February 21, 2013
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Sequestration could gut federal housing programs, HUD chief says
Automatic spending cuts set to take effect March 1 would cut millions of dollars from various housing programs, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan says. For example, the cuts would prevent HUD from offering 75,000 consumers foreclosure prevention services and counseling, and 125,000 renters could lose Housing Choice Voucher aid, increasing their risk of becoming homeless. "The ripple effects are enormous because of how central housing is to our economy," Donovan told members of Congress.  Housing Wire (2/14), Reuters (2/14)
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Housing vacancy rate drops, census data show
Vacancy rates for homeowner and rental housing fell in the fourth quarter of 2012 to levels last seen before the peak of the housing boom, according to a Census Bureau report. Supply of homes is tight as construction remains below normal rates, says Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight.  The Christian Science Monitor (2/20)
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Trends in Housing
Report: Gap narrows between foreclosure prices, home values
In contrast to the discounts seen earlier in the foreclosure crisis, homes in distress are now selling for closer to their original market value, reaching a 12.2% difference in the fourth quarter, according to a report by FNC. Home values are rising, and foreclosure prices seem to be bottoming out. Yanling Mayer, FNC senior research economist, said this is "the very first time in the long housing recession that the two are happening at the same time."  Housing Wire (2/18)
Buy-and-rent trend now includes foreign investors
Foreign investors, taking advantage of currencies that are stronger than the U.S. dollar, are the latest group to join the growing number of investors buying distressed residential properties and converting them into rentals. The trend is drawing criticism from some housing advocates. "Having someone guarantee that renters will be there for a long time depresses values and makes it much harder for people to recoup lost equity and stabilize neighborhoods," said John Taylor, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.  The Wall Street Journal (2/20)
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Policy Roundup
Freddie Mac focuses on multifamily affordability, official says
As the number of people renting apartments rises, Freddie Mac is helping make rentals affordable, an executive says. "Working closely with multifamily property owner/borrowers and our network of lenders, Freddie Mac Multifamily structures financings in a way that lets us offer very competitive, long-term rates," said David Brickman, senior vice president. "Owners realize lower costs of ownership, and the benefits are typically passed on to tenants through sustainable, viable properties and lower rents than might otherwise be available."  Housing Wire (2/18)
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Industry pushes back against QRM down payment rule
Players in the housing market, including bankers, real estate agents, homebuilders and lawmakers, argue that a qualified residential mortgage rule should not include specific down payment requirements. Several regulators have suggested that the qualified mortgage and qualified residential mortgage rules should run parallel to each other, so as not to slow or restrict lending.  The Hill/On the Money blog (2/18), Financial Times (tiered subscription model) (2/18)
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Location, Location, Location
Charlotte, N.C., encourages workforce housing in affluent areas
The City Council in Charlotte, N.C., has approved a "density bonus" policy for developers who build workforce housing in wealthier parts of the city. The bonus would allow for construction of more units than current zoning laws allow, as long as some of the units are for lower-income residents. The program targets people who earn 60% to 80% of the area's median income. The city wants to see more affordable housing mixed among market-rate housing.  The Charlotte Observer (N.C.) (2/19)
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Health and Housing
Upper West Side residents want to age in place
The Upper West Side of New York City -- where rent-controlled apartments and co-ops established in the 1960s have yielded high numbers of retirees today -- is an example of what sociologists call "naturally occurring retirement communities." Many older residents want to stay put because of access to transit, cultural activities and shopping. Some condo boards and outside groups are providing programs to help these seniors age in place.  The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (2/15)
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Education and Housing
East Harlem project combines affordable housing, charter school
A new development under way in East Harlem includes a charter school beneath 88 apartments for residents earning up to $49,800. Harlem RBI, a nonprofit academic and sports youth program, is constructing the project in a partnership with the developer in the middle of a major city housing complex.  Daily News (New York) (2/17)
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Environment and Housing
Seattle helps apartment owners see returns of energy efficiency
More cities are collecting data on multifamily buildings' energy use in an effort to help property owners see the benefits of making upgrades. Seattle compiled data on 87% of its commercial and multifamily properties 50,000 square feet and larger. A Seattle official says the effort helps owners focus on their energy costs and will allow the city to develop programs encouraging improvements.  HousingFinance.com (2/13)
The Economy and Housing
U.S. consumers still strapped despite rebounding shares, home prices
Most of the $16 trillion lost by American consumers over the course of the economic downturn has been recovered, but mainly in the form of a rising stock market and a recovering housing market, Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview. With the pressing need to save for retirement and children's educations, U.S. consumer spending is likely to remain subdued, Krueger said.  The Wall Street Journal (2/18)
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Housing Matters Spotlight
Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission to release recommendations
The Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission, a grantee of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will release recommendations at 11 a.m. Monday at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The event will be live webcast on the Housing Commission website. The release event will feature Housing Commission co-chairs former Sens. George Mitchell, Kit Bond and Mel Martinez and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. The report is the culmination of a 16-month examination of the key issues in housing. Register to join the commission for the release of its recommendations.
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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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