June 1, 2002 - From the June, 2002 issue

National Mayor's Forum Promotes Streamlining Of Development Processes To Address Housing Crisis

On May 20, 2002, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) sponsored a National Forum to develop and advocate for a comprehensive housing policy for the nation. Led by Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston and Housing Committee Chair Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco, a group of mayors and public and private sector housing leaders, called for housing to be made a national priority. The Planning Report is pleased to present this excerpt of the recommendations from the USCM National Housing Forum.

Housing helps promote neighborhood stability, improved educational opportunity, employment stability, and helps owners save for their futures. Housing serves as an economic generator and springboard, which fosters solutions for many other national and local priorities.

Housing, however, has not kept pace with the needs of the residents in most urban markets. Despite an all-time high homeownership rate in America of over 68 percent, the rate in cities is only 50 percent and even lower for minority and low-and moderate income households. More than 14 million families spend more than half their income on housing. Clearly, in many markets, housing costs are growing faster than incomes.

The US Conference of Mayors calls for a comprehensive national housing policy that addresses the variety of housing challenges in our urban communities, including:

1. Home ownership;

2. Rental housing;

3. Public housing;

4. Special needs housing and homelessness issues; and,

5. Preservation.

Homeownership

• Homeownership is the primary vehicle to improve individual economic well being and create wealth for households and neighborhoods.

• Public and private sector should promote regional planning and implementation that develops and retains a diverse housing stock.

• Public and private sector should continue to fund homeownership education and outreach, credit counseling programs, bi-lingual credit counseling and financial literary programs.

• Congress should expand the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to cover entities currently not included by the act such as marketing companies, expand CRA regulations to local operations when financial institution is not locally owned and expand rating to include comprehensive community development activities

• Congress should expand CDBG and HOME funding.

• Congress should relax CDBG and HOME regulations that limit the use of the funds for new construction to give local government's more flexibility.

• Congress should pass the Community Homeownership Tax Credit.

• Public and private sector should develop a secondary market for lenders to non-traditional borrowers who have had appropriate counseling and a seasoned performing loan.

• Congress should continue to support homeownership through existing policies such as the mortgage interest deduction, mortgage revenue bonds and passage of predatory lending regulations.

• Local governments should develop policies and programs which result in homeownership land use opportunities such as land banking, military sites reuse, brownfield reuse and in- fill housing.

• Congress must fund comprehensive strategies such as the homeownership zone, Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Zones.

• FHA should extend the amortization period to 40 years.

• FHA should provide mortgages for accessing homeownership and home repairs to borrowers with lower credit scores and non-traditional credit histories.

• Public and private sectors should aggressively target education of the elderly population of their opportunities to access financing for home repairs.

• Public and private sectors should develop programs to support construction management of repair projects for elderly residents.

• Enact predatory lending legislation.

• Create incentives for local PHA to utilize homeownership Section 8 programs.

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• Over the next decade reduce disparity of homeownership rates between white and non-whites by 50 percent.

Rental Housing

• Rental housing for all income groups is essential to create neighborhoods of choice and stimulate the economic growth of our nation's cities. Therefore, Congress should provide an array of tools and resources to leverage the private sector to produce and preserve an adequate supply of rental housing to meet each city's priorities.

• As part of this comprehensive strategy, federal programs should place a high priority on achieving both mixed income developments and mixed income neighborhoods.

• Congress should create a new rental housing production program to serve the needs of working families with incomes up to 100 % AMI. Adjustments for high cost areas should be allowed.

• The Conference supports the creation of a National Housing Trust primarily, but not exclusively, designed to meet the needs of the very low income, i.e., 30 percent AMI or below, through the production and preservation of rental housing.

• Cities must receive a direct allocation of funds under both the workforce production program and the National Housing Trust Fund.

• Current federal programs supporting rental housing production, e.g. CDBG, HOME, LIHTC must be fully funded and redesigned to work together easily to meet a more diverse array of local housing challenges.

• Federal programs, including non-housing programs, should provide significant incentives for regional fair share housing agreements and production consistent with smart growth principles.

• States should allocate existing housing resources in accordance with city priorities, e.g. qualified allocation plans for LIHTC should reflect city priorities.

• States should create a set aside of all federal and state housing, social services and transportation funds to provide cities with additional funds to implement targeted comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategies.

• Cities should reduce the regulatory costs of housing production and rehabilitation by streamlining building codes, inspection and the permit process as well as by adopting "smart codes."

• Congress should eliminate the volume cap for mortgage revenue bonds, which fund the production and preservation of affordable housing.

• Create a National Housing Opportunities Corporation to give technical assistance and support to suburban communities to develop affordable housing.

• Expand the low Income Housing Tax Credit to create mixed income developments.

• Encourage Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to create national employer-assisted housing programs to support homeownership by working families.

Public Housing

Public Housing continues to play a significant role in the ability of cities to maintain a diverse population and respond to the needs of a wide range of citizens. The program should be preserved, expanded and redefined.

• Congress should enact legislation that funds the development of 150,000 units of public housing annually for the next 10 years in a form that encourages income diversity and fosters healthy urban neighborhoods. All public housing developments should be wired to facilitate access to today's technology.

• Mayors should facilitate cooperative activities between public housing authorities and public school systems in their communities. Congress should authorize and fund specific programs aimed at enhancing both educational activities and housing environments of public housing children.

• Congress should adopt legislation that ensures public housing operating and capital subsidies are allocated in a manner that is predictable, objective and consistent with actual need. Funds should continue to be made available directly to PHAs.

• Conventional public housing and Section 8 should be considered complimentary and not competitive programs. Each should be adequately funded and cities should be permitted to use funding for the two programs interchangeably as local needs dictate from time to time, including the capacity to increase the use of project based Section 8 beyond current levels.

• HOPE VI should be reauthorized for an additional 10 years and funded at levels recommended by the Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing – $1 billion per year.

• Congress should enact legislation which provides maximum housing choice for senior citizens and persons with disabilities including opportunities to remain at home with necessary assistance.

Congress should enact legislation which establishes a valid and appropriate methods of assessing pubic housing authority performance and should mandate maximum flexibility for PHAs who perform well under the system.

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© 2021 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.