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Citizens' Housing and Planning Association: August 1, 2008

August 1, 2008

Publication Date: 
Friday, August 1, 2008

State Updates

Session Ends Without House Vote on Expiring Use Legislation

The legislative session ended after midnight last night without a floor vote on the affordable housing preservation bill (S. 2799). The bill was released from the House Committee on Ways and Means and had broad support among legislators and the Administration, but was not acted on prior to adjourning. It appears that isolated opposition coupled with very little time and several major bills competing for limited calendar space led to the bill's outcome. S. 2799 passed two weeks ago in the Senate, where Senator Susan Tucker has been a staunch advocate for expiring use legislation.

Housing Committee Chairman Kevin Honan, Majority Whip Lida Harkins, Second Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing, Representative Alice Wolf, Representative Alice Peisch, Representative Steve Walsh, Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, and Representative Liz Malia were all noticeably active advocates in pushing for the bill's passage in the final week, in addition to support from the Patrick Administration. CHAPA also commends Speaker DiMasi and Chairman DeLeo for considering the legislation and advancing the bill from Ways and Means, despite the outcome.

The expiring use bill would have been the third major piece of housing legislation passed by the Legislature within the past twelve months (comprehensive foreclosure legislation, 2008 housing bond bill/state low income housing tax credit expansion), in addition to a 10% FY '09 budget increase for housing. CHAPA wants to thank Chairman Honan, Chairwoman Tucker, House and Senate leadership, and the Patrick Administration for a strong commitment to affordable housing.

General End-of-Session Updates

There was a flurry of activity within the past week. Highlights include:

  • The Environmental Bond Bill (H. 5054) was passed after midnight last night and sent to the Governor for his signature.
    • An amendment will allow municipalities that adopt Comprehensive Water Management Plans to require or prohibit a property owner to hook up to a sewer extension. Prior to this legislation, property owners along a sewer line could not be denied sewer access. CHAPA worked with Senator Robert O'Leary, the chief proponent of the legislation, to ensure that the affordable housing cannot be denied access to sewer infrastructure and thanks him for his support in making this change
    • The legislation also amends the Clean Water State Revolving Fund by allowing for 0% interest on water/sewer infrastructure projects. In order to qualify for 0% interest financing a project must appear on the DEP Intended Use Plan between 2009 and 2019 and be consistent with any regional wastewater management plan. In addition, the municipality must not be subject to a DEP enforcement action, have a DEP approved Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan, and have adopted land use controls to ensure that the wastewater project will not result in an increase in wastewater flows beyond what was authorized under zoning and Title V.
  • Legislation to allow housing development on the former Medfield State Hospital site is on the Governor's desk. H. 4214 was a priority for the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health because it provides for 44 units of housing for DMH consumers. The legislation also provides for 240 units of rental housing and 300 homeownership opportunities, including 60 units of affordable housing.
  • Cooperative Housing legislation originally vetoed by Governor Patrick is headed back to the Governor's desk in a modified version. H. 1224 was redrafted and passed by both branches after language changes were made to remove the potential impact on affordable housing. However, some cooperative housing boards are still concerned about the potential new requirements in the bill.
  • The Transportation Bond Bill (H.5039) was passed and sent to the Governor, which includes $20 million for transit-oriented development.
  • Approximately half of the $122 million in budget vetoes were overridden by the Legislature.
  • The Condominium Common Area Interest legislation (H. 4268), sponsored by Rep. Peisch, was on the House calendar but also was not acted on prior to the end of session. However, CHAPA is optimistic about the prospects of advancing the bill in informal sessions.
  • Additionally, legislation requiring just-cause eviction for tenants in foreclosed properties was not advanced from Committee.

Division of Banks Issues Opinion on Nonprofit Lender Licensing

The Division of Banks has issued an advisory opinion exempting nonprofits that make certain types of loans from the new licensing requirements enacted as part of Ch. 206 of the Acts of 2007.

DOB stated that that the licensing provisions shall not apply to a nonprofit agency which "exclusively makes or issues commitments for mortgage loans on residential property to be financed with public funds, or negotiates, places, assists in placement of, finds, or offers to negotiate, place, assist in placement of, or find mortgage loans on residential property to be financed with public funds only under a contract with a federal, state, or municipal government, any instrumentality thereof or any quasi-government entity as determined by the Commissioner."


Broad Range of Advocates Join to Support Fuel Assistance

 

The concerns around rising fuel costs and cuts in federal assistance have brought together advocates from a variety of sectors to call for additional fuel assistance. Coalition partner Action for Boston Community Development estimates that it will take $250 million to keep heating assistance at the same level as last year, which still left tens of thousands of families with empty oil tanks and caused well over 100,000 households to fall significantly behind on their utility bills.

Anticipated Fuel Assistance funding for the 2008-09 winter currently stands at only $83 million. Last year it was $137 million. CHAPA will actively participate in this Coalition to minimize the impact of rising fuel costs on housing instability and homelessness.

Massachusetts Foreclosures Exceed 6,700, Double 2007 Pace

 

On July 30, the Warren Group reported that a total of 6,707 foreclosure deeds were recorded in Massachusetts from January through June 2008, more than double the number reported (3,083) for the same period in 2007. It noted that the number recorded in June, however, was 20% lower than in May.

 

2008 Building Permit Activity Lowest Since 1991, but June Permits Up

 

On July 17, the Census Bureau released building permit data for June 2008. A total of 6,071 units were permitted in Massachusetts from January through June, 23% fewer than in 2007, 46% fewer than in 2006 (11,275) and the lowest since 1991 (5,518).

The 2008 drop is due entirely to declines in single-family, two-unit and three-to-four unit properties (down 40%, 48% and 57% respectively from 2007). Multifamily units permitted have totaled 3,246 year to date, up 7% from a year ago. Overall, permit activity in June this year (2,075 units) was 89% higher than in June 2007 and slightly higher than in June 2006, due to multifamily permitting activity (1,502 of the 2,075 units).

Census Bureau Releases 2007 City and Town Population Estimates

 

On July 10, the U.S. Census Bureau released its July 1, 2007 population estimates for cities and towns. Based on the estimates, Massachusetts ranked 32nd in terms of absolute population growth and 44th in terms of population growth rate (1.6% vs. 7.2% nationwide) among the 50 states and District of Columbia, gaining just over 100,000 residents between April 1, 2000 and July 1, 2007. Nantucket County had the highest growth rate at 10.6% (1,011 residents), followed by Worcester County at 4.2% (31,379), Bristol County at 3.7% (17,436) and Suffolk County at 3.4% (23,242). Only one county ( Berkshire ) had a notable decline (5,155 residents or 3.8%).

Overall, 246 of the state's 351 cities and towns gained population between 2000 and 2007, while 103 communities lost population and two remained unchanged. Boston and Revere had the largest absolute gains (over 10,000 and over 8,000 respectively), while Somerville and Pittsfield had the largest drops (over 3,200 and over 2,800 respectively). A town by town listing of changes in population between 2002 and 2007 is also available on the Boston Globe website.

 

Community Development Mentoring Program Announced

 

The Alliance – Advancing Community Development by Confronting Racism has announced the 2008 Community Development Mentoring Program, designed to advance leaders of color in the field.

The program encourages a culture of learning, networking and mentoring within the community development field. The program seeks mentors (senior level staff or members of the board leadership of community development organizations of all racial and ethnic backgrounds) and mentees (professionals of color working in the community development field at mid and entry level positions or serving as board members in community development organizations). Applications are due September 1st. The program runs from October 2008 – October 2009. For more information, contact Shirronda Almeida, shirrondaa@macdc.org, or log onto http://www.macdc.org/docs/prog_alliance/mentoring-program.

Federal Updates

 

President Signs Major Housing Bill (Foreclosure Aid, Housing Trust, Tax Credits)

 

On July 30, the President signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 into law (H.R. 3221, now Public Law 110-289). As detailed in a CHAPA summary, the wide-ranging bill includes many affordable housing provisions and authorizes:

  • A new Affordable Housing Trust which will provide grants to states and localities starting in 2010, primarily for rental housing programs for extremely low income households. The Trust will be funded through assessments on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Assessments will also fund a new Capital Magnet Fund which can be used for both affordable housing and related community facilities and economic development activities.
  • A new FHA insurance program (HOPE for Homeowners) for refinance mortgages for homeowners with currently unaffordable mortgages (starts October 1).
  • A $3.92 billion grant program for states and localities to address foreclosed properties.
  • $180 million in additional foreclosure counseling funds.
  • A new regulator for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks, and new affordable housing goals for each.
  • Temporary increases in LIHTC and tax-exempt bond allocations to states (20 cents a year per-capita for LIHTC in 2008 and 2009 and $11 billion nationwide for tax-exempt bonds in 2008).
  • Revised rules for a number of HUD programs, including LIHTC, tax-exempt bonds, Section 8 Project Based Vouchers and Shelter Plus Care.
  • A temporary tax credit for first time homebuyers.
  • New mortgage disclosure and loan originator licensing and registration requirements.

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY2009 HUD Budget Bill

 

The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved an FY2009 budget bill for HUD on July 10 and released bill details on July 16. The bill largely level funds current programs, though it provides small increases for HOME, Section 202 and Section 811 and Homeless Assistance. It appears to underfund both tenant-based and project-based Section 8 renewals. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has posted a summary of major bill provisions and a comparative budget chart on its website. The House Appropriations Committee has not yet acted on a companion bill and many expect Congress to ultimately approve a continuing resolution for FY2009.

 

Bill to Increase FY2008 Funding for Fuel Assistance (LIHEAP) Stalled

A Senate bill to increase the FY2008 appropriation for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by $2.5 billion (up from the current $2.6 billion) failed to come to a vote this past weekend (July 28). The bill, S.3186, was introduced by Senator Sanders of Vermont. Massachusetts would receive $98 million under the bill. Locally, Massachusetts Community Action Agencies and other housing advocates have formed a coalition to advocate for adequate LIHEAP funding for FY2009.

Federal District Court Limits Fair Housing Exemptions for 55+ Housing

Last month, a U.S. District Court in Eastern Tennessee ruled that an age-restricted (55+) project was not exempt from the ban on discrimination against families with children because it failed to demonstrate that it met the three tests established by HUD to demonstrate exemption. The tests require owners to demonstrate (1) that at least 80% of the units are occupied by households with at least one person aged 55 or above; (2) that the project adheres to policies and procedures showing its intent to limit occupancy to 55+ households and (3) that the project complies with HUD rules for verifying occupancy. The government's complaint and motion in the case ( U.S. v. Fountainbleau Apartments L.P., No. 1:06-cv-104, 2008 WL 2518711 (E.D, Tenn. ), June 19, 2008) are available online.

 

Recent Research

 

U.S.Conference of Mayors Vacant Properties Report

 

The U.S. Conference of Mayors released a new report on the impact of vacant and abandoned properties, including foreclosure properties, on 42 cities, recent trends and how cities are responding. "Vacant and Abandoned Properties: Survey and Best Practices" also describes best practices in 27 cities, including Hartford and New Haven . The 42 cities have a total of over 79,000 vacant and abandoned properties, ranging from over 16,000 in Baltimore to less than 10 in a few cities. Seventy one percent (71%) of the cities reported the number of vacant and abandoned properties had risen in the past year, 38% reported spending to maintain these properties had risen and 45% reported changing local ordinances or policies in response.

 

Policy Link Issues Report on Renewing Smaller Industrial Cities

 

Policy Link has issued a new report, "To Be Strong Again: Renewing the Promise in Smaller Industrial Cities", describing strategies these cities (population up to 150,000) have been using to renew their economies and communities. The report includes case studies of successful approaches cities have pursued in connection with land use planning, reclamation of abandoned properties, regionalization of planning, services, workforce training, targeted state infrastructure investments and neighborhood revitalization.

 

Housing plus Transportation Affordability Index

 

The Center for Neighborhood Technology has developed a new definition of housing affordability that includes the associated cost of transportation for a given neighborhood and has created a Housing plus Transportation (H+T) Index to measure affordability by location. It sets an affordability goal of 45% of income. The index, supported by the Brookings Institute, includes an interactive mapping site that provides neighborhood-level housing and transportation costs for 52 metropolitan areas. The site also provides data on neighborhood transportation characteristics, including car use and ownership, employment density, and transit ridership.

 

Shelterforce Responds to Article Blaming Vouchers, HOPE VI for Urban Crime Increases

On July 22, Shelterforce published a response by a group of leading housing and urban policy experts to a recent article in The Atlantic ("American Murder Mystery").

The Atlantic article argues that federal efforts to deconcentrate poverty through HOPE VI led to crime increases in formerly stable Memphis neighborhoods as former public housing residents relocated. The response criticizes the magazine piece as misleading and finds that article's conclusions were not backed by evidence and were based on sometimes inaccurate information (most of the units were not demolished under HOPE VI).

It notes that while the author found higher crime rates in neighborhoods with vouchers, she cited no evidence that relocated families were responsible for the crimes. It points out relatively few households in Memphis have vouchers and outlines more likely explanations for recent crime increases. It concludes by reviewing the strengths of the voucher program, including the fact that most participants relocate to safer neighborhoods and its limitations. The housing experts point out that vouchers alone can't lift people out of poverty--especially those in need of support services--and vouchers cannot promote deconcentration absent an adequate supply of rental housing and coordinated efforts to strengthen vulnerable or declining neighborhoods.

 

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Issues Report on Subprime Lending Facts

 

A recent report (May 30) by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, "Subprime Facts: What (We Think) We Know about the Subprime Crisis and What We Don't" provides new information on the characteristics of the subprime loans, borrowers and properties financed and the high rate of multifamily foreclosures.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, August 6, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., Workshop on "The Positive Role of Networks in Ending Homelessness", at the Hogan Campus Center, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester MA. Sponsored by One Family in partnership with the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA) and United Way.

Tuesday, August 12th, 1:00-8:00 p.m., (free) Foreclosure Prevention Workshop, Gillette Stadium – Fidelity Investments Clubhouse, Foxborough, MA, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

Mortgage lenders and servicers will be in attendance as well as housing counselors. The workshop will enable owners in distress or concerned about foreclosure to sit down with their lender and work out solutions (owners should bring documentation on their mortgage, income, etc. to the event). For more information, click here.

Tuesday, August 14, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., HUD Forum to Discuss Fair Lending Requirements of the Federal Fair Housing Act, Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center (in the Multipurpose room). Co-sponsored by HUD, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and local housing counseling agencies.

Friday, September 5th, 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Suffolk University Law School, Seminar, "A New Look At An Old 40B – New Regulations, New Rulings", 120 Tremont St., Boston, co-sponsored with City Solicitors and Town Counsel Association, CHAPA, and Suffolk University's Moakley Institute.