It has been a whirlwind seven days for NHC and for housing. On Tuesday, Nov. 27, nearly 200 NHC members and partners met in Washington, D.C. for our Solutions for Affordable Housing 2018 convening. The following day, we held our first Advocacy Day on the Hill, where NHC members were able to take advantage of the timing of the Solutions convening to meet with their congressional representatives, senators and administration officials. On Thursday and Friday, I attended the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) biannual Mortgage Roundtable with other senior leaders in affordable housing, where we heard from top economists from NAHB, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the housing markets, and spoke at length with Treasury’s Craig Phillips and HUD’s Brian Montgomery, who also joined us at Solutions. This week, Linda Mandolini, NHC’s board chair and president of Eden Housing, past Board Chair Ted Chandler, COO of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust and several dozen other NHC members attended the New York Housing Conference’s Awards Luncheon. There, I had an opportunity to address 1,200 New York housing leaders, following one of the best speeches I’ve heard in a long time, delivered by new House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn in one of the most diverse congressional districts in the nation. And today, I bid farewell to my former boss and one of my personal heroes, former President George H. W. Bush at the Capitol Rotunda. Like I said, it’s been a whirlwind week!
Here are a few of the highlights I’d like to share with you:
- Solutions 2018 was our best yet and I am so proud of our staff, who put it together with two thirds of our full headcount. Our press release on the event summarizes key highlights, but I want to use this space to thank Andrea Nesby, Tristan Bréaux and Amanda Mitchell for doing such an awesome job. I also appreciate the leadership of our panel moderators: NHC Board Secretary Janis Smith (Janis Smith Executive Communications), Mercedeh Mortazavi (JPMorgan Chase & Co. Foundation), Maurice A. Jones (LISC) and Buzz Roberts (NAAHL).
- Special thanks to our sponsors, especially JPMorgan Chase and Co., Wells Fargo, National Association of Home Builders, Bank of America, Quicken Loans, Manufactured Housing Institute, Ballard Spahr LLP, Council of Federal Home Loan Banks, Goldman Sachs, Habitat for Humanity International and Tennessee Housing Development Agency.
- Next year, we look forward to another great convening on Dec. 3 and an even more robust Advocacy Day on Dec. 4, in partnership with several of our leading members.
- At the NAHB Mortgage Roundtable, several interesting fact points were discussed during the market presentations:
- One in five Millennials aged 25-34 currently live with their parents – the highest percentage in recent history and double that of a decade ago. This despite a booming job market for this demographic. Inadequate supply of entry level housing is a major driver of the disparity.
- Single family starts dropped 80 percent from top to bottom during the housing crisis and remain only 69 percent of “normal” today – stubbornly below one million units per year and well below a health and traditional 1.3 million units.
- Rising interest rates, which may have reached a plateau, traditionally depress housing purchases for six months until the market psychology adjusts, as long as they don’t rise again, which resets the six-month timeline.
- Regulations account for one-third of multifamily development costs. These factors include changing building codes, development requirements, fees, zoning approval costs and other factors.
- Repeat buyers declined in all price tiers during the crisis and remain well below historic norms. This “move-up market” is an important component of a healthy housing economy.
- On Tuesday, Congressman Jeffries laid out a compelling housing agenda for the 116th Congress. He called for a robust investment in affordable housing, addressing raising rental costs, creating more opportunities for African-American homeownership and addressing the obstacle facing so many for down payment assistance. He is ready to roll up his sleeves in the new Congress and find common ground solutions to housing in America.
- I noted several specific ways that the 116th Congress can address fundamental housing needs, including:
- Expanding the affordable housing tax credit, which will increase production of affordable rental units for those making less than 80 percent of area median income.
- Fully funding HUD’s budget in the FY 2019 appropriations bill, especially when it comes to RAD and Section 8.
- Repealing the state and local tax increases in the tax bill – while they were very effective in creating a blue wave in Orange County, California and other areas, they have also increased the cost of buying a home as well as effectively raising taxes on the middle class in most states.
- I also announced a yearlong initiative to work with our members “to craft a bold and effective national housing policy for the 21st Century. Our goal is to have its key elements in the political platforms of both parties and make quality, affordable housing for all a key campaign issue in 2020 and the objective of the first bill to be introduced in the 117th Congress, HR-1 in 2021.”
Finally, I want to share a few reflections about former President Bush, who will be laid to rest with his wife Barbara and daughter Robin in Texas on Thursday. When President Bush was in Congress, the first Republican to represent his Houston district – ever – he faced virulent opposition from his constituents on the Fair Housing Act. Over 1100 letters were received, all but two against the landmark legislation. Bush had just been to Vietnam, where he took note of the disproportionate number of African-Americans serving and dying for their country.
Knowing his vote would likely cost him his seat in Congress, he reflected at a Town Hall shortly after the vote, “They were fighting, and some were dying, for the ideals of this Country; some talked about coming back to get married and to start their lives over. Somehow it seems fundamental that this guy should have a hope. A hope that if he saves some money, and if he wants to break out of a ghetto, and if he is a good character and if he meets every requirement of purchaser—the door will not be slammed [because of his race].” He voted for the bill and lost his next election. He also kept his integrity intact, demonstrated real leadership, and taught people like me a lesson about the importance of doing the right thing. I learned about this firsthand 20 years later when I worked on many of the most consequential foreign policy issues of my lifetime at the State Department, led by his lifelong friend, James A. Baker III. Bush was a great and a good man and his humble, yet ambitious leadership is missed by me and our grateful nation.
David M. Dworkin
NHC President and CEO