NCSHA Washington Report | SPECIAL EDITION | December 22, 2020
Yesterday, Jupiter and Saturn shared a rare planetary nuzzle and Congress passed an emergency relief bill for the American people by huge bipartisan majorities. It’s OK to feel good for a minute.
The housing provisions in the relief bill, summarized in detail here, include $25 billion in emergency rental assistance, a minimum 4 percent rate for Housing Credit developments, additional Housing Credit authority for states hit by recent disasters, and more time to spend housing help states funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. It’s the biggest affordable housing package from Washington in years.
Through the country’s state housing finance agencies, these provisions will help hundreds of thousands of needy households in the months ahead. They reflect Congress’ confidence in a state delivery system for federal housing policy that’s based on the system’s results over the past five decades — and, maybe more than ever, over the past nine months.
It’s the honor of the state HFAs’ small staff in Washington to communicate those results and collaborate with policymakers and interest groups from every point on the ideological spectrum on our members’ behalf.
Among the latter, there are way too many to thank — including some you might not expect — in this short message. “You know who you are,” as they say. We do, too, and we won’t ever forget.
Some inside the Beltway are lighting up social media with self-congratulations and laying down markers already for what they plan to push with the next Congress and new Administration, which is OK, too. State HFAs, pragmatists ever mindful of keeping Congress’ trust, are focused on meeting their demanding new responsibilities in the relief bill.
Most expect to play a major role in delivering the bill’s emergency rental assistance, requiring immediate investment in systems, development of procedures, mobilization of partners, and clarifications on key issues from Treasury, which will administer the program, in the days and weeks ahead.
Almost every state HFA will be able to finance additional new housing with a fixed 4 percent Housing Credit rate. Realizing the full promise of that long-sought policy will demand deep reviews of development funding needs and clarity from federal policymakers on how wide a range of projects can benefit.
A number of states can now help more struggling homeowners and renters with the relief bill’s one-year extension of the deadline for spending Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars approved in last spring’s CARES Act but only made available to most HFAs months later. A hand from governors and state legislatures in some places letting the HFAs set, or reset, rules for those programs would make them even more effective.
Jupiter and Saturn aren’t scheduled to get as friendly as they were last night for another 60 years. Our holiday wish is for Democrats and Republicans to work together on housing like they did this week much, much more frequently.
Stockton Williams | Executive Director