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Federal Update

Progress and policy
in the other Washington

October 1, 2021

Multifamily Housing: All Hands on Deck

 

As we speak, the fate of two infrastructure bills will determine the fate of affordable housing's best chance in years for major policy and funding wins. Now is the time for our Congress members to hear the message that housing IS infrastructure.

Specifically, the opportunity is the $3.5 trillion Democrat-only reconciliation bill, aka Build Back Better, which includes housing and other “social safety net” priorities beyond roads, bridges and broadband. Among its plethora of housing investments are all the most important provisions of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act introduced in the Senate by our Senator Maria Cantwell, and in the House by our Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (with Republican sponsors from other states).

 

The AHCIA has gained bipartisan ground in every Congress, attracting cosponsors from both parties. Rather than passing the bill as a stand-alone, the goal of advocates is to attach its key provisions bill to a suitable vehicle. And the best opportunity in decades has arrived: infrastructure legislation.

 

The good news is there’s a lot of support for these key housing provisions. But at this moment, with dissension among progressive and moderate Democrats about how to proceed on both major bills – the $1 trillion infrastructure package and the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better – the fate of housing priorities is very unclear. It will depend on what total dollar figure the Democrats can agree on, and what will get cut back or jettisoned from the final bill to lighten the impact. 

In August, all seven of our state’s Democratic members signed a letter to House leaders urging them to include the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA) in Build Back Better--so we know they are on board. But with intense pressure to cut billions out of the bill, Congressional leaders need to hear from Democrat members again, loudly, that housing should be at number one.

 

 

Homeownership: Positive Steps Forward

 

After many years of leadership focused on maximizing profit at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, instead of promoting affordable homeownership, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is under new management and making big changes.

 

In just a few months since President Biden ousted the FHFA director (thanks to a Supreme Court decision) and appointed Sandra Thompson, Thompson has lowered barriers for borrowers, signed an agreement with HUD to align fair-lending policies, and proposed a big expansion of Fannie and Freddie’s affordable housing goals for 2022-24—which now include increasing loans for lower-income borrowers and those in “minority” census tracts.

 

FHFA is also requiring Fannie and Freddie to each submit a three-year plan for advancing equity in housing finance—defined as identifying barriers to sustainable housing opportunities, setting goals to address those barriers, undertaking meaningful actions to address those barriers, and reporting on progress. The plans are due to FHFA by December 31, 2021.

 

What’s more, FHFA has invited public comment by releasing a Request for Input that requests detailed feedback on objectives such as reducing the racial homeownership gap and reducing underinvestment in formerly redlined areas.

 

Read why this document is important in this excellent article by the National Housing Conference – and read the document itself here.

About the Federal Update

In advocating for federal legislation and policy that touches affordable housing, the Commission’s focus is primarily on two issues: multifamily housing finance, specifically the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program and private-activity bonds; and homeownership financing, especially the policies set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

 

We work closely with the National Council of State Housing Agencies and tune in to other national partners such as the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Housing Conference, and the Rental Action Campaign. In our newsletter, we may not be able to offer the very latest give and take from the Capitol, but we’ll share the big picture and where to find more information.