January 31, 2013
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Fannie, Freddie offer underwater homeowners a chance to bail
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have approved a new deed-in-lieu program for some borrowers who are current on their mortgage payments but owe more than their homes are worth, allowing them to walk away from their homes with no penalty. Previous programs were available only to borrowers who were in arrears, effectively encouraging people to stop making payments in order to qualify for assistance.  Bloomberg (1/28)
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Trends in Housing
Demand for multifamily housing lures homebuilders
Some of the nation's largest homebuilders are seizing on demand in the rental-housing market and adding multifamily projects to their portfolios. Lennar, for example, expects to start construction on 3,000 multifamily units in 2013.  CNBC (1/25)
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Household formation slows in Q4
Americans formed fewer new households in the fourth quarter of 2012 than in the third quarter and preceding quarters, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The percentage of Americans who own homes also fell slightly.  The Wall Street Journal/Developments blog (1/29)
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Policy Roundup
HAMP makes headway but is underused, analysts say
Nearly 850,000 homeowners have received loan modifications under the Home Affordable Modification Program that are working, according to a report from the National Consumer Law Center. Still, the program has fallen far short of the 3 million to 4 million homeowners it was expected to help. The program ends Dec. 31.  The Washington Post (1/26)
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CFPB rules are now in question
Some observers think last week's court ruling against President Barack Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board raises the odds that a court will strike down Richard Cordray's appointment as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and undo enforcement and regulatory actions the bureau has taken so far. The CFPB recently unveiled sweeping rules for the mortgage industry.  The Wall Street Journal (1/29), CNNMoney (1/29)
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Location, Location, Location
How more new apartments could keep prices affordable in Silver Spring, Md.
The apartment vacancy rate is so low in Silver Spring, Md., that the "filtering" that usually takes place to make older apartments more affordable is not occurring, an analysis shows. Instead, property owners are renovating, keeping prices as high as those for new properties. More new apartments would help promote "filtering," writes Dan Reed.  Greater Greater Washington (Washington, D.C.) (1/28)
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Metro access, walkability drive real estate demand in D.C.
Proximity to restaurants, shopping, fitness centers and other amenities -- especially transit -- is a key driver in the decision of where to move for both millennials and baby boomers in Washington, D.C. As a result, real estate in walkable neighborhoods is in high demand. "Society is changing its habits, and mass transit is the No. 1 issue," said Bonnie Casper, past president of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors.  The Examiner (Washington, D.C.) (1/24)
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Education and Housing
Push for better urban schools can create unintended consequences
After the line to register at a West Philadelphia elementary school became roughly four days long, the district switched immediately to a lottery. The push to improve public education in cities sometimes brings about a dilemma: how to improve schools so that wealthier families want their children to attend, while keeping admissions and other factors fair to all families.  Next American City (1/25)
The Economy and Housing
Housing recovery is felt in related markets
A turnaround in the housing market is visible in affiliated industries, as sales increase at companies that market power tools, carpet fibers, furniture, cement mixers and other products. The results add to direct housing indicators, which have been improving during the past year.  The Wall Street Journal (1/29)
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Economist: Still a good bit of uncertainty in housing
Robert J. Shiller, a professor of economics and finance at Yale and co-creator of the Case-Shiller index, writes that recent large fluctuations in home values are not the norm and prices will likely even out to near the historical median in several years. "The bottom line for potential home buyers or sellers is probably this: Don't do anything dramatic or difficult," he writes.  The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (1/26)
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Housing Matters Spotlight
Center for Responsible Lending: Qualified mortgages protect borrowers
The Center for Responsible Lending has published a fact sheet to help consumers navigate the qualified-mortgage borrowing process. A winner of the MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions, the center supports qualified-mortgage rulemaking as a measure of protecting borrowers from future lending crises by making sure they can repay their mortgages before engaging in a binding transaction. The fact sheet is intended to help borrowers understand qualified-mortgage standards set forth by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
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About How Housing Matters
The How Housing Matters research initiative seeks to explore whether, and if so how, having a decent, stable, affordable home leads to strong families and vibrant communities. Research is showing that stable, quality housing has value beyond the provision of shelter; it improves school performance, diminishes health problems for children and adults, and decreases psychological stress. By illuminating the ways in which housing matters and highlighting innovative practices in the field, we hope to encourage collaboration among leaders and policymakers in housing, education, health, and economic development to help families lead healthy, successful lives. How Housing Matters is an initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Learn more about The MacArthur Foundation ->How Housing Matters | The MacArthur Foundation
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