U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson said today he is committed to working with NAHB and other stakeholders to seek solutions to the nation’s housing affordability crisis.
Speaking at the NAHB Leadership Council meeting in Las Vegas in conjunction with the International Builders' Show, Carson said: “Addressing our country’s affordable housing challenges will take innovation not just in physical construction and development, but also innovation in developing housing choice. For example, municipalities may help alleviate barriers to renting apartments by providing renters with financing alternatives beyond a traditional lump-sum cash security deposit."
President Trump last year signed an executive order establishing the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing. "This council, which I have the privilege to chair, is working with local leaders and citizens to identify and remove regulatory burdens that block affordable housing development," Carson said.
To assist the council's work, HUD is soliciting input on perceived barriers that limit development. "We encourage NAHB members to take advantage of this open window to provide your insights and ideas," Carson said.
Carson also announced that HUD has initiated a pilot program to give procurement preferences to small businesses whose principal office is located in an opportunity zone. Opportunity zones were established as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to provide tax incentives for investors with capital gains to invest in underserved communities.
The pilot applies to procurements at or below the Simplified Acquisition Threshold, currently set at $250,000, and typically set aside for small businesses. The pilot began on Jan. 1 and will run through June 30, 2020. The secretary also congratulated NAHB on the launch of its newest mobile app, the Pocket Guide to Fair Housing Act Accessibility. The app was partially funded by an educational grant from HUD and will enable builders and developers to determine if the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements apply to their housing project and, if so, provide a quick reference guide to the seven basic accessibility requirements for compliance with the law.
Last year, NAHB and HUD teamed up to host the inaugural Innovative Housing Showcase on the National Mall. The five-day event explored the latest housing technologies that are helping to improve housing affordability. Carson announced that HUD will continue the Innovative Housing Showcase as an annual tradition and that NAHB will once again co-host this year’s event, which will take place in September.
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mark Calabria, whose agency oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks, also appeared before the NAHB Leadership Council to discuss the health of the housing finance system.
"We are finally seeing income growth that can support housing markets," said Calabria. "But there is still weakness in the mortgage market. We need to have a housing finance system that is competitive, liquid and resilient."
Calabria said he is working with the Treasury Department to raise the capital levels of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac up to $45 billion.
"We want to build up their capital so that in times of stress they can be there for you and the rest of the market," he said.