January 27, 2023
I was interviewed for a CBS in Austin (and other local Sinclair affiliates) news story, Biden Administration Proposes ‘Bill of Rights’ to Protect Renters in Tight Housing Market. The text of the story opens,
Data shows that more than a third of Americans — about 44 million people— rent their homes. As rent prices soar amid inflation and supply struggles, the White House has just announced a plan to address the problem.
The national average rent-to-income (RTI) reached 30% for the first time in our 20+ years of tracking history, up 1.5% from year-ago or 0.2% from Q3, keeping the growth rate constant throughout the second half of last year,” a new report by financial services firm Moody’s Analytics says.
Now, the Biden administration is hoping to ease some of that market pressure with regulations that would include potential limits on rent hikes in certain properties.
The proposal is meant to make renting more affordable and protect tenants but some close to the issue say they don’t want the government to get involved.
The rent hikes have affected people of all age groups in cities nationwide but now, in a non-binding “Blueprint For a Renter’s Bill of Rights,” the Biden administration provides guidelines to protect them.
According to the plan, the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will explore ways to take action against practices that prevent people from getting and staying in housing.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says it will propose requiring certain tenants who miss a rent payment to get 30 days’ notice before ending their lease. For certain properties, the Biden administration also asked the federal housing finance agency to look into potential limits on rent hikes.
Rents have gone up dramatically in many communities in ways that we didn’t expect as you said during the COVID crisis. I think we’re seeing major major long-term trends that are playing out that isn’t great for renters,” said David Reiss, a professor at the Brooklyn Law School.
Reiss believes the White House’s multiagency approach is more about looking at best practices for processes like eviction but it isn’t dramatically changing the landlord-tenant relationship.
The National Apartment Association provided a statement saying that they’ve “made clear the industry’s opposition to expanded federal involvement” in that relationship, adding that “complex housing policy is a state and local issue.”
Reiss says since rent regulation is currently left up to every state, it’s important for renters to know their rights.
“You want to know if you have a right of notice as to when you’re rent is gonna increase and what happens if a landlord doesn’t give that to you. You’re going to want to know if there’s a limitation on rent increases, and you want to make sure that your rent does not increase at a higher level than that,” Reiss said.
January 26, 2023
Joseph Bizub, Justin Peralta and I have posted a short article, Blockchain Coming to a Block Near You: How Fintech Is Changing Real Estate Investing (also available on SSRN here). It opens,
Until recently, real estate with a small footprint – one-to-four-family homes as well as small retail, office, and industrial buildings – were generally within the purview of small investors who invested locally. Today, because of technological advances, these owner-occupants and investors face competition from an emerging class of decentralized finance (DeFi) investors. Fintech companies are presenting DeFi investors with new approaches to the challenges that real estate investing traditionally poses: illiquidity, high capital requirements, lack of diversification, and opaque markets. This article focuses on how fintech companies are meeting those challenges and suggests that while much of their vaunted innovation is simply old wine in new bottles, there is good reason to think that they will be driving a lot of investment in small real estate transactions in the future, in no small part because people like shiny new bottles.
January 13, 2023
I was interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Company in Special Counsel to Investigate Biden’s Handling of Classified Documents. The clip explains that a “special counsel has been named to investigate U.S. President Joe Biden’s handling of two batches of classified documents after more sensitive government materials were found in his personal home.”
December 8, 2022
Insider quoted me in A Controversial Fix for America’s Housing Market: More Foreclosures. It opens,
How many people should lose their homes to foreclosure?
In an ideal world, of course, there would be no foreclosures at all. Everyone who buys a home would get one that fits their income and needs, and people would have enough money to make their mortgage payments on time and in full. But in a housing market built on debt, foreclosures are a painful reality. People lose their jobs or fall behind on payments, and lenders repossess the home to recoup their losses.
Too many foreclosures is obviously a bad thing — losing a home is devastating both financially and emotionally — but it’s also a problem to have too few foreclosures. Low rates of foreclosure activity signal that housing lenders aren’t taking enough risk, locking out hopeful buyers who could have kept up with payments on their mortgage if only lenders gave them the chance.
Most residential loans are backed by the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Administration. To try to find a happy medium of risk, the GSEs — government-sponsored enterprises — and FHA set a “credit box” to determine who gets a mortgage. The companies base these standards on factors including the borrower’s financial stability and the state of the housing market and economy. When the credit box gets tighter, fewer people get mortgages, and foreclosures generally go down. When it opens up, banks take more risks on people with lower credit scores or worse financial histories, increasing the possibility of foreclosures.
Finding the right size for the credit box is easier said than done. In the years leading up to the Great Recession, banks and private lenders handed out millions of risky loans to homebuyers who had no hope of repaying them. A tidal wave of foreclosures followed, plunging the US housing market — and the global economy — into chaos.
But some experts argue that in the years since the crash, the GSEs, lenders, and regulators overcorrected, shutting loads of potentially reliable buyers out of the housing market. Laurie Goodman, the founder of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said there’s room today to “open the credit box” and relax lending standards without pushing the housing market into crisis. More foreclosures might come as a result, she said, but that would be “a worthwhile trade-off” if it gave more people the opportunity to build wealth through homeownership.
Opening the credit box isn’t a cure-all for housing, and given the weakening economy, more cautious experts argue that making it easier to get a mortgage is unnecessary or dangerous. But if lenders do it correctly, it could be a major step toward a healthier market. A more stable credit box over time could not only ensure future homebuyers aren’t locked out of getting the home of their dreams, but could also smooth out some of the market’s chaotic nature.
The ‘invisible victims’ of the housing market
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the victims of the housing free-for-all were clear. An estimated 3.8 million homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure from 2007 to 2010, and plenty more also lost theirs in the following years. But the overly strict lending standards and tighter regulations that followed created a new class of victims: people who were unable to join the ranks of homeowners. David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, called these would-be homebuyers “invisible victims” — people who probably could have stayed current on their payments if they’d been approved for a loan but who didn’t get that opportunity.
October 31, 2022
I participated in a very interesting event at the Chicago Fed last week: Risk and Racial bias: Workshop improving Minority and Low-Income Homeownership Experiences. The Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) team at the Chicago Fed sponsored the workshop. CDPS is specifically focused on the risks of homeownership, bias in housing and financial markets, how risk and bias interact to affect homeownership experiences for minority or low-income families, and how risks are shared among market participants.
The workshop featured papers from “researchers in the social sciences and law using a range of methodological approaches on questions related to homeownership as a means of wealth accumulation and the experiences of minority and low-income families.”
I was a discussant for an interesting paper, Strategically Staying Small: Regulatory Avoidance and the CRA by Jacelly Cespedes et al. (she presented the paper). The abstract reads
Using the introduction of an asset based two-tiered evaluation scheme in the 1995 CRA reform, we examine the consequences of regulatory avoidance. Banks exploit the attribute-based regulation by strategically slowing asset growth, bunching below the $250M threshold. The regulatory avoidance also produces real effects. Banks near the threshold experience an increase in the rejection rate of LMI loans, while areas they serve experience a decline in county-level small establishment shares and independent innovation. These results highlight a bank’s willingness to take costly actions to avoid regulatory oversight and subsequent credit reduction for individuals whom the CRA is designed to benefit.
The most recent version of the paper does not seem to be publicly available, but an earlier draft can be found here.
October 3, 2022
The Wall Street Journal quoted me in Helping Your Kids Qualify for a Mortgage? What to Know Before Cosigning on the Dotted Line. It reads, in part,
With rising interest rates and slowing real-estate sales, homeownership remains out of reach for many would-be buyers. According to the National Association of Home Builders, in the second quarter of 2022, housing affordability fell to its lowest point since the 2007-09 recession.
The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index found that just 42.8% of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of April and the end of June were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $90,000. This is a sharp drop from the 56.9% of homes sold in the first quarter that were affordable to median-income earners.One option to improve affordability, especially for those who lack good credit: Have mom and dad cosign the mortgage. Many parents are willing to do so, according to data prepared for The Wall Street Journal by LendingTree Inc., an online loan marketplace, which reported that 57% of parents would be willing to cosign their child’s mortgage and 7% have done so in the past.
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There is a difference between cosigning and guaranteeing. According to David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in real estate, a parent acting as a co-borrower has the same responsibilities under the loan as their child. They are liable for the payments as they come due and can be sued by the lender for nonpayment if the loan becomes delinquent. But a parent acting as a guarantor has a different legal relationship with both the lender and the child. A parent guarantor would be responsible for the loan only if the child first defaults.