May 2, 2013
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REIT seeks to preserve affordable rental options
The Housing Partnership Equity Trust, a real estate investment trust owned by nonprofit groups and focused on preserving affordable housing, has closed on its first property acquisition. The REIT plans to purchase apartments nationwide, focusing on areas where rising real estate values have led landlords to cater to middle-class or wealthy renters. So far, the REIT has raised more than $100 million, and it has received funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  The Wall Street Journal (4/28)
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Trends in Housing
Homeownership rate tumbles to 65%
The U.S. homeownership rate fell to the lowest level in nearly 18 years during the first quarter, Census Bureau data show. Also during the first quarter, the rental vacancy rate fell to 8.6% from 8.8% a year earlier. The figures reflect a preference for renting versus owning as the economy remains weak. Economists expect the trend to result in higher housing costs.  The Wall Street Journal/Developments blog (4/30)
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Commentary: Future of housing as investment is uncertain
Housing patterns and values have changed over the decades, adapting to workforce trends, infrastructure investments and cultural norms. The latest changes include a rethinking of renting versus owning and an emphasis on walkable communities, and future evolution is likely but difficult to predict, writes Robert Shiller, economics professor at Yale University. "The outlook is so ambiguous that there is no single answer to the question of housing's potential as a long-term investment," he writes.  The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (4/27)
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Policy Roundup
Obama nominates Watt
to lead FHFA

President Barack Obama has nominated Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Watt supports reducing struggling homeowners' principal balances and decreasing the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the housing finance market.  The New York Times (tiered subscription model)/DealBook blog (5/1)
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House committee is reluctant to roll back mortgage tax deduction
The House Ways and Means Committee appears reluctant to remove the home mortgage interest deduction in the push for comprehensive tax reform. The tax break represented $68 billion last year, the Joint Committee on Taxation reports.  The Hill/On the Money blog (4/25)
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Location, Location, Location
Securities industry tries to kill eminent domain plans
Representatives of the securities industry are in California and Nevada this week in an effort to quash plans to use eminent domain authority to seize mortgages. Industry experts are raising several concerns about the plans, which call for taking loans out of private-label securities trusts and reselling them to the Federal Housing Administration or other agencies so they can be refinanced.  Forbes (4/29)
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Other News
Health and Housing
NYC Housing Authority faces lawsuits over repair delays
A group of tenants is suing the New York City Housing Authority over the slow pace of repairs, citing leaks, mold and holes in walls that allow roaches to crawl through. Separately, the Natural Resources Defense Council says it is preparing a lawsuit on behalf of tenants with asthma, citing rampant mold problems and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (4/29)
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Editor's Note
Correction
A summary in last week's Housing Matters SmartBrief incorrectly identified the location of Prince William County, which is located in Virginia. SmartBrief regrets the error.
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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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