Feds Aim to Stem Detroit’s Tide of Abandoned Homes

The federal government is pushing to eradicate a long-standing symbol of Detroit’s massive economic deterioration: the abandoned house. On Tuesday, the regulator of government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced a pilot program that will begin in coming weeks in Detroit to keep families in their current homes through loan modifications, match distressed properties with non-profit organizations for resales and assist in building demolition.

- AOL Real Estate

Portland plan on how Airbnb can fund affordable housing

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman wants to shoot the proverbial two birds with one stone.

In June, the city’s housing commissioner will propose to legalize short-term rentals brokered by web sites such as Airbnb and VBRB [VRBO} by requiring the operators to pay local lodging fees.

In exchange, the city would dedicate 25 percent of its share of lodging taxes to support creation of low income housing in a bid to head off complaints that vacation rentals remove units from the inventory of affordable housing, under Saltzman’s proposal.

Elsewhere in the U.S., short-term rentals have exacerbated housing shortages as owners evict existing tenants in order to turn a larger profit advertising units to tourists via sites such as Airbnb and VBRB [VRBO].

- BizJournals

Deal reached on $1 billion construction measure in Minnesota

Minnesota legislators have agreed to more than $1 billion in new state-backed buildings and construction projects, placing new buildings, housing and economic development initiatives in every corner of the state.

The agreement breaks a major deadlock in the closing days of the session as Democrats and Republicans had not been able to agree on the right mix of state-backed projects.

The agreement includes $100 million for roads and bridges and another $100 million for affordable housing, the largest housing investment in state history.

The measure calls for $846 million in state-backed bond debt and another $200 million in cash.

- Star Tribune

Federal Housing Finance Agency worsening foreclosures by violating Massachusetts law, AG Coakley says

Coakley said mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, currently under the control of the agency, have refused to comply with a 2012 Massachusetts law that allows the sale of homes in foreclosure to nonprofit organizations whose goal is to keep homeowners in their homes.

The state law explicitly forbids banks and lenders from refusing to consider offers from legitimate buyback programs merely because the property will be resold to the former homeowner.

[Boston Community Capital’s CEO Elyse Cherry] said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are significant lenders and their refusal to work with nonprofits seeking to keep homeowners in their homes is a problem.

- MassLive

The Future of America’s Public Housing Stock: Demolition by Neglect

A 2010 study by Abt Associates found a roughly $26 billion capital needs backlog for public housing nationwide, due largely to that dwindling capital fund appropriation. HUD’s appropriation for 2013 was approximately $1.9 billion and reflects the lowest amount since 1989. Because replacing poor-quality units takes, on average, $135,000 apiece, getting rid of a unit in disrepair often makes better financial sense than ponying up even more to fix it. As a result, between 10,000 and 15,000 public housing units a year are lost across the nation, according to the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities.

- The Atlantic Cities

Brown at 60: Segregation’s Suburban Legacy

Instead, housing patterns have remained the chief determinant of school population. These patterns, driven by credit availability and real estate practices, promote re-segregation. “Housing, mortgage discrimination, and steering are rampant,” said Myron Orfield, Professor of Law and Director, Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School. He added that affordable housing development using federal low-income housing tax credits disproportionately occurs in “segregated and unstably integrated” neighborhoods, compounding the problem.

Small suburban districts are most vulnerable to re-segregation, said TC’s Amy Stuart Wells, Professor of Sociology and Education. Hyper-fragmented Nassau County, for example, spreads 200,000 students across 56 school districts. Research by Wells and TC colleague Doug Ready, Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy, shows a 10 percent increase in one district’s black and Hispanic enrollment leads to a 3 percent decrease in home values in immediately adjacent areas of neighboring districts.

- Columbia University Teachers’ College

Regulator Extends Greater Shield to Lenders on Mortgage ‘Put-Backs’

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will extend new waivers to lenders allowing them to avoid demands that have resulted in billions of dollars of so-called put-backs, in which banks are forced to repurchase defective mortgages sold to the loan giants.

The changes are significant because some industry analysts and economists have said they could lay the groundwork for lenders to relax credit standards. Lenders and policy makers have faulted ambiguous rules around mortgage put-backs for lending standards that they say are unnecessarily rigid.

In bulletins published Monday, the companies said they were announcing the policy changes at the direction of their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

- WSJ

For affordable apartments, the waiting list can be years long

Anthony Marchetta, executive director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency said there is a “significant, unsatisfied demand for affordable housing” in the state. The agency allocates the low-income housing tax credits the state receives from the federal government.

He said the cost of living has risen so high in New Jersey that many people earning moderate wages have been seeking out income-based rentals in much higher numbers than before.

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, nearly half of the country’s unsubsidized rentals available for $400 a month or less in 2011 were built more than 50 years ago.

On Wednesday, drawing criticism from housing advocates, the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing proposed new regulations that call for fewer than 31,000 units of affordable housing to be built by 2024. Units built using low-income housing tax credits would be part of that number.

- Philadelphia Inquirer

Obama Administration Releases April Housing Scorecard

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury today released the April edition of the Obama Administration’s Housing Scorecard – a comprehensive report on the nation’s housing market. While house prices remain stable and equity continues to grow, new and existing home sales have slowed. While this scorecard notes positive overall trends in the housing market, officials caution that the harsh winter slowed growth as the economy recovers from the Great Recession. The full Housing Scorecard is available online at http://www.hud.gov/scorecard.

- HUD

L.A. politicians weigh plan to replenish affordable housing fund

Six years ago, Los Angeles had $108 million to spend in its affordable housing trust fund. This year, that amount fell to about $26 million. The city housing department estimates that the difference in funding levels would subsidize more than 1,300 affordable units. The money helps offset costs so developers can offer cheaper rents.

Several things have contributed to the drop: Federal funding was slashed. Redevelopment agencies that poured property tax money into affordable housing were dissolved.

City Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Gil Cedillo want the city to draw on some of the tax money that previously went to redevelopment agencies to help build more affordable housing. Other California cities and counties are already doing so, including San Francisco and Los Angeles County.

- LA Times