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Dialogue on GSE Reform Heats Up Outside the Beltway

The Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission hosted its ninth regional forum on Monday, November 4 at the University of Southern California (USC). The daylong event featured thought-provoking presentations, engaging panels, and an energizing keynote presentation by Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA-43).

USC Professor Raphael Bostic kicked off the morning and challenged participants to let the day’s dialogue inspire new and different ways of tackling challenges in housing because for all of the thinking and talking we do in the field, “at the end of the day we need to do a lot of doing.”

Secretary Henry Cisneros, co-chair of the commission, gave an overview of the Housing Commission’s report citing three “tent-pole” report recommendations: principles for housing finance reform, balancing federal support for homeownership and rental, and the implications of demographic trends for housing. USC Professor Dowell Meyers unpacked the meaning behind demographic trends that will drive demand across housing markets as Boomers grow older and Millennials ponder homeownership. The ratio of seniors to working age people is climbing and will increase by 70% over the next 30 years. And while aging is predictable, assumptions about immigration trends are uncertain leaving us with a wide range of predictions. See his slide presentation here.

The forum’s guest of honor, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA-43), drew attention to her forthcoming bill on housing finance reform and told moderator Ron Brownstein of National Journal that it will be ready soon. She acknowledged the August regional housing forum we held in Dallas, Texas with her counterpart Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-5) and added that she shares his vision of getting the House and Senate bills to conference. The anticipated legislation from ranking member Waters will elaborate upon the Democratic principles articulated earlier this year, calling for an explicit government guarantee and equal access to the secondary market for lenders of all sizes all in an effort to ensure the 30 year fixed rate mortgage remains an accessible product.

Three panel discussions rounded out the day. We examined the balancing act of ensuring access to credit for qualified borrowers both as regulatory changes take effect in the current environment and as the new housing finance system is built, being mindful of the lessons of the past five years. A second panel took a look at efforts to link housing and healthcare – the first priority panelists agreed on is to develop a common vocabulary the two industries can share. To build a business case for shared resources and outcomes, panelists reiterated the value of collecting meaningful data. We concluded with a conversation among California’s top innovators in energy efficiency and housing. Energy costs have evolved from being a non-controllable expense, to one where owners and renters now have greater discretion given the variety of products and tools in the marketplace. The biggest takeaway from these conversations is that quality data is critical to making the case for continued innovation to derive maximum benefit from the places we call home.

The forum is a central part of the commission’s ongoing work to generate dialogue and allow fresh ideas to percolate to the national stage.

Watch the event video here.


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