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Washington Report | November 2, 2018

Published on November 2, 2018

The news this week that the “self-driving” car company Waymo was granted the first permit in California to begin driverless testing on public roads was another small step towards a total transformation in how we get around — and another reminder to affordable housers of opportunities in unlikely places: in this case, generic parking lots, conventional garages, second-tier suburbs, and forgotten exurbs.

There’s lots of debate about how and when autonomous vehicles (AVs) will become mainstream and ample reason for skepticism about the most bullish forecasts. Nevertheless, as a report from RCLCOpoints out, “The shrewd real estate strategy is to begin planning for this evolution today, well before its ripple effects are felt, and even if the Jetsonian future we all imagine is still far off.”

Parking is a key focus for any smart strategy. Parking spaces consume 15 – 30 percent of urban land area, according to Green Street Advisors. The advent of AVs could cut parking demand by half or more over time, freeing up billions of square feet of developable or re-developable space in quality locations. Substantial new opportunities to create affordable housing in strong locations may soon present themselves, to those who are ready, in cities across the United States.

For example, the Wall Street Journal reports that global design firm Gensler “is exploring ways to convert stand-alone parking garage structures into apartment buildings that could be used for student or other forms of low-cost housing,” in part through modular building components. Savvy commercial real estate investors are actively buying and “land banking” well-located parking assets for future re-use. Will affordable housing capital get in the game?

AVs may also alter the trajectory of suburban communities whose luster has dimmed due to long work commutes required of their residents. As author Richard Floris observes, “Self-driving cars are likely to make those [middle suburbs] more valuable and turn them from working-class areas to more upscale areas.” This underscores the importance of affordable housing preservation, starting now, in places poised for repositioning in a new transportation landscape.

At the same time, AVs could help make farther-flung locations, where development costs and housing prices tend to be lower, more viable for new affordable for-sale development. A report from the MIT Center for Real Estate sponsored by Capital One suggests, “This acceleration in sprawl is the natural next step for areas that rely on private car usage and are underserved by public transportation.”

Even some of the anticipated economic disruptions AVs are expected to cause could have a housing upside. Workers displaced from auto and trucking industry jobs may help fill construction labor shortages and AV-enabled round-the-clock building product delivery “should allow for faster new home construction at a lower cost,” according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

Transportation and housing policy are inextricably linked. The biggest transportation transformation in decades is accelerating before us. Housing has to keep up, or it will fall behind.

Stockton Williams | Executive Director

In This Issue

NCSHA Sends USDA Comments on Proposed Single-Family Program Rules

Tingerthal Briefs Congressional Staff on the National Housing Trust Fund

Still Time to Boost Housing Credit Bill Cosponsorship Before the Lame Duck Session

FHFA Proposes to Reform FHLB Affordable Housing Goals

HUD Considering Changes to REAC Inspections

HUD Issues Updated HOME Reports

NCSHA in the News

Looking Ahead

NCSHA Sends USDA Comments on Proposed Single-Family Program Rules

NCSHA submitted three comments to USDA in October regarding proposed rules to amend its Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP). NCSHA’s comments supported USDA’s proposal to consider changes in its SFHGLP maximum interest rate, addressed USDA’s proposed changes to the SFHGLP loss claims and loss mitigation processes, and urged the agency to implement the proposed changes that would adjust the way income limits are determined for SFHGLP borrowers. Please contact Glenn Gallo for more information.

Tingerthal Briefs Congressional Staff on the Housing Trust Fund 

On October 29, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) hosted a congressional briefing on the Housing Trust Fund (HTF). Minnesota Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal joined NLIHC’s Ed Gramlich, Vermont Housing & Conservation Board’s Jennifer Hollar, and Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County’s Shauna Sorrells on a panel highlighting activities from HTF’s first year of funding, how states are planning to use their latest allocations, and opportunities to expand HTF through housing finance reform and other legislation. Tingerthal shared how Minnesota Housing is utilizing HTF for supportive housing developments and urged attendees to preserve and enhance HTF moving forward.

Still Time to Boost Housing Credit Bill Cosponsorship Before the Lame Duck Session

Members of Congress on the campaign trail now will be back in DC soon with a full agenda for the post-election lame-duck session. There is a strong likelihood they will consider a tax bill during this period, so we need to persuade them to support advancing the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (S. 548/H.R. 1661) in that tax package. Urge members of your delegation who have not cosponsored to do so and ask supporters to weigh in with their leadership. We currently have 180 House cosponsors of H.R. 1661 and 41 cosponsors of S. 548, with recent additions on the House bill including Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), John Delaney (D-MD), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Troy Balderson (R-OH), and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ).

FHFA Proposes to Reform FHLB Affordable Housing Goals

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) earlier this week released a proposed rule to streamline its Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) Affordable Housing Goals. The proposed changes would apply the goals to all FHLB mortgage purchase programs and require that 20 percent of an FHLB’s loan purchases each year meet one of the income or geographic goals. FHFA will accept comments on the proposed rule until January 31, 2019.  There will also be a webinar on the proposed changes on Thursday, November 8, at 2:00 p.m. ET.

HUD Considering Changes to REAC Inspections

HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing announced October 29 that it is examining its Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspection protocols to explore “immediate improvements and those refinements over the long term.” The goal is to have a simplified inspection system more focused on the physical conditions within housing units and “to place a greater emphasis on lead-based paint hazards and mold.”

HUD Issues Updated HOME Reports

Last week, HUD issued three updated reports on the HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME).  The reports cover units completed by state, by congressional district, and with the Low Income Housing Tax Credit by state. The HOME Coalition is currently updating its state and Congressional District factsheets to reflect this data and will post these shortly.

NCSHA in the News

Looking Ahead…

NCSHA, State HFA, and Industry Events

  • November 7, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. ET | NCSHA and IRS Webinar on Housing Credit Form SubmissionTo participate, contact Katelynn Harris by November 2.
  • November 7 – 8 | Indiana HCDA’s Moving Forward Rural Development Workshop
    Jennifer Schwartz will participate.
  • November 7 | Ohio Housing Conference
    Stockton Williams is speaking at this event.
  • November 9 | Ballard Spahr National Housing Symposium
    Althea Arnold, Khloe Greenwood, and Katelynn Harris will participate.
  • November 14 | Vermont Statewide Housing Conference
    Stockton Williams will participate.
  • November 14 – 15 | Freddie Mac Affordable Housing Advisory Council Meeting
    Stockton Williams and Garth Rieman will participate.
  • November 27 | National Housing Conference Solutions for Affordable Housing Conference
    Stockton Williams is speaking at this event.
  • December 5 – 7 | Housing Assistance Council Rural Housing Conference
    Glenn Gallo will participate.
  • January 13 – 18 | NCSHA HFA Institute | Washington, DC

Legislative and Regulatory Activity

  • November 8 | FHFA webinar on proposed FHLB Affordable Housing Goals amendments
  • November 14 | Senate Banking Committee Hearing on Oversight of Pilot Programs at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • November 19 | Comment deadline on the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Community Reinvestment Act
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