A bi-partisan group of former senators,
Cabinet secretaries, and other housing and economic experts have released what
is termed a new proposal for a housing finance system. The report called Housing America's Future: New
Directions for National Policy was produced by the Bipartisan Policy Center's
Housing Commission under a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. It asks for a review
of federal housing policy calling the current system outdated and not equipped
to keep pace with today's demands and the challenges of the imminent future.
Here is a partial summary of the Commission's recommendations.
The nation needs a responsible, sustainable approach to homeownership
that will help ensure that all creditworthy households have access to homeownership and its considerable
benefits. It also needs a reformed system of housing finance with
the private sector playing a
far more prominent role in bearing credit risk while promoting greater
diversity in mortgage funding
Federal policy should strike an appropriate balance between
homeownership and rental subsidies. This
rebalancing would include winding down and ultimate elimination of the GSEs and
a more targeted FHA restored to its traditional mission of primarily serving
The GSEs would be replaced by an independent government-owned
corporation providing a limited catastrophic guarantee on qualified
mortgage-backed securities (MBS); a reaffirmed commitment to providing a decent
home for every American family; and a focus on providing help to those most in
account for 35 percent of the U.S. population and their numbers are likely to
grow significantly over the coming decade.
Pressure on the market may push rents further out of reach for low
income households creating greater hardships for cost burdened renters.
The plan calls for reforms that would establish a new performance-based
system for delivering federal rental assistance with greater devolution of
responsibilities to state and local providers. The commission also proposes to
shift existing resources to assist more effectively the most vulnerable
households, and to preserve and expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit
program to increase the supply of affordable rental housing.
The commission supports
current approaches to the
administration of housing
support in rural
areas delivered through USDA and suggests there be modest incremental
funding for the Section 502 Direct Loan.
the Commission said the country must address the overwhelming numbers of
seniors who wish to "age in place" in their own homes and
communities. It recommends better coordination of federal
programs that deliver housing and health care services
to seniors including expansion of the
Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program to include home
assessments and modifications for aging in place.
Better guidance should be given to help seniors understand reverse mortgages
and a White House conference
could bring together key public
and private players to draw national
attention to the issue of senior housing
and to catalyze development of a coordinated approach to aging in
The Housing Commission is co-chaired by former Senate Majority Leader George
J. Mitchell, former Senator Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, former Senator and HUD
Secretary Mel Martinez, and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, and includes
17 other individuals from diverse professional and political backgrounds.
"At this critical time in our
nation's history, we can no longer afford to defer bipartisan action on
housing," said the co-chairs in an op-ed in POLITICO today. "We
believe our report can serve as a framework for Congress and the administration
to act in the best interests of all Americans."
"Six years after the collapse of the
housing market, the problems in housing remain as severe as ever and solutions
continue to be elusive," says the op-ed. "We hope [our report] will serve as a
catalyst for action."