Federal News

Americans Gain Confidence in Housing Market, But Not with Affordability.

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

The Oregonian – Elliot Njus

Americans are regaining their confidence in the housing market and in homeownership as a long-term investment — but they’re also seeing their access to it slip away.

That according to a survey conducted for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which first commissioned Hart Research Associates to conduct the annual survey in 2013. The survey found that a vast majority of Americans believe housing affordability is a problem, and that the inability of some to access housing they can comfortably afford is weakening the middle class.

“I think what America is trying to tell us through this survey is that the lack of safe and affordable housing … deserves the same kind of discussion as the cost of education, or the cost of health care,” said Geoffrey Garin, one of the researchers.

Americans are slowly warming to homeownership again after a plunge in home values during the recession wiped out the wealth of millions of American families.

Most respondents (56 percent) now say homeownership offers long-term benefits. That’s a shift from 2013, when home values were just beginning to rebound and the majority of respondents (57 percent) said homeownership had lost its appeal.

But they feel that homeownership is increasingly out of reach.

Click here to read the entire article.

USDA to Give Priority Funding for Regional Economic Development Projects

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced USDA’s plan to implement a Farm Bill provision that will have a major policy impact on the way the Department helps rural communities plan and finance regional economic development strategies. The new Regional Development Priority (RDP) policy will make it easier for rural communities to access resources to invest in long-term community development efforts by giving priority to applications for Rural Development programs that include regional partnerships and strategies.

Under the RDP, communities with multi-jurisdictional economic plans will be able to request funding priority when they apply for loans and grants in four key USDA programs. These programs help finance a variety of infrastructure, business and community development needs. They are:

Applicants seeking priority consideration will be judged by (1) how well their funding request supports a region’s existing development plan, and (2) how well the plan addresses regional collaboration and considers other funding sources including philanthropic groups and other federal agencies. Projects that receive funding will be based on locally identified needs and growth strategies that capitalize upon a region’s unique strengths.

To see the full article please click here.

White House Hosts Build America Roundtable To Address Pressures On the Nation’s Infrastructure

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

On May 5, the White House convened a Build America Investment Initiative roundtable of nearly 80 public and private sector leaders to discuss ways to encourage more and better infrastructure systems. This Initiative calls on federal agencies to find new ways to increase investment in infrastructure systems (roads, bridges, transit, broadband, water and sewer, etc.) by facilitating partnerships between Federal, State, and local governments and private sector (nonprofit and philanthropic) investorsThe Obama Administration released a Federal Guide to Infrastructure Planning and Design in conjunction with the Build America Roundtable, which includes case studies, a federal resource guide, and a set of predevelopment principles which set communities on a path towards better infrastructure investments.


New Report: Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Communities

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Many communities across the country have been revitalizing their older neighborhoods, traditional downtowns, and central business districts. However, economically distressed communities have been less able to attract this kind of infill development and attain the accompanying economic, environmental health, and quality of life benefits.

EPA’s new report, Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Communities: 30 Strategies, can help these communities determine their readiness to pursue infill development and identify strategies to better position themselves to attract infill development.

· It presents strategies and case studies to establish priorities, policies, and partnerships and change public perceptions, which can help make infill development more feasible.
· It discusses innovative strategies to help finance infill development and replace aging infrastructure.
· It includes comprehensive self-assessment questions communities can answer to determine if they are ready to pursue infill development and if particular strategies are appropriate for their context.
Many of the strategies in this publication stem from work in Fresno, California, that was part of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative, which provides intensive technical assistance and capacity building to economically distressed cities. EPA and the state of California partnered with the city to convene a task force of experts in development finance, law, public policy, planning, and business to identify strategies to promote infill that were feasible in Fresno’s challenging economic and fiscal environment. EPA developed this publication based in part on the task force’s work.

To download Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Communities: 30 Strategies, go to www2.epa.gov/smart-growth/attracting-infill-development-distressed-communities.

To learn more about EPA’s work on smart growth and infill development, go towww2.epa.gov/smart-growth/smart-growth-brownfields-and-infill-development.

Upcoming HUD Trainings for Partners

Friday, May 29th, 2015

(1)            Native American Programs: Procurement for NAHASA Workshop, June 3-5

This course is hosted by HUD’s Northwest Office of Native American Programs  and the Seminole Tribe of Florida Native Learning Center.  Sound procurement for NAHSDA is critical to the development and maintenance of Tribal housing.  These policies ensure that contracts are awarded competitively and that goods and services are purchased at cost-effective rates, that also promote fair and open competition for businesses within the community.  This three day training will provide participants with an opportunity to delve into the procurement process under NAHASA and will be interactive and use case studies and exercises to learn best practices and from peers.

The training will take place at the Northwest Indian College in Ferndale, Washington.  The contact for the event is Lisa Stewart who can be reach at Lisa.Stewart@hud.gov or (206)220-6166.  For more information and to register for the event, you can visit this link.


(2)            Native American Programs: Workshop on Community 
Needs Assessment, June 23-24

This course hosted by HUD’s Northwest Office of Native American Programs and the National American Indian Housing Council focuses on two key elements of successfully housing development efforts: the needs assessment and community engagement strategies, which are key to ensuring the community members are engaged over the long-term, and a Tribally Designated Housing Entity (TDHE) has prepared, qualified tenants or homeowners once housing units are constructed.

The training will take place in Portland at the Downtown Marriot (1401 SW Main Parkway Portland, OR 97201).  The contact for the event is Lisa Stewart who can be reached at Lisa.Stewart@hud.gov or(206)220-6166.  For more information and to register for the event, you can visit this link.

(3)            Federal Labor Standards Training, July 9-10

This training is designed for Local Contracting Agencies, Public Housing Authorities, Tribes and CDBG Grantees who are responsible for administering and enforcing Federal labor standards compliance.  Contractors/subcontractors should attend the second day training specifically for issues related to contractor compliance.  Detailed information and registration information can be found at this link.

(4)            Multifamily Preservation Clinic, July 16-17

Save the date for Multifamily Preservation training in the HUD Oregon Field Office. This session will provide owners and managers of HUD Project Based Section 8 and Section 202 Direct Loan properties with tools and strategies to preserve and improve these rental properties.  The afternoon of Thursday, July 16, the HUD Oregon Field Office will host an Oregon-specific session focused on case studies and best practices, and local resources.  On Friday, July 17, participants will have a day-long training led by national experts and HUD Headquarters.  Participants may come to either or both sessions.  More details and registration information are coming soon!

My Central Oregon: How Buying Your First Home Just Got More Affordable

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

The president continued his State of the Union preview tour Thursday in the American southwest, this time focusing on the housing market with a mortgage announcement the administration hopes will add a needed boost to new home sales.

“Buying a home has always been about more than buying a roof and four walls,” President Obama told a packed gymnasium at Phoenix Central High School.

It’s about “that sense of accomplishment that you were building something, for your family and your future.”

Obama has directed his Federal Housing Authority to reduce the fees attached to government loans for home buyers by half a percent, from 1.35 to 0.85 percent. It may seem like a paltry figure, but the White House estimates the lowered premium will put $900 back into the pockets of the average borrower, annually.

The administration says it will also push 250,000 homes into the hands of those who may not be able to afford it otherwise.

In all, Obama expects the move will affect 800,000 homeowners across the United States. The FHA is a popular lender for new buyers and those annual fees are tacked on to each month’s mortgage bill. But they have jumped significantly in the past five years, being a low 0.55 percent in 2010.

The president continues to strongly support long-term housing finance overhaul through legislation that requires private capital to take the risks and rewards in mortgage lending while preserving broad and affordable access for all creditworthy families.

The president also said his administration would continue to cut “red tape” between lenders and borrowers, and promised to preserve “sound underwriting standards” to assure homeowners receive loans they can fully pay. And he touted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s elimination of the “worst practices of the past.”

“Right now, Michelle and I live in rental housing. We don’t own where we live; we’ve got two years remaining on our lease. I’m hoping I get my security deposit back,” Obama quipped. “Although Bo and Sunny have been tearing things up occasionally.”

Before arriving at the high school, the president and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Joaquim Castro visited a single-family housing complex owned by a local nonprofit, Chicanos Por La Causa. The subdivision has received nearly $2 million since 2010 in federal grants related to the Recovery Act.

Prior to the group’s involvement, the neighborhood held 25 vacant and overgrown lots, according to a White House statement. The lot aims to sell homes to families that make $40,000 to $60,000 a year.

The Phoenix suburbs were emblematic of the 2008 housing bubble. For example, the nearby city of Maricopa, with its tiny population of 1,000 at the turn of the millennium, saw a boom to over 33,000 residents by the burst.

Then, suddenly, one in 10 homes was empty again. Dwellings that hadn’t yet lost their “new home smell” were void of life. Since the recovery, the city’s population growth has leveled out, sitting at 45,000 today.

Obama came to this city as the second leg of a three-part tour outlining his upcoming State of the Union address. In Detroit Wednesday, he touted the recovery of the auto industry; Friday he will conclude in Knoxville, Tennessee, to speak on job skills and education.

The decision to give these State of the Union spoilers is an unusual one. Typically, presidents keep the major points of the address under wraps until the night of the annual speech, then tour to promote them afterwards.

Omnibus Spending Bill Signed Into Law; FY 2015 HUD Program Funding Determined

Thursday, January 8th, 2015
On December 16, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government through September 2015. The law provides $45.4 billion for HUD programs. This is $90 million less than the amount allocated to HUD in 2014.
The final FY2015 law avoids the deep cuts to the Housing Choice Voucher administrative fees, public housing capital funding and the HOME Program that were in the House bill. However, the HOME Program was reduced from $1 billion in FY2014 to $900 million in FY 2015, its lowest funding level in the program’s history. CDBG is funded at $3 billion, slightly below the 3.03 billion enacted in FY 2014. The Section 4 Capacity Building for Affordable Housing and Community Development Grants program is level funded at $35 million. The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is funded at $80 million, a $10 million decrease below its FY 2014 funding level. Go to Enterprise’s summary and budget chart for a detailed overview of housing and community development funding levels.

President Obama Speaks to HUD

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

President Obama recently visited the Department of Housing and Urban Development to speak on the transition of HUD Secretary Shawn Donovan to Julian Castro. He offered words of support and encouragement to HUD, but applicable to everyone working hard in the affordable housing industry. Thanks to Tom Cusack at the Oregon Housing Blog for posting it.


National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) State of Play

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Reports on developments related to the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) are a regular feature in Memo to Members. National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and our partners are pursuing multiple avenues to provide revenue for the NHTF. Several NLIHC members have requested a recap of the current state of play. Here’s a brief summary.


HUD to Release NOFAs for $820M for Disaster Resiliency

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Responding to “state, local and tribal leaders who are working to increase the safety and security of their communities,” on June 14th announced the National Disaster Resilience Competition that, under HUD’s direction, will award “nearly $1 billion” to communities that  experienced “Presidentially-declared major disaster in 2011, 2012, and 2013” to “help them rebuild and increase their resilience to future disasters.”  $820 million will be available for applications from all such communities with the balance – some $180 million – will be made available to states affected by Hurricane Sandy  to “address critical housing needs, building on the successful model set forth by HUD’s Rebuild by Design competition.”

HUD is expected shortly to publish a Notice of Funding Availability that will insure the funds support innovative resilience projects at the local level while encouraging communities to adopt policy changes and activities that plan for the impacts of extreme weather and climate change.”  It appears that up to 50 areas in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington might qualify for the assistance. For more on the National Disaster Resilience Competition, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/14/fact-sheet-national-disaster-resilience-competition