Jacob Passy – MarketWatch – Saturday, September 26, 2020
There’s perhaps never been a better time to take out a mortgage — at least from an interest rate perspective. But finding a bank willing to lend to you may prove tricky these days.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.90% for the week ending Sept. 24, up three basis points from the week prior, Freddie Mac (FMCC)reported Thursday. Two weeks ago, the average rate for the 30-year loan fell to an all-time low of 2.86%. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose five basis points to an average of 2.4%, while the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage dropped six basis points to 2.9% on average.
A dovish outlook from the Federal Reserve — indicating that the central bank is likely to keep rates low for many years to come — has kept long-term bond yields low, including the 10-year Treasury note (BX:TMUBMUSD10Y) Mortgage rates historically roughly track the direction of the 10-year Treasury note, but since the coronavirus pandemic began, the spread between the two had widened. In recent weeks, though, the two have moved more in sync, with mortgage rates falling to meet the 10-year note. Low mortgage rates have stoked the housing market, as they have compelled would-be buyers to speed up their timelines in order to lock in the cheap financing.
Read more:‘This is just slowing the clock on evictions’: Why the CDC’s moratorium on evictions won’t solve America’s looming $100 billion rental crisis But finding a mortgage lender who is willing to lend to you is a more difficult than it’s been in many years. A recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry trade group, found that mortgage credit availability has dropped to the lowest level since March 2014.
“Credit continues to tighten because of uncertainty still looming around the health of the job market, even as other data on loan applications and home sales show a sharp rebound,” Joel Kan, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in the report. In particular, banks have pulled back from offering loans that allow for lower credit scores, smaller down payments and reduced documentation. Jumbo mortgages have also become harder to come by — and the rates on those loans, which are not included in Freddie Mac’s analysis, have remained much higher than the rest of the market.
Making matters worse for those still looking to refinance: Mortgage rates could soon rise for those loans. The Federal Housing Finance Agency recently announced plans to introduce a new fee for refinancing, which is now set to go in effect beginning in December. But economists suggest that there’s evidence that banks are raising rates to offset the cost of the new fee already. The good news for those seeking to get a home loan is that economists don’t expect rates to move much in the near future. “Absent any fundamental changes to the FHFA policy, or significant virus-related developments such as a treatment or a vaccine, mortgage rate movements figure to be modest in the coming weeks,” said Matthew Speakman, an economist.
Kenneth Squire – CNBC – Saturday, September 26, 2020
Business: Apartment Investment and Management Co. is a REIT that focuses on the ownership, management, redevelopment, and development of apartment communities in some of the largest US markets. It has two primary businesses: (i) AIR, which is a stabilized apartment investment vehicle with quality assets and a national footprint and comprises approximately 90% of AIV’s total business, and (ii) Aimco, which includes complicated development deals and some less attractive portfolio assets, comprising approximately 10% of AIV. Stock Market Value: $5.3 billion ($33.39 per share)
Activist Commentary: Land & Buildings is a real estate focused long-short hedge fund that will try to engage with management on a friendly basis when they see deep value. They invest in real estate in the public markets and select corporate engagements. Their positions are often under the threshold, and they are prepared to nominate directors and have received board seats at Brookdale Senior Living, Felcor Lodging Trust, Life Storage, Macerich, Mack-Cali and Taubman Centers.
What’s Happening: On September 22, Land & Buildings sent a letter to the company’s board expressing its concerns with the company’s September 14 announcement that it plans to separate its business into two, separate and distinct, publicly traded companies, Apartment Income REIT (“AIR”) and Aimco, through a reverse spin-off. Land & Buildings believes that the proposed transaction will not close the company’s substantial discount to net asset value and is an attempt by management and the board to rid themselves of a decades-long poor track record rather than address the fundamental issues challenging the company. They noted that management and the board appear to be rushing completion of the spin-off before shareholders would have the opportunity to express their views on this issue or elect board members to better represent shareholder interests. Land & Buildings called on the company to put the spin-off to a shareholder vote and if they refuse to do so, Land & Buildings stated that it will not hesitate to call a special meeting of shareholders to conduct an advisory vote on the transaction. Further, Land & Buildings noted that it is prepared to file preliminary proxy materials with the SEC on Sept. 28 seeking requests to call a special meeting if the board does not agree to put the proposed spin-off to a vote by that time.
Behind the Scenes Land & Buildings’ initial overture was made in response to the company’s announcement to separate these two business lines into two separate publicly traded companies. At about $33 per share, the company trades well below its NAV of approximately $58 per share and the board believes this spin-off is a way to close that gap. However, Land & Buildings disagrees. Clearly its debt level has something to do with it as does the complexity of its assets and businesses. But after such a prolonged period of underperformance, one has to look at management as a potential problem. Terry Considine has been the company’s chairman and CEO since its IPO in 1994 and since that time the company has underperformed its Proxy Apartment Peer Average by a negative 914%. Additionally, the company has traded at a substantial discount to its own NAV estimate as well as sell-side estimates of NAV over a trailing five year period, and the company has returned negative 35.21%, negative 25.99% and negative 8.79% over the past 1, 3 and 5 year periods, while the S&P 500 has returned 10.41%, 32.03% and 70.05%, respectively. Splitting into two companies will do little to nothing to solve these problems as Considine is expected to be chairman of both companies, which are expected to continue to do business with each other. Moreover, the transaction will result in a material tax event for the company likely to exceed 10% of its total market cap. Land & Buildings believes many shareholders agree with them and is calling for the board to put the spin-off to a shareholder vote, which the company has no obligation to do and likely will not do. In that case, Land & Buildings’ recourse is to get the support of a total of 25% of shares to call a special meeting of shareholders to put the transaction to a vote. However, the stark reality of the situation is that if the AIV Board is willing to eschew good corporate governance and delay a special meeting, it can accomplish the spin-off before any shareholder vote is consummated. However, they should look to Darden Restaurants (DRI) as a cautionary tale. The Darden board ignored the clear will of stockholders when divesting the Red Lobster business resulting in the imminent replacement of the entire board and CEO. If the AIV board executes the spin-off without a shareholder vote or in the face of a negative shareholder vote, and the NAV gap is not closed from the transaction, Land & Buildings will have even more ammunition for its activist campaign and more evidence that its theories are correct and will likely press forward with an activist campaign at the newly formed AIR company. If Land & Buildings is able to get the company to pause and listen to them or if they ultimately launch an activist campaign at AIR, they would likely be pushing to reconstitute the board, change management, de-lever and reduce operational complexity. If that does not close the valuation gap, they would push for a sale of the company, and it is interesting to note that Blackstone is currently a shareholder and could be a potential acquirer if it comes to that.
Aly Yale – Millionacres – Thursday, September 24, 2020
For those in the market (or at least hoping to be soon), signing a long-term lease just doesn’t make sense. People need the flexibility to move quickly should a suitable house hit the market, and your traditional 12-month agreement doesn’t allow for that.
There’s no doubt it’s a seller’s market in most parts of the country. Housing inventory is low, and thanks to low mortgage rates, buyer demand is surging. That’s made finding a house — especially an affordable one — harder than ever for some buyers.
A month-to-month arrangement can be perfect for these hopeful homeowners. Here’s what to think about before offering one yourself..
Pros and cons of month-to-month rentals as a landlord
One of the biggest advantages of a month-to-month arrangement is that you can charge more. Because the tenant comes with more risk (you might have a vacancy with very little notice), you can ask for a higher rent to offset that risk.
Month-to-month leases also give you flexibility in terminating them. You’re not stuck with a vacancy 12 months down the line (at a potentially bad time to find renters). Instead, you can choose your end date at will, such as terminating the lease in the late spring or early summer, when you know more people may be in the market.
Another huge perk? You also have the opportunity to get rid of a bad tenant fairly quickly. If a renter just isn’t working out, you only have to deal with them for a month or two before you can send them on their way.
Flexible end dates.
Potentially commanding a higher rent.
Getting rid of bad tenants faster.
So what about the downsides? A major one is that you could find yourself with a vacant unit with very little notice. That could make it hard to find a new tenant, and you could end up with financial losses if the vacancy drags on too long.
You’ll also have more turnover with monthly renters, and that means more cleaning and repair fees long term. It may also result in more wear and tear to your property.
In summary, the cons of going month to month include:
Could leave you with an unexpected vacancy at a bad time.
More potential for wear and tear.
The bottom line
Demand for month-to-month rentals is up. While offering these arrangements might make it easier to find tenants fast, it does come with risks.
If you do end up with a month-to-month tenant, make sure to charge a higher rent in order to mitigate the risk. This will give you a financial cushion in the event you’re hit with a sudden, unexpected vacancy.
There are a number of programs to assist homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure and otherwise struggling with their monthly mortgage payments. The majority of these programs are administered through the U.S. Treasury Department and HUD. This page provides a summary of these various programs. Please continue reading in order to determine which program can best assist you.
Homeowners can lower their monthly mortgage payments and get into more stable loans at today’s low rates. And for those homeowners for whom homeownership is no longer affordable or desirable, the program can provide a way out which avoids foreclosure. Additionally, in an effort to be responsive to the needs of today’s homeowners, there are also options for unemployed homeowners and homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth. Please read the following program summaries to determine which program options may be best suited for your particular circumstances.
Modify or Refinance Your Loan for Lower Payments
Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP): HAMP lowers your monthly mortgage payment to 31 percent of your verified monthly gross (pre-tax) income to make your payments more affordable. The typical HAMP modification results in a 40 percent drop in a monthly mortgage payment. Eighteen percent of HAMP homeowners reduce their payments by $1,000 or more.
Principal Reduction Alternative (PRA): PRA was designed to help homeowners whose homes are worth significantly less than they owe by encouraging servicers and investors to reduce the amount you owe on your home.
Second Lien Modification Program (2MP): If your first mortgage was permanently modified under HAMP SM and you have a second mortgage on the same property, you may be eligible for a modification or principal reduction on your second mortgage under 2MP. Likewise, If you have a home equity loan, HELOC, or some other second lien that is making it difficult for you to keep up with your mortgage payments, learn more about this MHA program.
Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP): If you are current on your mortgage and have been unable to obtain a traditional refinance because the value of your home has declined, you may be eligible to refinance through HARP. HARP is designed to help you refinance into a new affordable, more stable mortgage.
In today’s housing market, many homeowners have experienced a decrease in their home’s value. Learn about these MHA programs to address this concern for homeowners.
Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP): If you are current on your mortgage and have been unable to obtain a traditional refinance because the value of your home has declined, you may be eligible to refinance through HARP. HARP is designed to help you refinance into a new affordable, more stable mortgage.
Principal Reduction Alternative: PRA was designed to help homeowners whose homes are worth significantly less than they owe by encouraging servicers and investors to reduce the amount you owe on your home.
Treasury/FHA Second Lien Program (FHA2LP): If you have a second mortgage and the mortgage servicer of your first mortgage agrees to participate in FHA Short Refinance, you may qualify to have your second mortgage on the same home reduced or eliminated through FHA2LP. If the servicer of your second mortgage agrees to participate, the total amount of your mortgage debt after the refinance cannot exceed 115% of your home’s current value.
Assistance for Unemployed Homeowners
Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP): If you are having a tough time making your mortgage payments because you are unemployed, you may be eligible for UP. UP provides a temporary reduction or suspension of mortgage payments for at least twelve months while you seek re-employment.
Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program (EHLP):
FHA Special Forbearance: If you are having difficulty making mortgage payments because you are unemployed and have no other sources of income, you may be eligible for FHA’s Special Forbearance. FHA now requires servicers to extend the forbearance period, by offering a reduced or suspended mortgage payment for up to twelve months, for FHA borrowers who qualify for the program.
Managed Exit for Borrowers
Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA): If your mortgage payment is unaffordable and you are interested in transitioning to more affordable housing, you may be eligible for a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure through HAFA SM.
“Redemption” is a period after your home has already been sold at a foreclosure sale when you can still reclaim your home. You will need to pay the outstanding mortgage balance and all costs incurred during the foreclosure process.
Contact Your Lender
If you are experiencing difficulties making your mortgage payments, you are encouraged to contact your lender or loan servicer directly to inquire about foreclosure prevention options that are available. If you are experiencing difficulty communicating with your mortgage lender or servicer about your need for mortgage relief, there are organizations that can help by contacting lenders and servicers on your behalf.
Click Here to log onto the NSC Loss Mitigation Programs home page.
Click Here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about FHA’s loss mitigation programs.
FHA staff are available to help answer your questions and assist you to better understand your options as an FHA borrower under these loss mitigation programs. There are several ways you can contact FHA for more information, including:
Call the National Servicing Center at (877) 622-8525
Call the FHA Outreach Center at (800) CALL FHA (800-225-5342)
Persons with hearing or speech impairments may access this number via TTY by calling the Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.
Empty nest no more? The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted millions of young adults to move back in with their parents since the spring. The majority of 18-to-29-year-olds now live with their parents, surpassing the previous peak during the Great Depression, the Pew Research Center reports
In July, 52% of 18-to-29-year-olds lived with one or both of their parents, up from 47% in February, according to the analysis. That places the number of young adults living with their parents at 26.6 million.
The number of young adults moving back home is evident across genders, racial and ethnic groups, and both metro and rural areas, researchers found. However, increases were most pronounced among the youngest adults (18 to 24 years old) and for young white adults.
Prior to 2020, the highest number of young adults living at home was recorded in 1940, at the end of the Great Depression, when 48% of young adults lived with their parents. There is no data prior to that reflecting the worst of the Great Depression in the 1930s.
“Young adults have been particularly hard-hit by this year’s pandemic and economic downturn, and have been more likely to move than other age groups,” the Pew Research Center notes, citing other surveys. Nine percent of young adults say they relocated temporarily or permanently due to the coronavirus outbreak. About 23% said they moved back home due to college campuses being closed, and 18% said they moved back due to job loss or other financial reasons.
The number of young adults moving back home was a trend even prior to the pandemic, which has been having an influence on the housing market. Because of it, the growth in new households has trailed population growth.
Between February and July, the number of households headed by an individual between 18 and 29 years old fell by 1.9 million or 12%—dropping from 15.8 million to 13.9 million.
A separate survey conducted by MagnifyMoney over this summer found that the metros where young adults are most likely to live with their parents are Riverside, Calif.; Miami; Los Angeles; San Antonio, Texas; New York; and Memphis, Tenn.
Doug Whiteman – MoneyWise – Saturday, September 12, 2020
According to a popular survey that’s been around since 1971, mortgage rates have hit a record low — for the ninth time in 2020. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says its survey shows mortgages this week are averaging just 2.86%.
You might assume you’ve got plenty of time to grab that kind of super-low rate if you want to buy a home or have been thinking it’s time to refinance your mortgage. After all, the Federal Reserve has said it’ll hold interest rates close to zero for years. But while it’s true mortgage rates are likely to remain pretty cheap by historical standards for quite some time, the days of all-time-low rates could end soon. Borrowers who wait just a few weeks could wind up with higher monthly payments and much stiffer lifetime interest costs.
Here comes a new fee
Lenders are expected to push their rates higher this fall as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae impose a new fee — for real this time.
The government-sponsored companies, which buy or guarantee most U.S. home loans, initially told lenders in mid-August that a 0.5% on refinance loans would take effect on Sept. 1. And, lenders freaked out. Within two days, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage soared from 2.92% to 3.14%, according to Mortgage News Daily. Rates cooled off again in late August, when Fannie and Freddie’s regulatory agency put the fee on hold until Dec. 1.
Zillow economist Matthew Speakman says the surcharge is likely to mean “substantive increases” in mortgage rates this fall, and way earlier than you might think. “Even though the adjustment won’t officially be imposed until Dec. 1, lenders are likely to start applying it to loans as soon as October, meaning the adjustment’s impact will likely show up in rate quotes in as little as a few weeks,” he writes.
That means house shoppers looking to buy, and homeowners wanting to refinance, should lock a low mortgage rate quickly.
How much higher will rates go?
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say they need the revenue from what they’re calling the “adverse market fee” to cover their expected losses from defaults and other issues related to the coronavirus financial crisis.
As the fee becomes a thing, it’s likely to increase mortgage rates by one-eighth to one-quarter of 1 percentage point (0.125 to 0.25), says Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily. In other words, today’s 30-year rate of around 2.85% would jump as high as 3.10%. “While that might not sound significant, this is the biggest change of its kind, ever,” Graham says.
Here’s what that difference would mean for a borrower:
With the rate hike, you’d pay an additional $408 a year — and more than $12,000 extra over time. So, borrowers have “a compelling cases for locking,” says Graham. But first, you’ve got find a low rate and the lender who will give it to you. Get mortgage offers from a bunch of lenders and compare them, to uncover the best deal in your area and for a person with your credit score.
If your comparison shopping is successful, remember that when you buy or renew your homeowners insurance. Seek rate quotes from multiple insurers and look at them side by side, to get the coverage you need without paying too much.
This special section of MyMoney.gov provides information about and links to a collection of federal guides and curricula for teaching financial capability concepts. Our collection is designed specifically for teachers and educators, including those who work with children as well as practitioners who teach adults.
The Spotlight Resources below provide a taste of the types of available resources. To find more resources in the MyMoney collection, use the search box on the navigation bar. Simply type in the word or phrase that describes your topic, and the site will do the searching for you. The site will display a list of federal resources, along with brief descriptions and links. If the search results are too broad, of if you want to focus on particular issues within your topic, you can narrow the search to get to the information you need.
In the Classroom Materials — Information from the Securities and Exchange Commission including classroom resources, information on special professional development opportunities and workshops for teachers, and a “Just for Teachers” section to help teachers better plan their own financial futures.
Teacher Online Resource Center — This site offers teachers resources from the FDIC and CFPB to help teach children from pre-K through age 20 about money or other financial topics. It includes the FDIC’s Money Smart for Young People series that consists of four free curriculums available for immediate download.
Understanding Taxes for Teachers — Special website from the IRS for teachers. This site presents detailed lesson plans, downloadable activities, simulations, and resources for teachers and students.
Federal Student Aid Information for Counselors — Provides basic college access and financial aid information for middle school, high school, and TRIO counselors. Features include the Counselors and Mentors Handbook, other federal student aid publications (with instructions on how to download or order them), training information, and scripts and slides for presenting a financial aid night. Click on “Network & Potential Partnerships” in the Counselor Resources section to locate financial aid professionals in your community who can assist you.
High School Fed Challenge — A national academic competition that provides students grades 9–12 the opportunity to study the U.S. economy through the lens of the U.S. central bank. The program encourages students to learn more about economics and about the Federal Reserve System’s Federal Open Market Committee, which is the policymaking group that makes interest rate decisions to foster economic strength and stability. From credit card interest rates to the price of a loaf of bread, the effects of monetary policy, set by the Federal Reserve System, are felt in many aspects of our daily lives. This site includes information for students as well as Teacher’s guide.
Special Note: In addition to the resources highlighted above, please review the Spotlight Resources shown on the “Youth” section of the MyMoney.gov site. Several of the highlighted resources are activities and games that would be suitable for use in the classroom. A number of them include guidance and instructions for teachers.
For more Federal information, guides and helpful tools for teachers and educators, read more…
HUD SECRETARY BEN CARSON HOSTS AFFORDABLE HOUSING ROUNDTABLE AND VISITS HABITAT FOR HUMANITY IN NORTH CAROLINA
CONCORD, N.C. — U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson hosted a roundtable in an Opportunity Zone alongside U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC 8) with several leaders in the North Carolina housing market to discuss innovative solutions to increasing the Nation’s supply of affordable housing.
Secretary Carson then visited a Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus County construction site alongside U.S. Representative Hudson as an example of community collaboration with the goal of increasing the affordable housing stock. Founded by churches over thirty years ago, Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus County has served nearly 1,400 individuals, 582 children and 559 families.
Secretary Ben Carson hosts an affordable housing roundtable discussion and visits a Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus County construction site. View additional pictures via Secretary Carson’s Twitter page here.
“Housing prices have risen to the level that there are many in the workforce who maintain a job, but still cannot afford a place to call home,” said Secretary Carson. “The Trump administration has been working hard to bring solutions to this problem. Last week, I was pleased to bring together leaders of innovation and deregulation in North Carolina’s housing market, and I thank Representative Hudson for his commitment to affordable housing for all.”
“I’m focused on finding solutions to provide affordable housing, economic investment, and more jobs for our community,” said Rep. Hudson. “Through measures like Opportunity Zones and the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, I’m proud of the progress made by working with President Trump which we highlighted last week in Kannapolis. I appreciate Secretary Carson for coming to our community and look forward to working together to continue to improve our economy and expand opportunities for all Americans.”
On June 25, 2019, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Council on Eliminating Barriers to Affordable Housing, and named Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson as its chairperson. The Council consists of members across eight Federal agencies and engage with State, local, and tribal leaders across the country to identify and remove the obstacles that impede the production of affordable homes – namely, the enormous price tag that follow burdensome government regulations.
Research indicates that more than 25% of the cost of a new home is the direct result of Federal, State, and local regulations. For this reason, in recent years, the construction of new multifamily and single-family dwellings has not kept pace with the formation of new households. Census Bureau data indicates that from 2010 to 2016, only seven homes were built for every 10 households formed. As a result, Americans have fewer housing opportunities, including the opportunity to achieve sustainable homeownership, which is the number one builder of wealth for most American families.
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. More information about HUD and its programs is available at www.hud.gov and https://espanol.hud.gov.
“The new law eliminates the need for a license to be obtained in advance and a ceremony is no longer required, although couple may certainly have a ceremony if they wish,” Madison County Probate Judge Frank Barger said.
Here is the new process:
1. Obtain a standardized marriage certificate form provided by the state or county probate judge’s office. The process will differ by county but in Madison County, a fillable form will be available on the Probate Judge’s website on Aug. 28.
2. Complete the form. The form requests the same basic information about each spouse that is currently used. Madison County is requiring the form be typed to prevent problems with reading the certificate.
3. Take the completed form to a notary for signature.
4. Deliver the notarized form to the county Probate Judge’s office for recording, along with the filing fee from that county. The form must be submitted with 30 days of being signed.
5. Pay the required filing fee. The fee varies by county.
6. The effective date of the marriage is the latter of the dates of the signature of the spouses.
All other requirements related to getting married -applicants must be of legal age, not already married, not related and competent to enter into marriage – remain the same. The marriage does not have to be solemnized by a minister or someone else licensed to perform a ceremony and that person does not have to sign the form.
Current marriage licenses are valid through Aug. 28, after that date couples must use the new forms.
Brenda Richardson – Money.com – Monday, August 24, 2020
More than a half century after its passage, a landmark law promoting residential integration is being undermined by political attacks.
Intended as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson on April 11, 1968, days after the assassination of Martin Luther King. The legislation has two main purposes: to prevent housing discrimination and to promote diverse communities. Last month, the Trump Administration set off alarm bells when it repealed the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation. The Obama-era rule sought to reinforce the 1968 law by requiring cities to more rigorously examine local housing patterns for racial segregation and come up with plans to address any measurable bias.
After the Department of Housing and Urban Development terminated the rule in late July, President Trump tweeted:
I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood… — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2020 The administration claimed local governments have been overburdened by AFFH requirements. Fair housing advocates have condemned the action. “The government helped create entrenched, pernicious residential segregation and has an obligation to undo it,” said Nikitra Bailey, executive vice president at the Center for Responsible Lending. “By rejecting the Fair Housing Act’s mission to dismantle segregation and the inequity it created, this administration is eschewing its responsibility and will be on the wrong side of history.”
Discriminatory housing practices have reinforced systemic racism in America since the Jim Crow era. Before 1968, landlords and real estate agents could legally deny someone a rental unit or home because of race. A bank could deny a mortgage based on the homebuyer’s skin color or a neighborhood’s racial mix. Zoning and land-use restrictions could be designed to keep people of color out. Illegal housing discrimination still occurs. There were 31,202 reported complaints of housing discrimination in 2018, up 8% from 2017. The National Fair Housing Alliance estimates 4 million instances of housing discrimination occur every year, since most go unreported. In the second quarter of 2020, 47% of Black households owned their homes, compared with 76% of white households, according to the Census Bureau.
“If you look at certain elements when it comes to housing access, we are actually a hundred years behind,” said Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “We could be living back in the 1890s.” Subtle forms of discrimination
The Supreme Court declared racial restrictive covenants—clauses preventing sales to people who were not white—unconstitutional in 1948. But even in the 1950s many homeowner associations had agreements with brokers to not show minority candidates homes in the neighborhood. This practice was blatant and public, said John Logan, a Brown University sociologist who studies housing discrimination. “There were public arguments made that this is better for everybody,” he said.
Today, rather than overt door-slamming discrimination, bias persists in more subtle ways. Housing providers may give incorrect information about what’s available or steer home seekers to particular areas based on their race. Landlords might apply different standards to applicants of color or put different terms in a lease. The practice of racial steering hit home for Logan about 15 years ago when he got a job at Brown and started housing hunting in Providence, Rhode Island. As his real estate agent drove through one area, he recalled that she said, “There are some nice houses in this neighborhood, but I’m not going to show you because you wouldn’t want to live here
“I had no idea of what she was saying because I didn’t know anything about the neighborhoods,” explained Logan. “Later, I realized that this was a part of the area not far from the university that had a sprinkling of African Americans living there. And that’s what she meant. She knew I wouldn’t be interested because, why, because I’m white. That’s the way it works. Presumptions are made, preferences are communicated, sometimes miscommunicated, but it’s part of the whole story.” One family’s experience
Trump’s tweet about the endangerment of the suburban lifestyle upset many Americans, including Michael Waters, a retired military officer who lives in Elmore, Alabama. “His tweet just struck a nerve with me because of him trying to use race and the fair housing issue with all this stuff about destruction of the suburbs to divide this country,” said Waters, explaining that it brought back bleak memories of the 1960s.
“My father was living that American dream of many of the World War II American vets,” said Waters. “That, hey, you served your country, you served well, your country made it possible for you to buy that house with the white picket fence in the suburbs and get a decent job and so forth.” Waters’ father, who worked at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard, had worked hard to buy a home for his family on Long Island, New York. When he was transferred to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1965, he was determined to do the same, but the family ran into roadblocks.
“Suddenly, in some ways, that American dream became a nightmare because we did not have at that point the Fair Housing Act,” said Waters. His parents went so far as having a white attorney negotiate the purchase of a house, only to have the real estate agent refuse to complete the deal when the couple arrived for their closing.
“I can remember long house-hunting trips that ended up with my mother in tears on the drive home,” said Waters. His father decided to keep the family in their Long Island home and commute daily to Philadelphia. For 10 years, he got up every morning at 3 a.m. and returned home around 7:30 p.m. until he was finally able to transfer to a job in Brooklyn.
“This is the price racism and discrimination in housing cost both my father and our family,” said Waters. The legacy under investment
Forced segregation has also led to under investment in Black neighborhoods, causing harm not just to individual families but also at the community level. “The more black and brown the community got, the more disinvestment we saw,” explained Rice. “It also created scenarios where municipalities, cities and jurisdictions could direct resources. In other words, who’s getting the new sewer line, who’s getting the upgraded water line, who’s getting the deleaded piping, who’s getting the new infrastructure project. Those kinds of things contribute to the infrastructure that is available, which drives access to opportunity for communities.”
Race is the most significant predictor of whether a person will live in a neighborhood with contaminated air, land or water. More than half of the people who live within two miles of a waste facility are people of color. People of color are twice as likely to live in areas without potable water or proper sanitation. Research shows food deserts, areas where people have limited access to healthy and affordable food, are more common in minority neighborhoods. Only 8% of Blacks live in a census tract with a grocery store.
“Because of residential segregation, your Zip code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code,” said Rice. Blacks and Latinos are also more likely to live in health deserts with fewer healthcare facilities and primary care physicians. In Houston, white communities have 5.5 times as many healthcare facilities than Black communities have. In Oakland, California, white communities have almost 11 times the healthcare facilities that Latino communities have.
A resident of a community of color has a shorter life expectancy than someone who lives in a predominantly white community. “People of color are more likely to have asthma, heart disease, respiratory illnesses and other types of diseases that are connected to the environment or spaces in which they live,” said Rice. “And, of course, those are all contributing factors to whether or not you will contract the COVID virus and potentially die from it.” “The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision of the Fair Housing Act helps address these structural issues,” said Rice. “Unfortunately, the current administration weakened our ability to enforce the Fair Housing Act.” Rolling back fair housing rules
The Fair Housing Act mandated that in order to receive certain federal funds, state and local governments must administer programs and activities in a way that expands access to opportunity for all.
“For many years under many administrations—progressive, more progressive, more conservative—there hasn’t actually been much at the federal level in terms of fair housing,” said Logan. “Local authorities and HUD have been pushed—kicking and screaming—into taking some actions, in some cases where a lawsuit was successful. That’s pretty much been the story.” He explained that, even if fair housing wasn’t always a policy priority, it was accepted as a goal. What’s different now is that the Trump administration is actively undermining the idea of fair housing.
“They are now legitimating a point of view that fair housing actually is bad policy—it’s not good for localities, it’s not even good for minorities to enforce fair housing,” said Logan. “They are legitimating exactly the opposite point of view of what is in the original legislation and in many court decisions related to that legislation.” More from Money:
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