Background Housing and Urban Development

A Bit of Background – Housing and Urban Development

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a goal of helping people access affordable housing options, reduce discrimination and improve the quality of life within local communities. It is now being overseen by Ben Carson, who has no experience dealing with these issues.

A few key issues to keep an eye on:
-Federal Housing Administration (FHA) affordable mortgage program: allows first-time home buyers lower down payments and closing costs by insuring the loan. One of the first executive actions was to roll back an Obama era order to reduce the annual mortgage insurance premium. This makes mortgages more expensive for families who would not be able to afford a home without federal assistance and would otherwise be susceptible to risky subprime mortgages (of the type that have been implicated in the housing crisis).

-Community Development Block Grant Program: allow local communities annual grants to address various needs, a potential target for cuts

-Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8): allows very low-income families, elderly, disabled to rent safe and clean housing in the private market by paying a subsidy to the landlord

-Fair Housing Act: Enacted a week after Martin Luther King Jr’s death in 1968, this Act is part of the broader Civil Rights Act and prohibits buyers and renters from being discriminated against solely based on their race. It also stipulates that communities receiving money from HUD must ‘affirmatively further’ fair housing. The Obama administration collected a lot of data from communities and added a rule asking localities to set their own fair housing goals and gives them the tools to see how diverse their communities are (or are not). Senate Bill 103 by Marco Rubio and others would reverse the data collection and remove federal funding from any such databases about racial disparities.