The United for Homes campaign has recently made significant steps forward on two fronts: the appointment of Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the renewed push by Representative Keith Ellison for co-sponsorships for H.R. 1213, the Common Sense Housing Investment Act.
The Watt Appointment
Mr. Mel Watt was nominated by President Obama in May 2013 and finally confirmed after changes in the U.S. Senate rules on December 10, 2013. Mr. Watt has been a stalwart supporter of the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and opportunities for low income people. His confirmation enjoys broad support from civil rights groups, housing advocates, and leaders in the banking and mortgage industries.
What This Could Mean for the NHTF
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is the agency that regulates government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As director of the FHFA, Mr. Watt now holds the authority to require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide funding to the NHTF, as was initially intended by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s statutory obligation to contribute to the NHTF was temporarily suspended when the GSEs were taken into conservatorship in 2008.
As Director, Mr. Watt would have the authority to lift the suspensions. Now that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are reporting booming profits, contributions to the NHTF could begin soon. Once funded, the NHTF will provide the first new federal money for rental housing production targeted to extremely low income families since the Section 8 program was passed in 1974. With the implementation of the NHTF in partnership with State and Local Trust Funds, we can begin to robustly address the acute shortage of low cost rental housing and seek to end homelessness in our country.
Representative Ellison Letter
With the appointment of Watt there is renewed energy on the National level to fight for affordable housing revenue. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is circulating a new “Dear Colleague” letter dated January 7, asking members of the House of Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 1213, the Common Sense Housing Investment Act, which includes the United for Homes Campaign’s proposed changes to the mortgage interest deduction and would apply the majority of the revenue raised by the changes to the NHTF. The bill currently has 10 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
In the letter, Mr. Ellison cited a December 18 “chart book” post by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The federal government spent $270 billion in 2012 to help Americans buy or rent homes, but little of that spending went to the families who struggle the most to afford housing.” Click here for link to letter.
Mr. Ellison said in the letter, “changes to the mortgage interest deduction are being considered as part of tax reform. My bill retains those funds in housing and targets them to those most in need of a safe and affordable option by investing in public housing, the National Housing Trust Fund and an expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.”
2014 could be a pivotal year for the NHTF. To keep up to date on activities and actions go to the United for Homes campaign website at: www.unitedforhomes.org