Trade Groups Politicize Housing Report

June 5, 2002

Home Builders, Mortgage Brokers, Apartment Owners Leverage Report To Push Legislation

Inman News Features

Housing interests are cheering a new Federal government report on the nation?s housing programs that apparently contained something for everyone.

The report, researched and written by the Millennial Housing Commission, was released last week and followed by a flurry of press releases from housing industry groups using the report as a platform to promote their own legislative agendas.

The National Association of Builders gave the report a "strong endorsement" and said it "called for a top national priority ?to produce and preserve more sustainable affordable housing.?"

NAHB President Gary Garczynski, a Woodbridge, Va., home builder, lauded recommendations that would revitalize and restructure the Federal Housing Administration within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, enact a new homeownership tax credit and establish a new housing production program for mixed-income multifamily rental units.

"We believe all of these (recommendations) can be address by Congress in current or pending legislation," he said.

NAHB took the opportunity to reiterate its support for H.R. 3995, The Housing Affordability for America Act, introduced by Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio). The builders? group said this bill would enhance housing affordability for renters and homeowners and inflation-index the FHA?s multifamily insurance program?s loan limits.

"We agree with the commission?s conclusion that the elimination of unnecessary barriers to the production of affordable housing should be a critical element of our national policy," Garczynski said.

NAHB said it expects Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Reps. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to introduce a bill that would provide builders a tax credit for developing affordable housing in lower-income neighborhoods.

The Mortgage Banker Association of America declined to endorse specific recommendations in the report, but said it "supports the concepts behind" the tax credit that would reduce the cost of purchasing a home, the new mixed-income multifamily rental housing program and restructuring the FHA as a government corporation.

"We commend the co-chairs, members and staff of the commission for stating so boldly that housing matters," said MBA Chairman James M. Murphy.

This group is pushing for enactment of legislation that would tweak the existing Federal mortgage revenue bond and low-income housing tax credit programs. The MBA also supports the FHA down payment calculation permanency bill and the tax credit for the rehabilitation or construction of ownership housing outlined in the Bush Administration?s 2003 budget proposal.

The Community Homeownership Credit Coalition, an alliance nearly 30 housing groups, also "applauded" the commission?s report and used the opportunity to reiterate its support for the ownership housing construction and rehab tax credit.

The apartment industry?s National Multi Housing Council and National Apartment Association "commended" the commission, then used the report to take a stab at policymakers? love affair with homeownership.

Governmental affairs expert Clarine Nardi Riddle said the groups were "pleased" that the commission emphasized the importance of rental housing in community development.

"This is an important recognition in a nation where housing policy otherwise tends to overemphasize homeownership in both its rhetoric and resource allocation. While homeownership is a worthwhile goal for many families, the commissioners realized that apartments are uniquely qualified to solve a long list of housing-related problems facing our country?problems like urban decay, suburban sprawl and the affordable housing crisis."

The NMHC/NAA statement lauded recommendations that would create new subsidizes for building apartment housing for moderate-income people, eliminate certain requirements "that discourage private owners from accepting" Sec. 8 low-income rental housing vouchers, inflation-index the FHA?s mortgage loan limits and increase the use of risk-sharing between HUD and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for new apartment construction. But the statement also said the recommendations "fall short" in some areas, particularly in the extent of Sec. 8 reforms.

"The report does not create housing or housing policy," said NMHC/NAA VP of Finance David Cardwell. "What it does do is create the framework for further debate."

Source: Mortgage Bankers Association

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or [email protected].