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Capitol Express - August 26, 2013

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Capitol Express

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Congressional and Administration News

Sandy Task Force Releases Rebuilding Strategy

On August 19, the federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force submitted a report to President Obama on the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy. The report contains 69 recommendations for continued recovery that focus on promoting resilient rebuilding, ensuring regional coordination and paying special attention to affordable housing as part of the long-term strategy for disaster preparedness. The nine recommendations that focus specifically on affordable housing include: expediting allocations of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, requiring that grantees use CDBG-DR funds to support public and other assisted housing, aligning foreclosure prevention policies, empowering state and local governments to develop model affordable housing programs and identifying opportunities for state and local housing programs to leverage private funds.

A majority of the task force recommendations have already been adopted. Over the course of September and October, the task force will wind down, passing on the job of coordination and oversight of the remaining recommendations to a new team. This team will also track and release federal spending data for Sandy funds.

New FTA Guidance Promotes Affordable Housing Near Transit

On August 14, the Federal Transit Administration released the final Policy Guidance for its Major Capital Investment Projects program, also known as New Starts/Small Starts. This program is the primary federal funding source for new transit investments, and this guidance sets the framework for the program’s competitive evaluation and ratings process. Enterprise and many of its partners have provided feedback to the FTA throughout the rulemaking process, which began in 2010. Our comments focused on promoting the coordination of affordable housing and community development activities with any new transit investments. The Final Rule (released in January 2013) and guidance reflect many of our recommendations, including incentives to expand transit access to low-income communities, preserve existing affordable housing and develop additional affordable units near new stations. We commend FTA for the steps it has taken to ensure that families of all incomes can benefit from transit expansion and the community investment that often follows. For more information, read the latest Policy Focus issue brief - New Starts: Leveraging the New Transit Policy Guidance to Create Inclusive Communities of Opportunity

Housing Credit Advocacy Critical as Congress Begins Drafting Tax Reform Legislation

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-8th) are both planning to mark up comprehensive tax reform legislation this fall, posing the greatest risk to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit) in decades. In the coming weeks, it is critical that members of Congress hear from constituents about the importance of protecting and strengthening this program in draft legislation and convey this message to House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee leadership, as emphasized in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed. If you have not done so already, join the ACTION Campaign to show your support for the Housing Credit, and visit the campaign’s Advocacy Toolkit to access materials including state and district fact sheets and sample letters to members of Congress. 

Key Changes in HOME Program Final Rule

HUD recently released its final rule to significantly amend the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program regulations, as highlighted in the July 29 edition of Capitol Express. Enterprise provided substantive public comments on key changes in the December 2011 proposed rule, including proposals that would significantly impact eligibility requirements for Community Development Housing Organizations (CHDO) receiving HOME funds and responsibilities of Participating Jurisdictions’ (PJ) administering the program.
 
The most significant impact on CHDOs is the new demonstrated capacity requirement to have paid employee staff in order to qualify for HOME set-aside funds. Previously, this requirement could be met through the use of volunteers, staff donated by another organization or consultants. However, the new rule establishes a new definition of “owner,” which will enable CHDOs to receive set-aside funds if they have the capacity to own and operate HOME-assisted housing, even if they do not have capacity to develop it. A minimum 15 percent of HOME funding must be allocated for CHDO set-aside activities. The new regulations institute a number of new requirements for PJs, including a 4-year deadline for HOME projects to be completed after commitment and adoption of new underwriting policy requirements for homeownership assistance to prevent predatory lending and improve projects’ financial viability.
 
Additional key provisions include new timeframe requirements for HOME-assisted homeownership and rental units. Homeownership units without a ratified contract for sale within 9 months of project completion must be converted to rental properties; rental units must be occupied by eligible tenants within 18 months of project completion, or PJs must repay HOME funds for the vacant units. See HUD’s summary of changes in the final rule here.

BPC Public Housing Forums on National Housing Policy: Dallas, Texas

A Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) housing event in Dallas August 13 featured a keynote address by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) on his GSE reform legislation, the PATH Act (Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act). He expressed his determination to bring the bill to the House floor when Congress returns from recess this fall. While Chairman Hensarling said he would be willing to compromise with Democrats in the Senate moving forward, he remains resistant to adding any government guarantee. Also at the event were panels on the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, and market trends. The BPC’s second housing forum scheduled for last week in Sun Valley, Idaho was postponed due to wildfires; the next event will be August 27 in Columbus, Ohio.


Research and Reports

City Housing is Too Expensive for Most Occupations

The National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy's latest edition of Paycheck-to-Paycheck reveals that wages of full-time workers have not kept pace with rising housing costs for most Americans. Looking at the average incomes of housekeepers, wait staff, auto mechanics, front desk managers, flight attendants and other occupations, only flight attendants make enough to cover a typical US mortgage or rent costs. However, for those living in particularly expensive metropolitan areas like Boston, New York and San Francisco, none of these jobs pay enough to cover fair market rent. Households have been forced to either travel further to work (increasing transportation costs) or cut back on other expenses like health care and food. Read more about the Paycheck-to-Paycheck findings at Enterprise’s @The Horizon blog post.


In Case You Missed It

News Updates From the @The Horizon Blog: GSE Reform, Addressing Homelessness, the Latest Research, and More

In recent @The Horizon blog posts, we highlight the latest analysis from Enterprise and other industry stakeholders on housing finance reform, potential solutions and best practices for addressing homelessness, the release of the full HUD Worst Case Housing Needs report, and research on the economic benefits of public transportation, plus much more.

You can also receive Community Developments, a daily @The Horizon blog article that highlights news items that affect affordable housing and community development, as a daily e-mail by subscribing here. You can also visit or subscribe to the Enterprise @the Horizon blog.


Hearings and Events

Congressional Hearing Update

The House and Senate will be in recess until Monday, September 9.There are no hearings scheduled at this time. 

Upcoming Events and Announcements

Several organizations have scheduled housing and community development events on nonprofit development, housing policy and the Housing Credit.
 
August  September

 
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions regarding the Capitol Express newsletter, please email policy@enterprisecommunity.org. You can also follow the policy team on Twitter.