Leveraging public-private partnerships, reducing regulations, building more transit-oriented housing, and easing credit terms for borrowers were just some of the solutions presented in Miami on October 4 to help resolve the challenges in workforce housing – affordably priced homes in close proximity to the workplace for workers essential to communities (such as police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, and medical personnel).
The recommendations came from two former Housing and Urban Development secretaries as well as current and former leaders of such organizations as the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Consumer Federation of America, and Habitat for Humanity, at “Workforce Housing in the New Economy,” a conference hosted by the University of Miami School of Business Administration, School of Architecture, and Office of Civic and Community Engagement.
“We’ve got to move to make more credit available, on responsible terms. Not a return to subprime lending and an abandonment of underwriting principles, but the use of tried and true underwriting principles that today have been tossed overboard in a terrible overreaction to the excesses in the market,” said keynote speaker Barry Zigas, director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America, when asked to name five things he would tell the U.S. president to do in order to resolve the housing crisis.
The other four actions Zigas recommended were naming a permanent director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), pushing strongly to pass the FHA refinance bill that has been languishing in Congress, moving aggressively to complete the restructuring of the mortgage financing system, and making the way U.S. tax policy treats home ownership and rental housing a central element of tax reform, which he believes is coming in the next presidential administration. Zigas and other conference participants also pointed to softening the requirement that borrowers now put down as much as 20 percent for a mortgage down payment.
“We have to find a way to enable people to buy homes with lower down payments than have traditionally been the case,” said Zigas, during a session moderated by Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami.
“Our reaction can’t be ‘Well gee, I saw low down payments was one of the features of a wave of tremendously terrible lending, therefore we should move back.’ We should look back to the 1990s and the early 2000s, at example after example after example, of how well-underwritten, fully-documented, stable long-term financing, in which consumers bring some, but not an overwhelming amount of capital to the market, can be successful.”
Other speakers at the conference included Alphonso Jackson, vice chairman, mortgage banking, at JPMorgan Chase and a former U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development; former U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, chairman, Southeast and Latin America and chairman, JPMorgan Chase Foundation at JPMorgan Chase & Co., co-chair, Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission and a former U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Pam Patenaude, director, housing policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center; J. Ronald Terwilliger, commissioner, Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission; Mario Artecona, CEO for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami; Stephanie Berman-Eisenberg, president and CEO of Carrfour Supportive Housing; Matthew Greer, CEO of Carlisle Development Group; Albert Milo, principal and vice president of Related Urban Development Group; Jim Murley, executive director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council; Arden Shank, president and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida; and Gregg Fortner, executive director of the Miami-Dade Public Housing Agency.
Conference sponsors included the Kislak Organization, Holliday Fenoglio Fowler and the Housing Finance Authority of Miami-Dade County.
Video of all conference sessions is available at www.bus.miami.edu/wfhousing/videos. High-resolution photos are also available upon request.