactly who is providing the help. That makes it politically easier to cut funds, add further mandates without more funding or otherwise erode the programs over time.
  3. Reduced countercyclical role. Some of the included programs like TANF and food stamps are entitlements, which mean they expand when need rises and contract when need declines.  That countercyclicality helps people in need faster and helps the economy recover more quickly. Although the proposal acknowledges the need to keep these programs countercyclical, but of the options it offers to do so, only one would actually increase spending in tough times, while the others just shift funds from current need into rainy day accounts.
  4. Conditions on assistance. Accountability is good, but our country often takes it much farther on poverty assistance than we do in other entitlement or discretionary programs, and this proposal is no exception. Work requirements and individual contracts for assistance loom large. From recent research in cognitive science, we’ve learned that this approach can be counter-productive. The proposal starts to explore differences in approach for the elderly and disabled, but it doesn’t address the impact on children, who may suffer from when aid to families is cut or conditioned. More thought is needed here to design programs using the latest research and proven best practices, not ideology (from the right or the left).

In short, there’s a lot to work on and discuss in this proposal, and that’s just my take from the housing perspective. If this is just positioning for a presidential run or the midterm races, it may not get the attention it deserves. As presented, however, it’s a thoughtful take on improving our national response to poverty, one that could benefit from thoughtful engagement by those who know housing well. 

Upzoning can create opportunities for affordable housing

by Robert Hickey, National Housing Conference

Surging demand for urban living is providing cities and older suburbs with a new way to engage private developers in creating mixed-income communities. My new report, Inclusionary Upzoning,   explains how. 

As jurisdictions raise height limits, allow greater development intensity and permit housing in new areas of town, a growing number of places both big and small are asking developers that benefit from this new development potential to make a share of new housing affordable for low- and moderate-income households.  These policies are getting results. Inclusionary Upzoning profiles six places that are linking affordability to the rezoning process. Collectively, these policies have generated over 4,000 affordable homes since the early 2000s, with hundreds more on the way.

An especially promising feature of “inclusionary upzoning” is its potential for engaging market-rate developers in places where legal, political or market barriers have historically impeded the adoption of inclusionary housing.  Optional inclusionary housing policies that only apply when a neighborhood or property is upzoned can offer an alternate strategy for harnessing the energy of the housing market for affordability in states such as Oregon, Texas, Colorado and California, where legal restrictions prohibit certain mandatory inclusionary housing requirements. Similarly, localities wary of applying affordability requirements in unproven housing markets may find it helpful to limit such a policy to areas that will see new development potential as a result of a rezoning.

A webinar this Thurs., July 31 will delve deeper into the findings of the report.  I will be describing multiple examples of inclusionary upzoning in action – from New York City to Redmond, Wash. – and leading a discussion of where these policies may work best.  It’s not too late to register!  I hope you can join the conversation.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fair housing and the data paradox

by Patrick Reed, National Housing Conference

In a push for crowd-sourced innovation and better transparency, federal agencies are opening up their data
vaults to the public, substantially increasing the accessibility of this information. State agencies and local governments are increasingly following suit. In general, most would agree that improved data accessibility is a good thing; however, increased availability is not without its challenges, particularly for low-income households and their advocates. Consider the propositions of the following paradox:

A. Open access to data improves opportunity for low-income households.
Example: Using publically available data, PHAs can create opportunity maps to locate census tracts with strong social capital and strong transit access. Housing Choice Voucher counselors can use these maps to help inform their clients’ decisions.

B. Open access to data harms opportunity for low-income households.
Example: Using an online tool, a high-income family realizes that a home they are interested in purchasing falls within the boundaries of a census tract with a large number of foreclosures and vacancies. They decide not to pursue the property any further. Current residents in the neighborhood miss out on the addition of a stable family that could have potentially drawn in more resources and higher-income neighbors.

If we’re thinking in terms of net gains and losses, we can’t say that both of these propositions are simultaneously true.

Lisa Prevost's article in last Friday’s New York Times does an excellent job of contextualizing the data access problem. Third-party companies help people access detailed information about neighborhood demographics, income levels, crime, school quality etc. These companies often source their information from publically available database sites like the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder. As many of these companies aren’t licensed brokers, they aren’t subject to the Fair Housing Act’s laws about steering. Because their products affect the market and competition, licensed brokers are also beginning to test their own boundaries. This raises a number of policy, and ethical, questions, such as:
  • Should non-brokerage companies who capitalize on public data be subject to the same Fair Housing rules?
  • For brokers who don’t want to lose ground to unregulated third-party companies, if a broker directs a client to sites like American Fact Finder (or even links these sites to her firm’s web page), is that a violation of the Fair Housing Act?
  • Should agencies like HUD and the Census Bureau limit data that are sensitive and potentially damaging to the pursuit of integration?
  • Do low-income populations have the same access to information as high-income populations? If so, do they have the resources that will help them use it to their advantage?
I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I think housing advocates and civil rights groups need to substantially raise the profile of this issue before our current “no-questions asked access” becomes the norm—if it isn’t already. Additionally, we need researchers to investigate whether or not the availability of data has affected patterns of racial and economic segregation. Who knows, maybe research findings will help alleviate some concerns.

If you’re still not convinced that this is an issue, perhaps a quick anecdote will help: last week, a peer and I completed a graduate school project that analyzed dollar per square foot costs, walkability and school quality indicators in an increasingly stratifying urban county. Using publically accessible data, GIS and some statistical sorcery, we were able to pinpoint particular properties—not block groups or tracts—in high-quality school catchments where residents weren’t paying the same premiums as their neighbors for a high-quality education. Our purpose was to promote child well-being by creating a “burden-bargain index” that would help CDCs locate target properties for potential acquisition or restoration.

A couple of days after our presentation, I was approached by an individual who works in a mid-management position, is salaried, and is assumedly quite stable: “I heard about your project—sounds neat. My husband and I are in the hunt for a home right now in the county. You’ll have to show me your maps at some point.” 

Given the project’s intent, how should one respond to such requests? How will our policymakers respond?

Monday, July 21, 2014

What’s next in housing and transportation cost research?

by Chris Marshall, National Housing Conference

NHC’s Center for Housing Policy will begin researching the combined housing and transportation (H+T) costs of low-income households (those at or below 50 percent of area median income (AMI)). To do so, Center staff is capitalizing on data from HUD’s Location Affordability Index (LAI).

The LAI predicts housing and transportation costs for different geographic levels in 942 Core Based Statistical Areas (covering 94 percent of the U.S. population). The cost estimates are for 12 different household types, ranging in estimated income from a two-worker family to a single, very low-income person. 

This is not the first time the Center has researched H+T costs. In 2006, we partnered with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC-Berkeley to produce A Heavy Load: The Combined Housing and Transportation Burdens of Working Families. The report documented how moderate-income households were making trade-offs between housing and transportation costs. The Center and CNT partnered again in 2012 to produce Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation. This report examined the H+T burdens of moderate-income households in the 25 largest metro areas in the U.S.

Center staff is excited to use data from the relatively new LAI, as it builds on previous housing and transportation cost tools (see CNT’s H+T Affordability Index). Using the data, however, requires that one acknowledge some limitations. Chief among these is that housing data is from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey. A third-party review says that “house prices within and between cities can change drastically over a few years, and using data that is, on average, four years old creates a significant risk that estimates are not accurate.” Related limitations include the use of older mortgage data (thereby not reflecting the true, current cost of newly buying a home in a neighborhood) and the use of imprecise block group data. As the review states, “For every block group… the average margin of error for block group level (selected monthly owner costs) is 37percent of the level.”

These limitations in mind, the LAI remains a helpful tool to at least generally understand H+T costs for low-income (and other) households. Local entities are using the tool to analyze what is happening in their parts of the country. For example, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning uses the LAI to estimate “that a typical low-income household would need to spend 46… to 145 percent of its income on [H+T] to live in much of the region.” The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments says “the [LAI] will be another key device in COG’s toolkit to help meet the Regional Forward Target in keeping housing and transportation costs below 45percent of median household income….” And the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul link to the LAI from their “Live MSP” homepage to help current and prospective residents “measure the true affordability of a city neighborhood….”

Going forward, we will consider diving into certain research questions, such as:
·         What are the H, T, and combined H+T costs for low-income households nationwide and in the largest metro areas?
·         If the H+T share of income is relatively higher for low-income households than others, what are the economic and social implications?
·         How might H+T costs for low-income households correlate with access to opportunity areas?
·         What are the implications of the methodology and data limitations on using LAI data for analyzing H+T costs?

How have you used the LAI to answer your particular research questions?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Who lives in subsidized housing?

by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D., National Housing Conference

As I wrote in this space last week, HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) has released detailed data about households receiving Federal housing assistance. According to the new data, in 2013 there were over 5.2 million HUD-subsidized housing units in the United States serving over 10 million people. Who is receiving Federal housing assistance?

·         The majority of households receiving assistance are either families with children, seniors or households with a disabled person.

o   39 percent are families with children
o   33 percent are seniors age 62 and older
o   34 percent are non-senior disabled

(Note: there is overlap between families with children and non-senior disabled populations.)

·         Three-quarters of households receiving assistance are extremely low income, with incomes at or below 30 percent of area median income (AMI). (As an example, for a family of three, 30 percent of AMI is $29,050 in the District of Columbia and $15,300 in Morgantown, West Virginia. Find the HUD income limits for your area.)

·         64 percent of households receiving assistance are non-white.

o   44 percent are African-American
o   17 percent are Hispanic
o   4 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander

·         The characteristics of subsidized households haven’t changed much since 2009. In 2013, there was a slightly smaller share of families with children and extremely low-income households served, while the shares of subsidized households that were seniors or disabled increased slightly.

Federal housing assistance makes a critical difference in the lives of these individuals and families. And while HUD’s programs served over 4.5 million households in 2013, only about one in four eligible households receives assistance and many needy families remain on long waiting lists.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sure, housing is a business. But it's also a movement.

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

One of the benefits of living and working in Washington, DC is that this city is experiencing the kind of growth and rapid neighborhood change that regularly puts issues of displacement, development and affordability in the local news.

This past weekend I was struck by several local news stories that highlighted the federal and local response to housing issues that are common here and around the country. Some have real implications for our messaging and communications, some for local advocacy participation and some have federal leverage points. For today I will focus on one story from the Washington City Paper that I think combines all three.

While redevelopment, crime reduction and expansion of the local tourism economy can be good things, without planning and preservation, massive displacement can take away the people and character that gave an area like DC’s Chinatown its identity. This is exemplified by a current battle over the Museum Square Apartments, a 302-unit project-based Section 8 building in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood. Located next to Chinatown, the building houses much of the area’s remaining Chinese population, many of whom are elderly. This affordable development was one of the only residential offerings in the area until the relatively recent entry of high-end condos and apartments. The property’s project-based contract is expiring and the owner wants to redevelop, while advocates are rallying to protect the tenants’ access to affordable housing.

While the details of any one property involve business decisions and intensely local politics, the story holds several lessons for our work. First, quality, long-term affordable multifamily housing must be part of a response strategy to neighborhood (re)development. Affordable homes need to be part of the plan early on. Second, preservation of key affordable residential developments is paramount for every city’s long-term success. Is Chinatown as vibrant a social and economic destination if all the former residents cannot stay?

In the end, this is why affordable housing is a movement, not an industry. As I have said before, it’s true that housing is very much a business, one that demands a high level of expertise from multiple partners. But because the need for affordable housing interventions is so great and we are so short of meeting the demand, we are all called to look beyond the individual business case and advocate together across the continuum of affordable housing for solutions that channel the expertise of the business community into meeting the community’s housing needs.

We must continue to use value-based messaging to help local officials and the public understand why quality affordable homes are central to community success. We must continue to look at factors that make housing such a vital platform for success and go beyond a “units produced” mentality with useful research and best practice examples. Each of us must advocate—not just those of us in “advocacy jobs”—at  the federal level for more resources and locally for regulations that ensure preservation of existing units is more easily facilitated.

This story provides a cautionary tale for the hundreds of communities facing redevelopment decisions or gentrification pressures. It is also one that helps focus us here at NHC on our mission to bring everyone into the affordable housing movement and keep moving housing forward.

Monday, July 7, 2014

HUD releases new data on subsidized households

by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D., National Housing Conference
HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) has released detailed data about households receiving Federal housing assistance. According to the new data, in 2013 there were over 5.2 million HUD-subsidized housing units in the United States serving over 10 million people. Over the next week or two, NHC’s Center for Housing Policy will be analyzing the subsidized household data to provide a better understanding of the characteristics of families and individuals who benefit from HUD programs. A few key findings from the national data:

·         Three-quarters of subsidized households are extremely low income, meaning they have incomes below 30 percent of area median income (AMI).

·         Subsidized households have an average monthly income of $1,074 and spend an average of $304 on rent. 

·         One-third of subsidized households are headed by a person age 62.

·         On average, subsidized households live in census tracts where 25 percent of the households are at or below the poverty level.

·         Forty-four percent of households assisted are African-American; 17 percent are Hispanic.
·         Eight percent of subsidized households moved into their unit in the past year.

·         The New York region has the highest total number of subsidized households at over 508,000. The Herbert, Utah region has one subsidized household.

·         Over 328,000 subsidized households (or about 6.3 percent of all subsidized households) live outside a core-based statistical area (CBSA). (A CBSA is region with an urban center that has at least 10,000 people.)

Stay tuned for more analysis of the subsidized household data from NHC. We will explore questions like:

·         How do the characteristics of subsidized households vary by region?

·         How long do people stay on the waiting list and how long do residents tend to remain in subsidized housing?

·         How does the number of HUD subsidized units in a place compare to the number of units created under the LIHTC program?

·        In what regions are subsidized units most likely to be located in low-poverty neighborhoods?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Time to think ahead to the fall

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

July is an interesting time in Washington, when many folks have one eye to Independence Day celebrations in town, and another to escaping the heat and humidity of the city. While recess puts legislative work on hold, we expect several major opportunities on the regulatory side, as Ethan describes below.

There is no lull in NHC’s work, either. With our signature events, the Annual Gala and Policy Symposium, behind us, we immediately shift our focus to our very busy fall that will culminate in Solutions 2014 in Oakland, Calif. Nov. 18-20.

The Solutions 2014 agenda is available on our website now, and we’ll be adding more information as we flesh out our sessions and speakers. Like last year’s conference in Atlanta, Solutions 2014 focuses on state and local housing policy issues and provides a unique opportunity to hear from advocates, developers, local governments, lenders, syndicators and researchers all in the same place.

We’ve worked hard with our Track Advisory Groups to design workshops that provide diverse and topical content and discussion in the following issue areas:

·         Restoring Neighborhoods – strategies and research communities can use for preventing foreclosures, stabilizing neighborhoods and creating a more resilient housing system.
·         Housing Intersections – explores the many ways in which stable, affordable housing helps to support other important social outcomes such as health, education and economic prosperity.
·         Inclusive Communities – getting affordable housing to areas of opportunity as well as planning for growth and gentrification.
·         Housing Communications - promising communications strategies for expanding awareness and building support for affordable housing policies and development.

Workshops will feature best practices, the latest research and a lot of dialog where you can learn more from the presenters as well as other attendees.

We also feature bonus and roundtable tracks, with workshops and facilitated discussions on a range of topics like the importance of design, organizing residents for state advocacy efforts, HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration, talking about homelessness and others.

In addition to exciting plenary and keynote speakers, we will also feature four mobile workshops. These workshops tour developments in different parts of the Bay Area, showcasing a variety of affordable housing examples and giving you the chance to talk to the people involved in making those developments happen. Look out for announcements about speakers and mobile workshop topics soon.

Now is the time to register and secure your discounted hotel room! And if you are interested in being a sponsor or exhibitor at Solutions 2014, there are great opportunities available.

All of this is just a portion of our effort to be an organization of value for those working to increase the supply of and access to quality affordable homes. We thank you for your membership and financial support and hope you will let others know about why becoming a member of NHC will help them in their work.

Reading into Treasury’s housing policy announcements

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

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s announcement of new moves in housing policy last week surprised many housing stakeholders, especially those used to HUD’s deliberate telegraphing of moves rather than Treasury’s top-secret-until-announced approach. Upon reflection, each of the policy actions underscores major housing challenges of housing affordability and post-foreclosure neighborhood recovery that Treasury is addressing in a political environment frozen by a partisan divide.

·         Extending Making Home Affordable, which includes HAMP and HARP, shows that Treasury realizes we are in the long tail of the foreclosure wave. There are many homeowners still struggling with underwater or unsustainable mortgages. The HAMP mortgage modification program and the HARP refinancing program have created an industry standard for finding individual solutions that by avoiding foreclosure are better for borrowers, lenders, and neighborhoods.

·         Asking for comment on how to restart the private-label securities (PLS) market for home loans is a reminder that Treasury still wants to crowd in private capital to the mortgage market. We heard that way back in 2012 at the NHC Policy Symposium and once again at this year’s Policy Symposium from Under Secretary Mary John Miller. If Treasury’s planned meetings and the requested comments can shed more light on the persistent resistance of PLS investors, so much the better.

·         Calling for bipartisan housing finance reform shows that Treasury knows our housing finance system is still broken. Too much rides on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA even now, and many potential homeowners can’t obtain loans. As NHC has called for, we need a sustainable reform that provides housing options for homeowners and renters alike, which can only come through bipartisan, outcome-focused housing finance reform.

·         Providing capital for multifamily risk-share transactions through the Federal Financing Bank shows that Treasury knows we have a rental housing affordability crisis. Harvard’s State of the Nation’s Housing just made that point most strongly, and this new pilot action by Treasury could provide additional capital for affordable rental housing. It’s a small but potentially significant step in the right direction, and we’ll know more once the first transaction in New York City closes.

These actions come in a fraught political environment paralyzed by partisan battle. President Obama is explicitly acting in ways that do not require Congress, a course that can move more quickly, but is ultimately limited in reach. While we welcome positive change on housing’s biggest challenges, we also know that only a concerted bipartisan legislative effort can truly get the job done.