January 18, 2019

Congressional Letter to President on Shutdown's Impact on Housing

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  • Yesterday 170 Members of Congress, led by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marc Veasey (D-TX-33), sent the President a letter emphasizing the urgency of ending the partial government shutdown and expressing their concern regarding its direct and immediate effects on housing security for more than four million households across the country. The letter notes that as a result of the shutdown, HUD has been facing challenges in finding funds to renew contracts for 650 project-based rental assistance properties that have expired since the shutdown began on December 22. If the shutdown continues, additional contracts will expire later in January and February, and HUD – which has asked private landlords to use their reserves -- will not have funding to renew contracts. The letter points out that the shutdown will delay funds that are needed to help address public housing capital needs, such as repairing roofs and fixing boilers. The shutdown has also reduced funding for grants that support affordable housing and community development programs and projects in communities across the country, which depend on those federal funds to serve lower-income people. Enterprise calls on Congress and the Administration to end the budget impasse and pass full-year spending bills that provide strong funding for affordable housing and community development.
     
  • A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a married lesbian couple, who alleged that a retirement community discriminated against them. According to the plaintiffs, the senior living facility has declined their housing application on the basis that its cohabitation policy defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. While the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, religion, sex, familial status and disability, it does not specifically include sexual orientation as a protected class. The plaintiffs argued that they were treated “less favorably because of their sex and less favorably because of their association with a person of a particular sex,” but the judge found that the claims “boil down to those of discrimination based on sexual orientation rather than sex alone.”  (St. Louis Today, January 17)
     
  • An article in CNBC suggests that the rising frequency and intensity of natural disasters could create a foreclosure challenge, which would harm the mortgage industry. The article points out that the mortgage market is not factoring the overall risk of natural hazards into its loan underwriting, explaining that the industry could face a climate-induced foreclosure crisis if a substantial number of borrowers decide to walk away from homes that they either cannot afford to rebuild or no longer want to live in. Ed Delgado, former executive at Freddie Mac, notes that “what drives the mortgage market, it is the application of credit risk. What’s missing is the understanding of weather risk and where those weather events can take place”. (CNBC, January 17)
     
  • Zillow notes that the Census Bureau was scheduled to publish monthly data on new construction permits and starts for December 2018 yesterday, but the release was delayed due to the partial government shutdown. Since housing construction data sets are used to track market trends and health, the lack of data could increase policy makers’ vulnerability to economic surprises or lack of foresight.  Zillow points out that this challenge might result in real distortions in the national record that cannot be corrected after the fact. (Zillow, January 17) 

In Case You Missed It

  • As part of Enterprise’s emerging economic mobility initiative, the Urban Institute has released a research report, Economic Mobility Services for Affordable Housing Residents: Exploring Resident Services as a Vehicle for Economic Success. Enterprise seeks to make housing a platform to economic mobility to help children born in low-income families and adults experiencing poverty move out of poverty and become more economically secure. We partnered with researchers at the Urban Institute to do a scan of efforts linking housing and economic mobility interventions. This research identified four promising practices that housing providers and/or service providers working with affordable housing can employ to promote economic mobility among residents: 1) paying residents for training and work, 2) integrating property management and resident services, 3) individualizing services and supports to match residents’ goals, and 4) extending the duration of services and supports. The study points out that regardless of how services are delivered, even the highest-quality programs cannot move the needle on economic mobility without changes across multiple systems that expand opportunities for residents.

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