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HAC News: February 20, 2013

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February 20, 2013
Vol. 42, No. 4

• USDA and HUD estimate sequestration impacts • Key congressional committees set agendas • USDA allows more debt for energy efficient homes • Section 523 grantees to be funded at 40%, pending appropriations • CDFI bond guarantee program implemented • HUD issues final fair housing rule on discriminatory effects • Regulators set four final rules on mortgages • HAC posts its comments to CFPB on ability to repay • USDA issues final broadband program rule • HUD extends FHA PowerSaver home energy retrofit pilot • HUD proposes some streamlining for FHA single-family insurance • Transit oriented development is subject of HAC blog post • HAC publishes Native American homelessness toolkit


February 20, 2013
Vol. 42, No. 4

USDA AND HUD ESTIMATE SEQUESTRATION IMPACTS. In a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that if funding for the remainder of FY13 is cut on March 1 (see HAC News, 2/6/13), USDA will need to eliminate Rental Assistance for 10,000 households, not only making their homes unaffordable but also reducing funds available to owners for maintenance and mortgage payments. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan testified before the committee on February 14, detailing numerous potential program cuts at HUD.

KEY CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES SET AGENDAS. HAC has posted a comparison of the action plans for the 113th Congress set by the congressional committees that have authority over housing programs. The House Financial Services Committee Oversight Plan mentions the impact of 2010 Census data on eligibility for USDA housing programs (see HAC News, 9/26/12). The House committee amended the plan as first proposed by Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), adding a paragraph on veterans housing and deleting language critical of NAHASDA and CDBG.

USDA ALLOWS MORE DEBT FOR ENERGY EFFICIENT HOMES. To replace the discontinued Rural Energy Plus program (see HAC News, 9/26/12) for Section 502 direct loans, an Unnumbered Letter dated February 14, 2013 tells agency staff that because energy efficiency lowers utility costs, it may be treated as a “compensating factor” that indicates a homebuyer can safely assume more debt than USDA’s standard amount. Rural Energy Plus remains in place for Section 502 guaranteed loans. Contact Christopher Ketner, RD, 202-690-1530.

SECTION 523 GRANTEES TO BE FUNDED AT 40%, PENDING APPROPRIATIONS. Using funds carried over from FY12 and appropriated for FY13 through March 27, USDA will renew contracts of performing self-help grantees at 40% of the amount of their two-year contracts. New contract language will say each grantee may not start more than 40% of the units proposed for the first year of its contract until additional funds are appropriated.

CDFI BOND GUARANTEE PROGRAM IMPLEMENTED. An interim rule makes this new program effective on April 8, and the CDFI Fund will also accept comments until that date. The CDFI Fund will guarantee bonds issued by approved CDFIs to raise lending capital. Contact Lisa M. Jones, CDFI Fund, 202-653-0421.

HUD ISSUES FINAL FAIR HOUSING RULE ON DISCRIMINATORY EFFECTS. The regulation formalizes the standard and process for determining whether a practice had a discriminatory effect, regardless of whether there was an intent to discriminate. Contact Jeanine Worden, HUD, 202-402-5188.

REGULATORS SET FOUR FINAL RULES ON MORTGAGES, implementing provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued final regulations on mortgage servicing under RESPA and the Truth in Lending Act (contact Whitney Patross, CFPB, 202-435-7700) and on loan originator compensation and related requirements (contact Daniel C. Brown, CFPB, 202-435-7700). Other regulators joined CFPB to set a regulation that requires appraisals for higher-risk mortgages (contact Lorna Neill, Federal Reserve Board, 202-452-3667).

HAC POSTS ITS COMMENTS TO CFPB ON ABILITY TO REPAY. Visit HAC’s website.Comments are due February 25 (see HAC News, 2/6/13). Contact Mike Feinberg, HAC, 202-842-8600.

USDA ISSUES FINAL BROADBAND PROGRAM RULE. The Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program funds the costs of construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment for rural broadband service. Contact a Rural Development office.

HUD EXTENDS FHA POWERSAVER HOME ENERGY RETROFIT PILOT. FHA insurance will continue to be available through May 4, 2015 for loans to homeowners to finance energy-saving alterations, repairs, and improvements in existing structures or manufactured homes. Contact Patricia McBarron, HUD, 202-708-2121.

HUD PROPOSES SOME STREAMLINING FOR FHA SINGLE-FAMILY INSURANCE. The changes would eliminate the FHA Inspector Roster and the requirement for a 10-year protection plan for high loan-to-value mortgages for newly constructed single-family homes. Comments are due April 8, 2013. Contact Karin Hill, HUD, 202-708-2121.

TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT IS SUBJECT OF HAC BLOG POST. HAC’s latest post on Shelterforce magazine’s Rooflines blog is “What Does the Push for Transit Oriented Development Mean for Rural Areas?” Readers can comment on the blog or on the LinkedIn discussion about this post.

HAC PUBLISHES NATIVE AMERICAN HOMELESSNESS TOOLKIT. Conducting Homeless Counts on Native American Lands – A Toolkit highlights steps, tools, and methods that can be used by American Indian, Alaska Native, and Hawaiian Home Lands communities to obtain accurate counts. Print copies are available from Dan Stern, HAC, 202-842-8600, for $4.00 including shipping and handling.

HAC News: February 6, 2013

HAC News Formats. pdf

February 6, 2013
Vol. 42, No. 3

• February is African American History Month • Series of federal funding decision points looms • Senate committee requests input on its budget resolution • Hurricane Sandy funds approved • HUD offers grants for Native American construction research • Downpayment sources for FHA mortgages addressed • USDA expands Section 502 refinance pilot • RD will continue to accept third-party inspections for 502 direct • Post-closing servicing requirements for MPR properties reiterated • RD addresses servicing for 515 borrowers who received damages • CFPB seeks comments on ability-to-pay rules • CFPB expands HOEPA coverage and housing counseling requirement • CFPB requires copies of appraisals • HUD requests ideas on AHS changes • 44% of U.S. households are “liquid asset poor” • History of rural housing programs summarized in HAC blog post


February 6, 2013
Vol. 42, No. 3

FEBRUARY IS AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH. President Obama’s proclamation is posted online.

SERIES OF FEDERAL FUNDING DECISION POINTS LOOMS. March 1: Automatic, across-the-board spending cuts in discretionary domestic programs (5.1%) and defense will occur unless Congress acts to avert them. March date unknown: The Administration will release its FY14 budget proposal. March 27: The continuing resolution that has provided FY13 funding ends and the government will shut down unless Congress takes action. April 15: Legislators’ salaries will begin to be escrowed as required by the debt ceiling increase bill signed into law by President Obama on February 4, unless/until Congress passes a concurrent budget resolution for FY14. A budget resolution is not binding, so the appropriations committees can begin considering FY14 funding bills without it. May 18/August date unknown: The debt ceiling is suspended through May 18 and then it increases by a formula that is expected to enable the federal government to continue meeting its debts until sometime in August.

SENATE COMMITTEE REQUESTS INPUT ON ITS BUDGET RESOLUTION. Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA) invites comments and suggestions online.

HURRICANE SANDY FUNDS APPROVED. On January 29 President Obama signed into law a $50.5 billion supplemental appropriations bill that includes $16 billion in disaster CDBG funding for jurisdictions impacted by Hurricane Sandy or any other presidentially declared disaster in 2011, 2012, or 2013.

HUD OFFERS GRANTS FOR NATIVE AMERICAN CONSTRUCTION RESEARCH. Tribes, nonprofits, foundations, and institutions of higher education can apply by March 25 for the Transformation Initiative: Sustainable Construction in Indian Country Small Grant Program. Contact Mike Blanford, HUD, 202-402-5728.

USDA EXPANDS SECTION 502 REFINANCE PILOT. Fifteen states and Puerto Rico are added to the original 19 states (see HAC News, 2/8/12) where Section 502 direct and guaranteed borrowers who are current on payments can refinance to guaranteed loans with lower interest rates. Administrative Notice 4707 is available online or from USDA offices. Contact a USDA office or Kristina Zehr, RD, 309-452-0830, ext. 111.

RD WILL CONTINUE TO ACCEPT THIRD-PARTY INSPECTIONS FOR 502 DIRECT. An Unnumbered Letter dated January 7, 2013 repeats an October 27, 2011 UL.

POST-CLOSING SERVICING REQUIREMENTS FOR MPR PROPERTIES REITERATED. An Unnumbered Letter dated January 22, 2013 repeats a June 21, 2011 UL.

RD ADDRESSES SERVICING FOR 515 BORROWERS WHO RECEIVED DAMAGES. A UL reminds field staff that owners who received damages after settling prepayment litigation are not eligible for incentives or for prepayment.

CFPB SEEKS COMMENTS ON ABILITY-TO-PAY RULES. Comments are due February 25 on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau amendments to its ability-to-pay/qualified mortgage regulation (see HAC News, 1/23/13). Possible changes include exemptions for nonprofits, HFAs, and NFP grantees, and qualified mortgage status for small lenders. HAC will try to make its comments available before the deadline. Contact Jennifer B. Kozma, CFPB, 202-435-7700.

CFPB EXPANDS HOEPA COVERAGE AND HOUSING COUNSELING REQUIREMENT. A final rule expands the types of high cost mortgage loans that are subject to the Home Ownership and Equity Protections Act; imposes new requirements on HOEPA-covered mortgages, including a pre-loan counseling requirement; and exempts reverse mortgages (which were previously exempt), initial construction loans, loans originated and financed by housing finance agencies, and USDA Section 502 direct loans. Contact Richard Arculin, CFPB, 202-435-7700.

CFPB REQUIRES COPIES OF APPRAISALS. Another final rule implements a requirement for lenders to provide applicants with copies of appraisals in connection with applications for first lien mortgages, rather than providing copies only when applicants request them. Contact Owen Bonheimer, CFPB, 202-435-7000.

HUD REQUESTS IDEAS ON AHS CHANGES. HUD seeks input by April 2 on concerns related to redesigning the American Housing Survey sample, content that should be added or dropped, and ideas for data dissemination. Contact Shawn Bucholtz, HUD, 202-402-5538. HAC will try to make its comments available before the deadline.

44% OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS ARE “LIQUID ASSET POOR” and 26% are “net worth asset poor.” The Corporation for Enterprise Development’s 2013 Assets and Opportunities Scorecard reports that most of these low-asset households have below-poverty level incomes, and a disproportionate number are minorities. Additional data, including state figures, are available online.

HISTORY OF RURAL HOUSING PROGRAMS SUMMARIZED IN HAC BLOG POST. HAC’s latest post on Shelterforce magazine’s Rooflines blog is “So Why Are Those Rural Housing Programs at USDA Anyway?”

HAC News: January 23, 2013

HAC News Formats. pdf

January 23, 2013
Vol. 42, No. 2

• OMB tells agencies to plan for sequester, CBPP reports smaller cuts • Administration’s FY14 budget will be late • Congressional leadership changes still in process • Secretaries Vilsack and Donovan to remain in new Administration • NOFAs issued for Housing Counseling, ICDBG, Healthy Homes, YouthBuild, SHOP • Some rural mortgages exempt from new escrow rule • New poverty guidelines released • HUD compiles environmental training webinars • Many Blacks and Latinos would be impacted by sequestration • Smart Growth America supports reexamination of priorities • HAC blog post tackles Native American homelessness

January 23, 2013
Vol. 42, No. 2

OMB tells agencies to plan for sequester, CBPP reports smaller cuts. A memo from the Office of Management and Budget advises federal agencies to intensify planning for possible sequestration, but not to take action yet. Unless Congress changes the law, federal funding will be cut on March 1. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that because of changes made in the tax deal (see HAC News, 1/10/13) the cut for non-defense discretionary programs including housing will be 5.1% rather than the previously expected 8.2%.

Administration’s FY14 budget will be late. OMB informed House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan on January 11 that delays in congressional action on the “fiscal cliff” delayed the Administration’s FY14 budget preparations and the budget will be submitted after the February 4 due date. OMB does not give a specific release date.

Congressional leadership changes still in process. In the 113th Congress, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is the new chair of Senate Appropriations. For House Appropriations, Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ) is the new ranking member (top Democrat) on the Transportation-HUD Subcommittee. Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) continues as ranking member on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. The new chair of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has not yet been announced, nor have the top Senate Republicans on both Appropriations and Banking. All committees also have some new members, as in any new Congress.

Secretaries Vilsack and Donovan to remain in new Administration. Tom Vilsack will continue to serve as Secretary of Agriculture and Shaun Donovan as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

NOFAs issued for Housing Counseling, ICDBG, Healthy Homes, YouthBuild, SHOP. Housing Counseling applications are due March 18; contact HUD staff, housing.counseling@hud.gov. Indian Community Development Block Grant applications are due March 18; contact Roberta Youmans, HUD, 202-402-3316. Academics, nonprofits, for-profits, state and local governments, and tribes can apply for Healthy Homes Technical Studies funds by March 19; contact Dr. Peter Ashley, HUD, 202-402-7595. YouthBuild applications from nonprofits, state and local governments, and tribes are due to the Employment and Training Administration by March 19; contact Kia Mason, ETA, 202-693-2606. Intermediaries can apply by April 24 for Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program funds to be loaned to others; contact Ginger Macomber, HUD, 202-402-4605.

Some rural mortgages exempt from new escrow rule. Effective June 1, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will require private mortgage lenders to maintain escrow accounts for “higher-priced” loans for five years rather than one year. Small portfolio lenders that serve primarily rural or underserved areas and do not escrow for other mortgages are exempt. “Rural” is defined on a county basis: “a county is rural if it is neither in a metropolitan statistical area nor in a micropolitan statistical area that is adjacent to a metropolitan statistical area.” CFBP will publish a list of these counties. Contact David Friend, CFPB, 202-435–7700.

New poverty guidelines released. The Department of Health and Human Services has adjusted its poverty guidelines to account for a 2.1% increase in the cost of living from 2011 to 2012. For programs that use this benchmark, the 2013 poverty line for a family of four in the continental U.S. is $23,550.

HUD compiles environmental training webinars. Online sessions from 2011 and 2012 covering a variety of topics related to environmental reviews are at www.onecpd.info/learning-center/environmental-review-training/.

Many Blacks and Latinos would be impacted by sequestration. A study by the Center for Social Inclusion found higher numbers (not percentages) of Blacks and Latinos than Whites will be impacted if sequestration goes into effect. Based on program funding cuts of 8.2% (not the 5.1% currently estimated by CBPP; see first item in this HAC News) to non-defense discretionary programs, about 115,000 Black and Latino individuals would lose HUD tenant-based vouchers, 90,000 would lose homelessness assistance, and almost 850,000 would lose LIHEAP home energy aid. Falling Off the Fiscal Cliff? Race, Opportunity and Sequestration also includes data for a few individual states.

Smart Growth America supports reexamination of priorities. Federal Involvement in Real Estate: A Call for Examination reports that in 2008 federal housing spending (direct and through taxes) averaged $6,253 for households with incomes of $200,000 and above, $254 for those with incomes in the $30,000-40,000 range, and $833 for those with incomes under id=”mce_marker”0,000. It also notes that 84% of federal real estate funding supports home-ownership while 35% of households are renters. SGA suggests that federal policy be targeted to support balanced housing choices; reinvest in existing places and properties; provide a safety net; and help more Americans reach the middle class.

HAC blog post tackles Native American homelessness. Based on a forthcoming guide from HAC and the Corporation for Supportive Housing, “Counting Better: A Step Toward Addressing Native American Homelessness” recommends local counts of homeless people on Native lands to document the need for assistance.


HAC News: January 10, 2013

HAC News Formats. pdf

January 10, 2013
Vol. 42, No. 1

• Tax deal delays sequestration • USDA offers MPR preservation funds • ROSS Service Coordinators applications invited • Funds available for CDFIs • CFPB changes “qualified residential mortgage” definition • USDA RD proposes civil money penalties • Comments sought on Section 202 preservation rental aid • Farmworker housing RA being monitored • New guide explains how to combine HOME and LIHTC • HUD describes new fair housing assessment and planning process • Report describes successes of Section 502 direct and Section 523 self-help • HAC blog posts cover data, review 2012

January 10, 2013
Vol. 42, No. 1

TAX DEAL DELAYS SEQUESTRATION. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, the deal reached by the Administration and Congress to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” delays until March 1 the 8.2% across-the-board spending cuts that would have been effective January 1 (see HAC News, 9/26/12), while lowering the caps for FY13 discretionary spending. It also extends for one year a 9% credit floor for Low Income Housing Tax Credit deals and extends the New Markets Tax Credit for 2012 and 2013. In February and March Congress will be faced with decisions about sequestration, the U.S. debt ceiling, and the continuing resolution for FY13 funding that expires on March 27.

USDA OFFERS MPR PRESERVATION FUNDS. Pre-applications for the Multi-Family Housing Preservation and Revitalization Demonstration Program for Sections 515 and 514/516 are due February 28. Unfunded applications from previous years will receive priority. No new Rental Assistance is available. The notice and pre-application form are available in the Federal Register and on RD’s website. Contact an RD state office, Sherry Engel, RD, 715-345-7677, or Tiffany Tietz, RD, 616-942-4111, ext. 126.

ROSS SERVICE COORDINATORS APPLICATIONS INVITED.Nonprofits, PHAs, tribes/TDHEs, and resident associations can apply by February 19 for Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency Service Coordinator funding. Details are posted on HUD’s website and at grants.gov. Contact Dina Lehmann-Kim, HUD, 202-402-2430.

FUNDS AVAILABLE FOR CDFIS. Community Development Financial Institutions and Native CDFIs can apply by February 28 for financial or technical assistance monies from the CDFI Fund, subject to appropriations. Contact agency staff, 202-653-0421.

CFPB CHANGES “QUALIFIED RESIDENTIAL MORTGAGE” DEFINITION. A regulation proposed in May 2011, intended to ensure that consumers receive mortgages they can repay, would have strongly discouraged non-governmental mortgages with downpayments under 20%. The final rule, announced on January 10, drops the downpayment standard and uses instead a 43% debt-to-income ratio, along with numerous other requirements. Some balloon payment mortgages would be allowed if made by small creditors in rural and underserved areas. CFPB requests comment on some amendments, including one to define as QRMs all mortgages made and held in portfolio by small creditors. The comment deadline will be set when the rule is published in the Federal Register.

USDA RD PROPOSES CIVIL MONEY PENALTIES. Comments are due February 4 on a proposed rule intended to create more effective civil monetary penalties, along with due process protections, for violations of housing program statutes, regulations, and loan documents. Contact Stephanie White, RD, 202-720-1615.

COMMENTS SOUGHT ON SECTION 202 PRESERVATION RENTAL AID. Comments are due March 11 on proposed 20-year Senior Preservation Rental Assistance Contracts that would prevent displacement when Section 202 properties are refinanced or recapitalized. Contact Margaret Salazar, HUD, 202-708-2495.

FARMWORKER HOUSING RA BEING MONITORED. An Unnumbered Letter issued December 13, 2012 explains that USDA is monitoring transfer of Section 521 Rental Assistance from Section 514/516 Farm Labor Housing properties to ensure RA is transferred to other FLH properties when possible, in compliance with the continuing resolution that funds the program through March 27. Contact Janet Stouder, RD, 202-720-9728.

NEW GUIDE EXPLAINS HOW TO COMBINE HOME AND LIHTC. HOME and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Guidebook, published by HUD, addresses compliance with the requirements of both programs.

HUD DESCRIBES NEW FAIR HOUSING ASSESSMENT AND PLANNING PROCESS. In its Statement of Regulatory Priorities for FY13, HUD says it plans to issue a proposed rule in April changing how it administers its obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. It will replace the existing analysis of impediments requirement with a fair housing assessment and planning process, hoping to create a more direct link between fair housing and Consolidated Plans or PHA Plans. Contact Patrick Pontius, HUD, 202-402-3273.

REPORT DESCRIBES SUCCESSES OF SECTION 502 DIRECT AND SECTION 523 SELF-HELP. A new National Rural Housing Coalition publication shows how these programs have expanded homeownership opportunities to some of the nation’s poorest rural families at little expense to the federal government. The report is free online or $10 from NRHC. Contact Sarah Mickelson, NRHC, 202-393-5225.

HAC BLOG POSTS COVER DATA, REVIEW 2012. In December HAC contributed two posts to Shelterforce magazine’s Rooflines blog. “Basic Challenges Outlast Housing Crisis in Rural America” presents some key findings from HAC’s Taking Stock report. “10 Things That Did Not Happen in Rural Housing in 2012” lists several things that should have happened but did not, and also observes that housing advocates did not give up.

What Does an Affordable Rural Rental Housing Strategy Look Like?

What Does an Affordable Rural Rental Housing Strategy Look Like?

By Leslie Strauss
May 22, 2012

Affordable housing advocates were happy recently to see the Senate Appropriations Committee tell the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get its act together on rental housing. USDA’s FY12 budget proposed to eliminate funding for the department’s flagship Section 515 rental housing loan program and focus its efforts on the Multi-Family Housing Revitalization Program known as MPR. Then the FY13 budget took the opposite approach, proposing to focus on Section 515 and eliminate funding for MPR. In S.Rpt. 112-163 the frustrated Senate committee “directs the Secretary, conclusively, to determine and articulate an effective long-term strategy to address rural rental housing needs.”

Read the full blog post…