Fall Policy Updates
The results of the 2013 Network Member Survey indicated that our members rank our public policy work as their top priority so we have expanded our policy initiatives in the past year, and plan to do even more in the future. Here is a recap our activities and progress so that you are up-to-date on our policy work that affects CLTs and permanent affordable housing programs.
Continuing to Advocate for Access to FHA-insured Mortgages
FHA is the dominant mortgage product for lower income and minority households. We won’t give up until buyers in CLTs and permanently affordable homeownership programs have access to FHA-insured mortgages. We have decided to invest in legal counsel to provide FHA staff with a detailed and concrete proposal for how they can grant access to FHA-insured mortgages while meeting statutory requirements. In the past year, two things have delayed progress:
- Our issue has been reassigned to new staff twice due to turnover and reassignments at HUD;
- OMB and FHA required an internally-conducted evaluation of loan performance data.
The good news: FHA staff reports the evaluation has been completed and the results were positive, so they will move ahead on figuring out how to grant access. In the past year, the Network has had three in-person meetings with FHA staff, multiple phone meetings, and we’ve responded to multiple FHA information requests.
What our members need to know: The Network’s model ground lease has terms that contradict statutory and regulatory requirements of FHA. Most importantly, FHA cannot permit restrictions to survive foreclosure. It’s important for CLT and PAH practioners to understand that—in order to have access to FHA-insured mortgages—certain terms of the model ground lease will need to be altered or overridden. The Network will work with our lawyers and FHA to identify what can change in regulations and what needs to change in our model legal documents.
Working to Minimize Barriers in the HOME Rules
Substantial changes to HUD’s HOME program were issued in July, 2013. As Participating Jurisdictions have interpreted and enacted new practices to comply with new HOME rules, Network members have faced obstacles in obtaining HOME funds and complying with the HOME rules. In an effort the help our members, the Network has been investing in education and advocacy to ensure that our members may continue to use HOME funds.
To date, we have:
- Issued Clarification on Ground Lease Durations (member-only resource)
- Issued Guidance on Cost of Stewardship (member-only resource)
- Sought clarification from HUD headquarters that ground lease fees are permissible (HUD has granted oral permission to charge ground lease fees and plans to issue written guidance)
- Continue to pursue additional guidance and clarifications on whether our members may charge other fees to homeowners that help cover the costs of stewardship.
Obtaining Major Policy Win in Housing Finance Reform
The bipartisan housing finance reform bill proposed by the leaders of the Senate Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committee includes primary market access for buyers in community land trusts and permanently affordable homeownership programs. The Network proposed legislative language, which was incorporated into the bill and preserved through committee mark-up during April, 2014. However, the bill fell short of finding adequate support to require a floor vote.
Congressional representatives continue to discuss the importance of housing finance reform, but it is unknown whether any proposals will gain traction after the mid-term elections. The Network will continue to advocate for access to mortgage financing and funding for affordable housing under housing finance reform.
Building Partnership with Banc Home Loans for Fannie Mae Origination
The Network built a partnership with Banc Home Loans, which is able to originate mortgage loans using the Fannie Mae Ground Lease Rider in 46 states. Over the past year, Banc Home Loans have become first mortgage lending partners to 10 Network members with 7 more in the pipeline.
Advocating on the Hill
In the past year, the Network’s staff and board members had meetings with roughly two dozen congressional offices during two separate visits to the hill. These meetings focused on advocating for THUD appropriations and greater access to mortgage financing through FHA and housing finance reform. The Network has embraced the importance of face-to-face education and advocacy to promote public awareness of our members’ work and enable public policies that will increase funding and financing.
We plan to return to the hill in 2015 with Network staff, board members, and residents of CLTs and permanently affordable housing programs.
Submitting Amicus Brief to U.S. Supreme Court Supporting “Disparate Impact” in Fair Housing Act
The Network submitted an amicus brief (pdf) to the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of October, 2013 supporting the importance of “disparate impact” in the Fair Housing Act for protecting victims of housing discrimination. The National Community Land Trust Network was approached by the National Fair Housing Alliance to work with a pro bono attorney, Peter Romer-Friedman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, to prepare the amicus brief from the Network to the U.S Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court was to review a key provision of the Fair Housing Act in Mount Holly v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc., specifically whether claims under the Fair Housing Act require proof of intentional discrimination rather than proof of “disparate impact” shown through statistics. The case was settled a few weeks later and dismissed from the Supreme Court.
Establishing Policy Action Committee Webinars
For the past year, the Network and Cornerstone Partnership have implemented regular policy action committee webinars for our members and allies. These webinars help our stakeholders learn about relevant public policies and emerging information and engage in calls to action.
Increasing Capacity for Policy Work
The Network and Cornerstone Partnership decided to jointly fund an additional Network staff position to increase our capacity for political advocacy on local, state, and federal levels. Presently Mark Perlman, Policy & Research Associate, and Emily Thaden, Research & Policy Manager, manage and staff our policy agenda.
Potential Integration with Cornerstone
Based on our similar goals and this increasing partnership, the Network and Cornerstone Partnership are currently exploring a potential integration. Read the latest update>
Questions or comments about the Network’s policy work? Please contact Emily Thaden at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 503.493.1000 x 3.