April 19, 2017

Community Developments: Food Deserts, Transit Funding, FHA Loans

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  • An analysis by Zillow shows that 20 percent of the nation’s non-rural population, or 47.3 million people, have low incomes and low access to fresh food, which is defined as being located a half mile or more from the nearest fresh, whole food source. The analysis also shows that 7.9 percent of households living in food deserts across the country, which are high-poverty areas that are located more than half a mile from fresh food sources, do not have access to a vehicle and must rely on public transportation or walking to reach an area with healthy food. (Zillow, April 18) Learn about how those in affordable housing can help improve resident access to healthy foods in Enterprise’s 2014 report, Food at Home: Affordable Housing as a Platform to Overcome Nutritional Challenges.
  • An article in NextCity examines the impact the White House’s proposed budget would have on transit funding in small and mid-size cities. As part of an overall $2.4 billion cut to the U.S. Department of Transportation budget, the White House Office of Management and Budget has proposed eliminating the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant Program and the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program, which are critical sources for local and regional transit funding. Congress is expected to decide on the federal spending levels for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 by the end of next week, as the current continuing resolution funds the federal government only through April 28. (NextCity, April 17)
     
  • As previously reported in Community Developments, a recent report by Zillow found that 70 percent of renters across the nation’s 20 largest metro areas cite the down payment as the number-one obstacle to owning a home. While insurance offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) helps first-time homebuyers by allowing down payments as low as 5 percent, FHA-loans could become less available if Congress moves forward with housing finance reform. It’s unclear exactly what the Trump Administration’s plans are for housing finance reform and where this goal falls in its busy agenda. However, Republican leadership in Congress favors recapitalizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, eliminating any statutory obligation to serve underserved housing markets and scaling back the FHA’s footprint in the market. (CityLab, April 18)
  • New data by the Commerce Department show that housing starts dropped by 6.8 percent month-over-month in March 2016, but increased 9.2 percent year-over-year. The data also show that housing completions increased 3.2 percent month-over-month and 13.4 percent year-over-year, and building permits increased 3.6 percent month-over-month and 17 percent year-over-year. The strong increase in building permits indicates that new home building will continue to relieve the constrained supply of housing in the long-run, according to Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia. (Trulia, April 18)
     
  • Since the new administration began, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been under close scrutiny. In February, President Trump ordered a review of the CFPB and Congress is currently considering a bill that would change the agency’s leadership, size and mission. That could be a blow for thousands of mortgage borrowers who have used the CFPB’s dispute resolution to act as an intermediary in their cases, writes David Weidner from Trulia. Since 2011, the agency has returned more than $11.8 billion from financial institutions on behalf of 29 million consumers. Home borrowers in hardest-hit markets are more likely to contact the CFPB for aid in dealing with their home loans, and older Americans and service members have an outsized share of complaints. (Trulia, April 19)

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