This marks the first of a quarterly update that Grounded Solutions Network plan’s to provide on relevant national policy activity in 2017. You can view our 2017-2020 Policy Agenda here. We know that our members and allies are tremendously busy doing incredibly important work. It is hard to find the time to sift through all of the information about Congress, the Administration’s transition, and federal programs and rulemaking.
However, were are going to ask for one thing in return. When voices from the field are needed around an important policy issue, we broadcast a “Call to Action”. When we ask you to act, please do. Very few of our members have been responding to these calls to action, but your voice is more important now than ever. I will do my best to make taking action easy, but please understand, your voices as constituents carry much more weight than the sole voice of someone representing you.
Although nobody knows for sure exactly what to expect from the new Administration and Congress, we do have some good indications that we’ll need to be vigilant and active over the next four years.
Here’s what you need to know right now…
Serious cuts to funding for housing and community development are on the horizon. Congress has still not passed a FY17 budget, and it is unclear if they will after the Continuing Resolution expires on April 28, 2017. According to House Republicans, Trump plans to submit a FY18 budget in late spring. Due to the Budget Control Act of 2011, spending caps will return for FY18, and Trump wants to lift the cap only for defense spending and has proposed decreasing nondefense spending by 1% per annum. The implication for you is that housing programs will be on the chopping block or significantly underfunded. If we look to the past for predictions, it is very possible that the HOME program will be hit hard or maybe even eradicated. Congress has repeatedly communicated that they rarely hear from their constituents about the importance of HOME and other housing programs. We must tell Congress: (1) why these programs matter and why they housing programs need a large allocation, (2) to lift deleterious spending caps, (3) to ensure parity between defense and nondefense budgets. Sign-on to this letter.
Tax reform could hinder or help LIHTC and equitable reforms in the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID). Trump ran on the promise of lowering corporate taxes, which means that tax expenditures must also be lowered. The anticipation of such tax reform has already decreased the value of Low Income Housing Tax Credits, but ultimately, we must wait for actual tax reform decisions to understand the full impact on the LIHTC program. Meanwhile, the mortgage interest deduction will also be on the table in any revisions to the tax code and the National Low Income Housing Coalition is relaunching the United for Homes campaign, which would reform the MID to more equitably benefit low and moderate income homeowners while creating savings for reinvestment in affordable housing. Get involved with the A.C.T.I.O.N. Campaign to protect LIHTCs and the United for Homes campaign to ensure that if a MID reform is enacted, the savings will be reinvested in affordable housing.
Ben Carson’s confirmation as HUD Secretary. The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held Ben Carson’s confirmation hearing to become Secretary of the Department of Housing & Urban Development on January 12. Outside of Carson’s inexperience with housing and community development, particular concerns about the robust implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule have been raised by advocates due to Carson’s op-ed in The Washington Times. The field must diligently monitor efforts that would prevent the meaningful implementation of the AFFH rule, which may crop up in spending bills or by under-resourcing these efforts at HUD.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae must serve undeserved markets. On December 13, 2016, the Federal Housing Finance Administration released the final rule on the Government-sponsored enterprises’ (GSEs) duty to serve underserved markets. “Shared equity homeownership” and “inclusionary housing programs” were both included in the rule, reflecting our proposed language. On behalf of our members, we have been meeting regularly with the GSEs to advocate that their 3-year Underserved Market Plans include the activities and priorities of the shared equity field to optimize access to mortgage financing. Over the next few months, we are organizing members and coordinating with national partners to provide comments at in-person events, as well as providing written public comments to influence these Plans.