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Tangible, Actionable and Achievable: NHC’s policy priorities for 2023-2024

At NHC’s June meeting of the Board of Governors, our final 2023-2024 policy agenda was approved and has been published on our website. NHC uses its two-year policy agenda to inform its strategic priorities and respond to pressing housing and community development issues. For the balance of this year, our primary focus will be on those items that are most tangible, actionable, and achievable. These are enactment of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act and the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act; reform of the Capital Magnet Fund (CMF), Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and HOME Investment Partnerships programs; and our work on racial equity. Our leadership role in the Black Homeownership Collaborative and the 3by30 initiative is the centerpiece of that work, but we are also engaged in broader racial equity work as well.

NHC’s Policy and Research Committee provides broad, strategic guidance to NHC’s Board of Governors and staff. We received invaluable feedback from our members under the leadership of our co-chairs, Mark Willis and Kimani Little. All of the participants contributed as subject matter experts and not on behalf of their organizations.

Our agenda focuses on nine areas: Affordable Housing Production and Preservation, Community Development, Climate Impact, Expanding Homeownership and Racial Equity, Health and Housing, Housing Security and Sustainability, Homelessness, Regulatory Reform, and Technology and Innovation.

Affordable housing production and preservation is one of our highest priorities

Affordable housing production and preservation is one of our highest priorities because our deficit of 3.79 million housing units is relentlessly feeding our housing affordability crisis. It creates a waterfall of housing unaffordability from the lack of homes for sale to first-time homebuyers to unaffordable rental units for working people and families that ultimately lead to the bleeding edge of the homelessness crisis. Housing is a continuum. Fewer opportunities for homeownership mean more renters and higher rents. Fewer affordable rental units result in increased housing instability and ultimately more people experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, opposition to affordable housing is broad, deep and bipartisan, as we recently saw in New York State and Arlington, Virginia. This is why I say, if you don’t want affordable housing in your backyard, you’ll end up with homeless people in your front yard.

Enactment of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act and Neighborhood Homes Investment Act are essential to beginning to address our shortage of affordable housing, as Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) said in his guest Member Note on May 29, 2023.

Proposals that don’t have strong bipartisan support cannot pass.

While my federal spending goal for affordable housing is always more, we have to be realistic about what we can pass through a highly partisan and divided Congress. Proposals that don’t have strong bipartisan support cannot pass. However, we can achieve genuine progress in making our current regulations more efficient and effective so the limited dollars we do have go further if the Biden Administration listens to stakeholders and takes timely action. The CMF, HCV and HOME programs have proven track records of accomplishment but are unnecessarily bureaucratic. There is no good reason why we can’t make good programs better and stretch every subsidy dollar as far as possible. We are also working with the Federal Housing Finance Agency on administrative changes in how Fannie and Freddie Mac price mortgages and manage risk.

Just this week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund published a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register, seeking public comment regarding methods to improve the impact of the CMF. Public comments are due by September 5. NHC will be responding to this important RFI and working with the Capital Magnet Fund Coalition on recommendations. Some NHC members have told us that the CMF program has become so bureaucratic they don’t bother applying for funds. That’s a shame. Since 2010, the CMF has awarded over $1 billion, generated $20 of additional investment for every $1 of award funding, and created over 43,000 affordable homes, including more than 37,600 rental housing units and 5,500 homeowner-occupied units. The CMF grants are paid for by a fee assessed on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – not taxpayer dollars.

“You’ve got people who signed this letter who are actually suing each other”

NHC has been at the forefront of successful housing legislation since the first housing infrastructure funding in the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. On January 21, 2021, we delivered a letter from a coalition of 38 major housing industry, civil rights and community advocacy organizations urging inclusion of homeowner assistance funding in the American Recovery Act. The Biden administration had opposed including the funding and reversed itself when they saw how broad the support was for it to be in the bill. As one White House staffer remarked after reading the letter, “you’ve got people who signed this letter who are actually suing each other on other issues.” This week, the Treasury Department reported that as of March 31, 2023, the Homeowner Assistance Fund had made $3.7 billion in payments to more than 318,000 homeowners at risk of foreclosure due to the pandemic. The Emergency Rental Assistance program has helped millions more.

During President Biden’s inaugural address, he spoke about his father laying in bed at night, worrying about paying his mortgage. “The longest walk a parent can make,” President Biden has often said, “is up a short flight of stairs to their child’s bedroom to say, honey, I’m sorry. We have to move.” Because of the Homeowner Assistance Fund, hundreds of thousands of parents did not have to make that “longest walk.” That is why our work matters so much. We will never know the vast majority of the people we help, but they will never forget that we did so. I’m looking forward to working with you to do more.

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