June 19, 2015
- The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) releases report on differences between the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and HOME Investment Partnerships Program. It found that the NHTF is more targeted to low-income renter households than HOME.
- The US Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) evaluated New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC), which “enables economically distressed communities to leverage private investment capital by providing investors with a federal tax credit.”
- The Center for Housing Policy at the National Housing Conference released report, Affordable Housing’s Place in Medicaid Reform: Opportunities Created by the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Reform.
- The Center for Housing Policy and Children’s HealthWatch released report, The Timing and Duration Effects of Homelessness on Children’s Health.
- The Offices of the Inspector General released report, Coordination of Responsibilities Among the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Prudential Regulators—Limited Scope Review.
- HUD released a report making changes to the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD).
- On June 23, at 2pm the Urban Land Institute, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Hart Research are hosting a Virtual Conversation entitled: Housing, Communities, & Messaging that Resonates: Results from Three New Polls (RSVP Here).
- Americans’ housing and community preferences in this rapidly changing landscape,
- where and how Millennials want to live,
- overall satisfaction with government’s prioritization of housing affordability, and
- the most persuasive messaging about affordable housing.
- Corelogic’s Equity Report finds that 245,000 properties regained equity in the first quarter of 2015 – over 90% of properties have positive equity and the percentage of “underwater” mortgages decreased by over 19% year-over year.
June 17, 2015
Dodd-Frank tasked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with ensuring that “consumers … understand the costs, benefits, and risks associated with” financial products. Despite this ambitious mandate, and despite the Bureau’s self-branding as a “21st century agency,” the Bureau’s pursuit of consumer comprehension has thus far focused on the same twentieth century tool that has already proven ineffective at regulating financial products: required disclosures. No matter how well the Bureau’s “Know Before You Owe” disclosures perform in the lab, or even in field trials, firms will run circles around disclosures when the experiments end, confusing consumers and defying consumers’ expectations. Even without any intent to deceive, firms not only will but must leverage consumer confusion to compete with other firms that do so. While firms are not always responsible for their customers’ confusion, firms take advantage of this confusion to sell products.
If the Bureau wants to ensure that consumers understand the financial transactions in which they engage, then to meet the challenge posed by the velocity of today’s marketplace, the Bureau must induce firms themselves to promote consumer comprehension, either by educating consumers or by simplifying products. To generate this change in firm behavior, the Bureau should require firms to regularly demonstrate, through third-party testing of random samples of their customers, that their customers understand key costs, benefits, and risks of the products they have bought. Rather than attempting to perfect the format of price disclosures, for example, the Bureau should require firms to prove that their customers understand the price at the moment when the customers are deciding whether to take the actions that will trigger it, whether those actions be taking out a mortgage, overdrawing a checking account, or calling customer service to inquire about the balance on a prepaid debit card. Where consumers are confused about benefits rather than costs, such as the benefit of signing up for a credit repair service, buying credit life insurance, or paying off a debt that is beyond limitations, firms should be required to show that their customers understand the actual benefits the firm is offering before the consumer commits to the purchase or action. (1, footnotes omitted)
This paper poses an important challenge to the CFPB — can disclosure regimes be replaced with something better? One hopes that the answer is yes, although Willis’ previous work on financial education makes me somewhat pessimistic.
This new paper does offer some reason for optimism though. Willis argues that comprehension rules may induce firms to simplify products, so such rules may have a positive impact even if the CFPB cannot move the dial on consumer comprehension all that much.
- An Extrapolative Model of House Price Dynamics, Edward L. Glaeser & Charles Nathanson, HKS Working Paper No. RWP15-012.
- Old Suburbs Meets New Urbanism, Nicole Stelle Garnett, Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1512.
- Credit Scoring and Loan Default, Rajdeep Sengupta & Geetesh Bhardwaj, International Review of Finance Vol. 15, Issue 2, pg. 139-167, 2015. (Paid access).
- Product Market Effects of Real Estate Collateral, Azizjon Alimov.
- Reforming REIT Taxation (Or Not), Bradley T. Borden, Houston Law Review, Vol. 52, 2015, Forthcoming; Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 416.
- Age, Demographics, and the Demand for Housing, Revisited, Richard K. Green & Hyojung Lee, June 4, 2015.
June 16, 2015
New York City’s 421-a tax exemption has lapsed as of yesterday because of disagreements at the state level (NYS has a lot of control over NYC’s laws and policies, for those of you who don’t follow the topic closely). 421-a subsidizes a range of residential development from affordable to luxury. In the main, though, it subsidizes market-rate units.
This subsidy for residential development is heavily supported by the real estate industry. Many others think that the program provides an inefficient tax subsidy for residential development, particularly affordable housing development.
I fall into the latter camp. I would note, however, that NYC’s dysfunctional property tax system is highly inequitable because it taxes different types of housing units (single family, coop and condo, rental) so very differently.
With that in mind, let me turn to a policy brief from the Community Service Society, Why We Need to End New York City’s Most Expensive Housing Program. The reports key conclusions are,
At $1.07 billion a year, 421-a is the largest single housing expenditure that the city undertakes, larger than the city’s annual contribution of funds for Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York plan.
The annual cost of 421-a to the city exploded during the recent housing boom as a result of market changes, not because of any intentional policy decision to increase the amount of tax incentives for housing construction.
Half of the total 421-a expenditure is devoted to Manhattan.
The 421-a tax exemption is a general investment subsidy that has been only superficially modified to contribute to affordability goals.
The 421-a tax exemption is extremely inefficient as an affordable housing program, costing the city well over a million dollars per affordable housing unit created.
The reforms made to 421-a in 2006 and 2007 have not resulted in a significant improvement of 421-a’s efficiency as an affordable housing program.
A large share of buildings that receive 421-a and include affordable housing also receive other subsidies, such as tax-exempt bond financing. Affordable units in these buildings cannot be credited entirely to the 421-a program.
The great majority of the tax revenue forgone through 421-a is subsidizing buildings that would have been developed without the tax exemption. (3-4)
The brief argues that 421-a should be allowed to expire and be replaced “with a targeted tax credit or other new incentive that is structured to provide benefits only in proportion with a building’s contribution to the affordable housing supply.” (4)
I don’t have any real disagreement with the thrust of this brief. I would just add that the fight over 421-should be expanded to include an overhaul of the City’s property tax regime. It is unclear, of course, whether Governor Cuomo and NYS legislators have the stomach for a battle so large.
- 2016 Transportation Housing and Urban Development Bill passed in the House of Representatives – funding for certain programs, such as section 8 has been increased, however according to Enterprise Community partners (see Budget chart), it underfunds other critical federal housing and community development programs by as much as $1.5 billion.
- The U.S. Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund recently completed its final round of New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) allocations. NMTC are used to stimulate investment in low-income communities. Legislation is currently pending in both the House and the Senate to permanently extend this successful and popular program. A bipartisan dear colleague letter urging permanent extension of NMTC is currently circulating – CDFI Fund’s recent report highlights the effectiveness of the program between 2003 and 20013.