Working to find actionable solutions to the nation's key challenges.

April 7, 2014

Momentum for scrapping mortgage giants
The Hill

“The dissolution of federal mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is becoming a stronger possibility thanks to a burst of activity in the Senate.

“Lawmakers are rallying around a core set of principles crafted by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and ranking member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), providing real hope that legislation might finally move forward after years of delays.”

America’s thorny affordable housing crisis
CNN Money

“The rent is still too damn high. That’s the only conclusion you can reasonably draw from reading Out of Reach, the latest report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). The study attempts to determine the hourly wage a full-time worker would need to earn to afford ‘a decent two-bedroom rental home … while spending no more than 30% of income on housing costs.’ The report concludes: In the United States, the 2014 two-bedroom Housing Wage is $18.92. This national average is more than two-and-a-half times the federal minimum wage, and 52% higher than it was in 2000. In no state can a full-time minimum wage worker afford a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom rental unit at Fair Market Rent.”

Inadequate housing contributes to low health rankings

“Almost one out of five U.S. families live in housing with severe problems, such as overcrowding, insufficient cooking and bathing facilities or costs above 50% of family income, according to a new report measuring the nation’s healthiest and least-healthy counties. ‘It sounds like it could be the 1800s or a Third World country,’ said Abbey Cofsky, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which partnered with the rankings program at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. ‘But there are places in the United States where that is still an issue — something that so many of us take for granted.'”

How to Sell Poor, Inner-City Families on a Life in the Suburbs
Atlantic Cities

“If you want to help poor families escape poor neighborhoods, paying them to move isn’t always enough. Many studies show that when given the chance, people tend to relocate to similarly disadvantaged, racially segregated areas. That’s historically been the case in Baltimore, too. But thanks to a lawsuit, the city may have developed an easy-to-replicate solution.”

Houses are about to get really, really smart

“It knows when you are sleeping, it knows when you’re awake. No, it’s not Santa Claus. It’s your house. Smart technology has already enabled homeowners to control their utilities, their temperature, even their security from hand-held devices inside and outside the home. What’s next? ‘Ideally I’d like to operate nothing, but have the home learn my patterns,’ said 24-year-old Jay Austin, a homeowner in Washington, D.C. ‘But I think we’re probably about five years away from this really making sense to people.'”

Home Buyer Behavior: Generational Trend Charts
Builder Online

“A recent report on home buyer and seller trends from the National Association of Realtors breaks down everything from types of homes purchased, to the value of online search for each generation in the market. Builder has pulled three metrics from the dense report about home buyers: which generation comprises the largest share of home buyers, what size home is most common for each generation, and how much traction multi-generational homes are gaining in the housing market for each age group.”

$1 trillion student loan debt widens US wealth gap
Seattle Times

“Every month that Gregory Zbylut pays $1,300 toward his law school loans is another month of not qualifying for a decent mortgage. Every payment toward their student loans is $900 Dr. Nida Degesys and her husband aren’t putting in their retirement savings account. They believe they’ll eventually climb from debt and begin using their earnings to build assets rather than fill holes. But, like the roughly 37 million others in the U.S. saddled with $1 trillion in student debt, they may never catch up with wealthy peers who began life after college free from the burden.”

The American Dream: Does It Still Include Owning a Home?
NBC News

“Maybe not the picket fence, but definitely the house. Even after a devastating housing and mortgage crash that resulted in millions of foreclosures and trillions of dollars of home equity lost, the majority of Americans have not given up the idea that home ownership represents their economic dream. ‘Americans continue to want to be homeowners and they want to do it in a more careful and responsible way given the crisis that we’ve been through, but there is no evidence that we’re going to abandon the home ownership society,’ Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said in an interview.”

What happens when the government tries to help poor people move to better neighborhoods?
The Washington Post

“For about 40 years now, since the beginning of the end of the era of the high-rise public housing project, government programs have been experimenting with a different idea to alleviate poverty: If we can’t easily change poor neighborhoods, let poor people move out of them instead. Give them vouchers to rent homes on the private market, theoretically outside of the ghetto.”

The Favorable Demographics for Apartments
Calculated Risk Blog

“For several years I’ve been pointing out that demographics are favorable for apartments. This is because a large cohort has been moving into the 20 to 34 year old age group (a key age group for renters). Also in 2015, based on Census Bureau projections, the two largest 5 year cohorts will be 20 to 24 years old, and 25 to 29 years old (the largest cohorts will no longer be the ‘boomers’).”

How the Upcoming Elections Could Derail GSE Reform
American Banker

“The Senate Banking Committee has forged a strong bipartisan agreement to reform the housing finance market, but most observers predict that lawmakers will be unable to get the legislation finalized and passed through both chambers of Congress this year. That leaves the question of how — and whether — the effort gets picked up in 2015 as a key issue, particularly as the November elections could shift the balance of power in the Senate.”

4 million homeowners climb out of negative equity
The Los Angeles Times

“The economy may be growing at a frustratingly slow pace, but one piece of it is booming: American homeowners’ equity holdings — the market value of their houses minus their mortgage debts — soared by nearly $2.1 trillion last year to $10 trillion. Big numbers, you say, and hard to grasp. But look at it this way: Thanks to rising prices and equity levels, about 4 million owners around the country last year were able to climb out of the financial tar pit of the housing bust — negative equity.”