On Thursday, Senator Chuck Grassley (R – Iowa), a ranking republican member of the Judiciary Committee, began an inquiry into Baltimore’s public housing authority, amidst allegations of (according to the Baltimore Sun), ” conflicts of interest, fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayers’ monies”.  According to the Sun, the senator requested “reams” of material from HUD, which oversees public housing agencies:

The Baltimore Sun reported this month that the authority has paid outside lawyers about $4 million since 2005 to fight lead-paint poisoning cases, with bills totaling $228,000 for May and June alone. Meanwhile, the authority has refused to pay nearly $12 million in court-ordered judgments in cases in which former residents of public housing were poisoned by exposure to lead paint.

As one might expect from the head of a government body facing intense scrutiny at the hands of one of congress’s most active watchdogs, Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano defended his agency:

Graziano said in a statement that “there have been a number of unfair accusations made against” the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. “We are confident that there has been no wrongdoing,” he said.

For active followers of public housing authority drama, this story (public housing authority accused of waste, fraud, and abuse… sanctions and potentially HUD take-over likely to follow) may sound familiar. See “HUD takes control of Philadelphia Housing Authority” and other stories on the PHA saga to refresh your memory.

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According to an article in today’s Washington Post, the much discussed proposal to require home-buyers make 20% down-payments in order receive the lowest interest rates has stalled:

Half a year has passed since then, so here’s an update: The 20-percent proposal is still alive, but it’s temporarily bogged down in agency reviews of the roughly 12,000 comments filed by interest groups and individuals. It almost certainly would not be ready for adoption until the first quarter of 2012. Even then, there would be a mandatory one-year lag before the requirement could take effect, pushing the issue into 2013 — well after the presidential and congressional elections.

So, how challenging is the political climate for a bill such as this…

According to the post, very. Prognosis for passage, poor:

Bottom line: Don’t expect to see a 20-percent rule in the near future. Even independent regulators don’t operate in political vacuums. They’ve either gotten the message already or they will soon.

 

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HUD announced the awarding of $8.8 million in funding through it’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program to seven organizations. The organizations, locations and funding amounts are listed below:

 

State

HOPWA Grantee Name

Area of Service

Grant Award

California

Los Angeles County Commission on HIV

Los Angeles

$1,375,000

Florida

River Region Human Services, Inc.

Jacksonville

$1,353,743

Massachusetts

Justice Resource Institute, Inc.

Boston

$1,223,377

Maine

Frannie Peabody Center

Statewide

$930,909

New York

Corporation for AIDS Research Education and Services Inc.

Albany and Rochester

$1,344,375

Oregon

City of Portland

Portland

$1,365,900

Texas

City of Dallas

Dallas

$1,287,500

TOTAL: $8,880,804

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Yesterday, the Delaware State Housing Authority released it’s consolidated annual performance evaluation report. The report, required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is intended to evaluate the state’s performance in meeting its annual housing goals. Below is a resource summary:

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A month and a half after the S&P downgrade, it’s easy to forget the political turmoil that captured the nations attention. In this story, Justin Walker of Rainbow Housing Assistance Corporation, reminds us of the very real consequences of political brinksmanship, an apt reminder as the super committee begins to deliberate and as we continue our investigation of congresses continued attempts to deal with the country’s debt:

On the evening of Friday August 5, long after the markets had closed, the news wires were just starting to come alive. Smart phones and computer screens alike all flashed the breaking news that the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s has stripped the United States of its top-tier AAA credit rating. The move came just days after President Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act of 2011, a down-to-the-wire deal passed by Congress that allowed the Treasury to immediately take on more debt to pay its bills. No one is entirely sure what would have happened if Congress had not passed the bill and the U.S. was forced to default, but everyone was in agreement that they would rather not find out.

On Saturday the 6th, the Treasury immediately fired back with an entry in their blog entitled Just the Facts: S&P’s $2 Trillion Mistake, but the damage had already been done. Sunday evening trepidation about what lie ahead was widespread and the global stock markets did not disappoint. The week of August 8th saw some historic, stomach-turning swings up and down, each day painting a different picture about the downgrade’s impact. Though still a few months off from the legislation’s initial cut of $44 billion in fiscal year 2012, pundits and economists are already tossing around phrases such as “double-dip recession” and “economic slowdown”. But for many Americans, the recovery was not impactful enough to consider this anything other than an extension of an era, a bad situation getting worse, if you will.

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HUD awarded the $52.6 million in funds for housing and economic development through the Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) Program. Below is a press release with more details:

 

HUD No. 11-197
Elena Gaona
(202)-708-0685
FOR RELEASE
Tuesday
September 06, 2011

 

HUD AWARDS $52.6 MILLION TO NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITIES FOR HOUSING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
Grants provided by HUD’s Indian Community Development Block Grant Program

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded more than $52 million in grants to tribal communities in 21 states to improve or create housing and economic development opportunities for low- to moderate-income families. The competitive grants are provided through HUD’s Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) Program to support a wide variety of community development and affordable housing activities.

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It’s been a busy week for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Following my favorite bit of news this week (the announcement that a housing and transportation affordability index is in the works), the Department announced the awarding of two different grants.  Most of the $1.75 billion comes in the form of $1.63 billion, ” to support nearly 7,000 existing homeless assistance programs currently operating and create additional new homeless assistance programs with the Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Program Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).” The second, smaller but perhaps more interesting bit of funding new, comes through the announcement of of the first-ever Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grants:

$122 million to redevelop distressed housing and bring comprehensive neighborhood revitalization to blighted areas. Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle will receive the first-ever Implementation Grants awarded under HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, a new strategy and tools to support local leaders in transforming high-poverty, distressed neighborhoods into neighborhoods with healthy, affordable housing, safe streets, and access to quality educational opportunities.

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The result are in for August and (surprise), while the scorecard sites modest program successes, the housing market is still “fragile”:

• The Administration’s efforts have helped millions of families deal with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. More than 5 million mortgage aid arrangements were started between April 2009 and the end of July 2011. While some homeowners may have received help from more than one program, the total number of aid offers is more than double the number of foreclosure completions for the same period (2.2 million). In July, more than 28,000 additional homeowners received a permanent modification through the Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP); more than 790,000 homeowners across the country have now received a HAMP permanent modification with a median payment reduction of 37 percent. To date, homeowners in permanent modifications have realized aggregate savings in monthly mortgage payments of nearly $7.8 billion. The July monthly report can be found at: http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/financial-stability/results/ MHA-Reports/Pages/default.aspx

• Housing market remains fragile as data through July paint a mixed picture of recovery. Home prices as reported by S&P/ Case-Shiller and FHFA were up for the third consecutive month in July after several previous months of decline. Foreclosure starts and completions continued a downward trend, as mortgage aid programs are helping homeowners, although some of the decline remains due to lender processing issues delaying some foreclosure actions. The fragility of the market is underscored by the fact mortgage delinquencies rose slightly in July.

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An exciting bit of news today from HUD, particularly if you’re thinking about moving, the department announced it has awarded $3.2 million contract to create a national Housing and Transportation Affordability Index to The Manhattan Strategies Group, LLC.  Below is the press release:

 

HUD No. 11-180
George Gonzalez
(202)-402-6054
FOR RELEASE
Tuesday
August 30, 2011

HUD LAUNCHES DEVELOPMENT OF A NATIONAL HOUSING AND
TRANSPORTATION AFFORDABILITY INDEX

New tool will provide homebuyers with a more accurate estimate of living costs

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced it has awarded The Manhattan Strategies Group, LLC and its subcontractor the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) a $3.2 million contract to create a national Housing and Transportation Affordability Index. The groundbreaking index will provide potential homebuyers with a true estimate of both housing and transportation costs that can in turn help them make a more educated decision.

“Affordability is much more than just paying the mortgage, it involves other costs like transportation, gas, and utilities. The availability of a national affordability index will provide consumers better information about the true costs of a home by accounting for that housing’s proximity to jobs, schools and other services. Our goal with the creation of this housing and transportation index is to provide American families with a tool that can help them save money and have a better understanding of their expenses and household budget,” said Shaun Donovan, Secretary of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Part I in a series that will examine the congressional super committee and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program

At several points during the debate over raising the debt ceiling, Washington appeared to be headed towards a “grand compromise”. Such a deal would have mixed broad ranging cuts, including cuts to entitlement programs, with revenue-increasing tax reform. While tax reform is certainly not a novel policy proposal, it is one that has gained traction in recent months as politicians and policy-wonks alike have searched for solutions to the country’s mounting debt-crisis. It is also a policy proposal that has drawn the attention of the affordable housing industry, as industry advocates fret over the future of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit in a world without tax-loopholes. The debt-deal that eventually emerged could hardly be labeled grand, but the possibility for a “grand bargain” including tax-reform remains alive, with responsibility for a deal shifted to the so-called “super committee”.

The call for tax-reform has been mounting for months. In November of 2010, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force released a report that suggested, “An end to almost all tax expenditures to offset the costs of the much lower tax rates”. The President’s Economics Recovery Advisory Board released a report in August 2010 which called for, “Eliminating specific expenditures [to] improve efficiency while simplifying the tax code”, and perhaps most notable of the slew of reports, The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (more commonly referred to as the Bowles-Simpson report) called for a comprehensive tax reform that would, “Sharply reduce rates, broaden the base, simplify the tax code, and reduce the deficit by reducing the many ‘tax expenditures’—another name for spending through the tax code.” [click to continue…]

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