Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It's time to get into gear

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

January saw NHC staff preparing for the many events and reports we will be producing in the next few months. Now that the budgeting process has formally begun in Washington with the release of the president’s budget, we are shifting into high gear on the legislative front as well. It’s time for all of us to focus on our education and advocacy efforts, gain a deeper understanding of the issues at hand and build consensus on our messaging to members of Congress and their staff.

We will examine the president’s FY 2016 budget over the next few days so that we can help you understand what it means for housing programs, and what it means going forward politically for Congress. This year we will offer our Annual Budget Forum as a webinar instead of an in-person meeting, to allow more NHC members from across the country participate. The webinar will be held Thursday, Feb. 19, 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. For more information on the Budget Forum agenda and how to register for the webinar, visit our website.

Today I’m on my way to Detroit, Mich., where I will moderate a forum on community revitalization. This event is sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, which has made a $100 million commitment to community redevelopment in the Detroit area. NHC is pleased to partner with Chase to bring together their Detroit partner organizations with a variety of folks from Washington and around the country to share best practices with one another. Insights gathered from this event will help us plan both our June Annual Policy Symposium and our November Solutions for Restoring Neighborhoods convening. We thank JPMorgan Chase for its partnership on this event.

Like many of you, I’ve long followed the national campaign to create and fund the National Housing Trust Fund, in my work in North Carolina and now in DC. Back in December we were happy to report that FHFA Director Mel Watt directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to begin setting aside funds for the NHTF that should be available for distribution by summer of  2016. While there is still much work to be done to protect the NHTF in Congress, it is also important to understand how the fund will operate and the rules for its use at the state level. The National Low Income Housing Coalition, which has led the campaign for the creation and funding of the NHTF, is offering a webinar on the interim rules put forward by HUD. You can register for this important opportunity here.

Referencing the communications and education work ahead of all us in Washington, in the past two months we have noticed a significant uptick in rhetoric blaming the national foreclosure crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act, lending to low- and moderate-income households and the affordability goals of Fannie and Freddie. This narrative has taken hold despite all the credible research showing that the risky subprime lending happened outside of CRA. CBS news published a good report on this as have several other news outlets like the Washington Post. This will be important information to use when educating your congressional delegation on the importance of CRA for both single-family and multifamily affordable housing.

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