When Victor Merced was named director of Oregon Housing & Community Services, neither he nor anyone else could have imagined how quickly or significantly the focus of the agency's work would change. Such is the nature of going, almost overnight, from boom to bust. Throughout his tenure, though, he and his colleagues and partners have never, ever walked away from their responsibility to producing and preserving affordable housing for the people of Oregon. And even in the darkest days of this recession, he and they have remained committed to serving their fellow Oregonians. "After four meaningful years," he wrote in his final message, "it is hard to say goodbye." So we, his partners and friends at HUD, will not say that, choosing instead to say "thanks" and, just as importantly, "see you around." Fare well, Victor, fare well.
* * * NEWS FLASH * * *
On February 9th, HUD issued guidance to make it clear "that residents who are denied or evicted from housing as a result of domestic violence may have basis to file a discrimination complaint with HUD under the federal Fair Housing Act. Under the guidance, HUD will review claims of discrimination from victims of domestic violence to determine if there is sufficient evidence to apply Act. "Evicting a domestic violence victim from her home robs her of the one anchor she has in a sea of uncertainty," said Assistant Secretary John Trasvina. "HUD is committed to using the Fair Housing Act to protect victims of abuse from unlawful denial of access to decent, affordable housing." The Act prohibits housing discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Read more
FHA Commissioner David Stevens has issued FHA Mortgagee Letter 11-10 announcing a 25 basis point increase in FHA's annual mortgage insurance premium on 15- and 30-year mortgages "effective for case numbers assigned on or after April 18, 2011." It also contains guidance on how to obtain case numbers. The premium increase was announced in conjunction with release of the President's proposed 2012 budget for HUD. It was necessary, said Stevens, both "to bolster the FHA's capital reserves and help private capital return to the housing market" as part of the Obama Administration's efforts to "wind down" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The full Mortgagee Letter is online
WHITHER FANNIE & FREDDIE?
Seeking to "fix the fundamental flaws in the mortgage market and better target the government's support" for affordable housing," HUD Secretary Donovan and Treasury Secretary Geithner have submitted a plan to Congress that represents a "path forward" to winding down "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and shrink the government's current footprint in housing finance." It calls for use of a "combination of policy levers" including phasing in increased pricing at Fannie and Freddie, reducing conforming loan limits, phasing in 10 percent down payment requirement on mortgages guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie, winding down Fannie e and Freddie Mac's investment portfolios and returning FHA to its traditional role so "that the private sector not FHA picks up" the new market share created by winding down Fannie and Freddie. The report recommends that Congress allow the higher FHA limits now in effect to expire as scheduled on October 1st, 2011.The full HUD-Treasury report is online
HUD awards total of almost $1.4 million in Fair Housing Initiatives grants to Idaho Legal Aid Services, Intermountain Fair Housing, Fair Housing Council of Oregon, Fair Housing Center of Washington and Northwest Fair Housing Alliance...1/King County United Way one of 14 organizations nation-wide to win USDA Hunger-Free Communities grants to "increase food access by promoting coordination and partnerships between public, private and non-profit partners".... Idaho Housing & Finance's Home Partnership awards $168,836 to 24 shelters and homeless providers across Idaho - from Coeur d'Alene to Salmon, Boise to Idaho Falls, Moscow to Malad City - am amount "more than double," said Foundation's Deanna Ward, amounts donated in prior years...Housing Authority of Portland one of three organizations nationwide to win 3-year, Urban Institute Housing Opportunities and Services Together grant to evaluate ways to improve coordination of "public housing and human services to maximize positive outcomes for parents and children"...Alaska Housing Finance says NANA Regional Corporation is "first private employer" to join RurALCAP's Energy Wise program which creates jobs by creating local crews to help rural Alaskans reduce energy consumption...Telling Centre Daily News it's a "terrific opportunity for families who have been priced out of the market to buy a quality home," HomeSight executive director Tony To announces that 7 energy-efficient, custom-designed single family homes have gone on sale at Greenbridge, a neighborhood revitalized by the King County Housing Authority with, in part, HUD HOPE VI funds... After a year in a house built of straw bales - 240 of them - Mike Lung tells Idaho Statesman the house "has saved him money, conserved resources, provided a comfortable environment through four seasons and convinced its owners, and maybe a few visitors, that straw has life far beyond the fields"...Community Frameworks tells Spokane Business Journal $1 million renovation of San Francisco apartments in Spokane Valley to begin in March.
HUD's is accepting applications until March 24th for some $31 million under the Multi Family Service Coordinator program. The competitively-awarded grants enables owners of HUD-assisted multi-family properties to employ coordinators to assist elderly individuals and nonelderly people with disabilities living in to obtain needed supportive services from the community, to enable them to continue living as independently as possible in their homes. Applications should be filed through www.grants.gov For more, visit website
HUD's also begun accepting applications - due March 30th - for $26.7 million in Self Help Opportunity Program grants "to facilitate and encourage innovative homeownership opportunities" through self-help - as in "sweat equity" - projects. SHOP grants limit per dwelling unit expenses to $15,000 and the funds can only be used for site acquisition or infrastructure improvements. Houses built under the program must be sold only to income-eligible buyers "at prices below the prevailing market price." For more, visit website
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is accepting applications for zero interest loans and limited grant support under its REDLG program. The awards are made to rural utility companies that, in turn, re-loan them to local businesses for projects that retain and create jobs in rural areas. Applications for 3rd quarter funds are due March 31st and for 4th quarter funds on June 30th. More at website or in the February 14th Federal Register.
SPEAKING OF NOFA'S...
Understanding the mysteries of seeking HUD funding, you may want to attend the free, all-day "How To's of HUD Funding" workshop being hosted by HUD Seattle's Kristin Johnsen at the Washington Housing Finance Commission offices in Seattle on March 9th. It'll give you a quick, but thorough introduction to what your organization needs to do be aware of HUD funding opportunities and to go after them. Space is limited. Visit website
BRIEF BRIEFS TOO
Portland Housing Bureau competitively awards $9.8 million to ROSE Community Development, Providence Supportive Housing, NAYA, Innovative Housing Inc. and Glisan Gateway Development for 178 new and 74 rehabbed affordable housing units...Fairbanks Retirement Community Inc. hosts celebration, reports News Miner, marking completion of first apartment building at Ravens Landing and of plans to begin constructing second building this spring. . .Noting that "skeptics said it couldn't be done," Kitsap Sun says "enormous progress has been made by the Bremerton Housing Authority" as it beings pre-leasing of the first 151 of 800 affordable rental and homeownership units in its 82-acre Bay Vista revitalization are, funded in part by HUD's HOPE VI program . . Loretta Walker Kelly named new executive director of Clackamas Community Land Trust...Ketchum Community Development Corporation's 32-unit Northwood Place now open, occupied and affordable in Ketchum...Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County, reports Peninsula Daily News, says it's "coming to Quilcene"...Ronald Barrick of Advantis Credit Union in Milwaukie, William Castle of South Valley Bank in Klamath Falls and John Evans of DL Evans Bank in Burley named to newly-formed Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's 12th District Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council...Oregon Housing & Community Services awards $725,325 in state funds to "continue or expand" down payment assistance programs at Portland Housing Bureau, Proud Ground, Willamette Neighborhood Housing, NAYA, Asian & Pacific Islander Community Improvement, Umpqua Community Development, Oregon Bankers Association, NEDCO and Habitat for Humanity Oregon...Yakama Nation promises to rebuild after fire destroys 21 homes in White Swan
THE "BLING" THING
Aubrey Cohen of The Post Intelligencer reports that MSN.com has just featured two Northwest neighborhoods - Columbia City in Seattle and the North End in Boise - in a "From Blight to Bling" article on 10 formerly "run-down, dilapidated, crime-infested and drug-ridden" that have undergone revitalization. Columbia City is cited for its "hip bars, trendy restaurants, cute shops and a farmer's market" as proof that the "pedestrian-friendly" area has undergone a sea change in the past decade." Credit, says MSN, goes to "artists and other pioneers who found gold restoring classic Craftsman homes" and artists and other pioneers who found gold restoring classic Craftsman homes" and the "Sicilian soul food" restaurant LaMedusa that attracted visitors to the area. (Credit's also probably due the Seattle Housing Authority for the millions of dollars it's invested in the area). Boise's North End is described as the city's "most desirable neighborhood" thanks to its "most desirable neighborhood" with "expansive, tree-lined streets chock-full of quaint cottages; Queen Anne, Craftsman and Tudor homes, pocket parks, and nearby restaurants and shops." In the 70's, says MSN, "it was considered a slum," Reinvestment and zoning-law changes in the mid-'70s "ushered in the neighborhood's renaissance," helped along by a series of historic-district designations and organized residents committed to maintaining the North End's character." Congrats to all in both communities who helped turn "blight to bling."
...to Ecotrust CDE and the National Community Fund of Portland,the Seattle Investment Fund and the King County Housing Authority for winning some $158 million in New Markets Tax Credit allocations which, explained Donna Grambrell, director of the U.S. Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, will serve as "a tool for job creation and economic revitalization in areas that struggle to attract investment because of poverty, unemployment and a lack of opportunity." They were among 99 organizations across the country to be awarded a total of $3.5 billion in New Market Credits. Ecotrust will use its award fo provide below-market financing to fisheries-related natural resource industries, King County Housing Authority will provide assistance in to organizations building affordable, for-sale housing and community service facilities in targeted neightobhroods of Island, King and Snohomish counties. The Seattle Investment Fund will use its award to leverage other investments in small businesses. Established by Congress in December 2000, New Market Credits permit individual and corporate taxpayers to receive a credit against federal income taxes for making equity investments in investment vehicles known as Community Development Entities like these four organizations. More than 250 CDE organizations applied for Credits in this funding round.
BRIEF BRIEFS THREE
St. Vincent de Paul of Northern Idaho celebrates grand opening of Kathy Reed Home for the elderly, "less than a year," says The Coeur d'Alene Press, after it broke ground for the HUD-assisted 37-unit project...Cocoon House East, a shelter for homeless and at-risk young people in Monroe, celebrates first anniversary...Whatcom County okays "approved spending up to $1.2 million in" in sales tax funds provided by state "to help subsidize new homes for low-income residents, says Bellingham Herald...Inland Empire Residential Resources, says Spokane Journal of Commerce, plans for $5 million conversion of former Farmers Market & Garden Center into 35 units of workforce housing.... Kitsap Sun publishes 4-part series by Chris Henry and Brynn Grimley on how Kitsap Consolidated Housing Authority - not long ago a "runaway train" on the "brink of bankruptcy" - has been working to "get back on track"...Habitat for Humanity of Mason County wins grant from Heidner Community Foundation of South Puget Sound to expand volunteer network...Jerry Ambris of North Willamette Valley Habitat for Humanity tells The Pioneer that "they have been scouting land in Molalla and currently have a couple options " as they move forward with newly-announced plans to "launch" Habitat homes in Molalla...Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation tells Tacoma Daily Index recent National Park Service study of the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program "ranked Washington state 18th overall in terms of "certified" rehab investments at nearly $61 million" and 22nd in terms of actual numbers of rehabilitated projects"...News Miner says Cold Climate Housing Research Center's facility at University of Alaska Fairbanks has won LEED Platinum certification, making it "the farthest north LEED Platinum building in the world."
WORTH A LOOK
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has just launched the Atlas of Rural and Small Town America, an on-line "mapping tool that captures a broad range of demographic, economic, and agricultural data on rural areas across the United States." Take a look at website
WORTH A READ
Two recent studies. The first, released February 10th, was a joint study by HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs was a "first ever" analysis of the extent and nature of veterans' homelessness. Among its many findings, maybe most surprising was that "veterans are fifty percent more likely to become homeless compared to all Americans." Read more at website. The second - the annual "worst case housing needs" report to Congress - was release February 1st and reported that those with such needs - unassisted households that paid more than half their monthly incomes for rent, lived in severely substandard conditions, or both - "grew by nearly 1.2 million households, or more than 20 percent, from 2007 to 2009 and by 42 percent since 2001." Find it online.
If you've got ideas on how HUD's Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS/HIV housing program can strengthen its response to the National AIDS Strategy, we'd love to hear from you at our Ideas in Action website. Should HUD's formula for distributing HOPWA funds be revised? Is there a greater role for housing authorities, State agencies, homeless organizations or others in administering the HOPWA program? In other words, if there's something you'd like change about the way HUD does HOPWA, what is it?
AND ANOTHER THING
There's something else we'd like to hear from you about. As reported last month, theJanuary 24th Federal Register included a request for public comment on a proposed rule to prohibit "lenders from using sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis to determine a borrower's eligibility for FHA-insured mortgage financing," clarify that "all otherwise eligible families, regardless of marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have the opportunity to participate in HUD programs" and prohibit "owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing, or housing whose financing is insured by HUD, from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant for, or occupant of, the dwelling." It's a "fundamental issue of fairness," said HUD Secretary Donovan. What's your view? Let us know by March 25th. More online
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I don't know why more kids don't get into it. I think that the whole arena down here in what we call career and technical education, in my opinion, is not valued by parents, teachers and students. And yet what's interesting is so many students go through on a college-bound track and don't take these classes and then I see them in the community (working in the construction industry). There are so many different jump-off points for this particular industry. Quite frankly, anyone who's successful in any of these trades... you gotta be on top of it," he said. "Coming up with a set of plans that you can actually construct something from, going through the zoning and permitting, doing everything to actually make something happen." - Instructor Chris Mapes, Capital City Weekly, February 17, 2011, speaking about a 1,000 square-foot, 2-bedroom home designed by senior Caitlin DeRocher and now being built by Juneau-Douglas High School students on land donated by Alaska Housing Trust.
NOTES TO NOTE
HUD sets March 4th as deadline to apply for Homeless Families Research Demonstration grants...FHA issues Mortgagee Letter 2011-09 concerning fees charged by Home Equity Conversion Mortgage counselors...March 17th is deadline for young Oregonians grades 1st through 8th to submit entries for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon's 12th annual Fair Housing Poster Contest...EPA sets March 22nd deadline to apply for $2.5 million in Community Action for Renewed Environment grants to "help the public understand and reduce toxic risks" in their communities...HUD sets March 24th deadline to apply for $31 million in Multi Family Service Coordinator grants. . .HUD sets March 29th deadline to apply for $30 million to convert eligible multifamily assisted housing projects into assisted living facilities... HUD sets March 30th deadline to apply for $26.7 million in Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program grants...USDA sets March 31st deadline to apply for REDLG loans and grants for rural communist....Department of Justice sets April 21st deadline to apply through Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation for funds "to improve public safety and victim services" in Tribal communities.
Everything you've ever wanted to know about HUD's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 can be found online.
HUD Seattle hosts Northwest Regional Tribal Housing Needs Assessment, March 2nd & 3rd, Seattle.
HUD Spokane hosts Fair Housing Training for Landlords, Tenants & Managers, March 2nd, Spokane.
Oregon Department of Education hosts McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Summit, March 2nd, Eugene.
FDIC Foreclosure Rescue & Loan Scam Symposium, March 3rd, Salem. Register by e-mail
Santa Ana Homeownership Center hosts Webinar for Housing Counselors on FHA-specific products, March 3rd.
HUD Seattle hosts "How To's of Applying for HUD Grants" workshop, March 9th, Seattle.
Oregon Department of Education hosts McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Summit, March 11th, LaGrande.
Idaho Department of Health & Welfare and Idaho Smart Growth host Planning & Building Healthy Communities regional workshop, March 11th, Lewiston.
Idaho Department Health & Welfare and Idaho Smart Growth host Planning & Building Healthy Communities workshop, March 14th, Idaho Falls.
HUD Portland hosts Part 58 Environmental Training - Core Course, March 14th & 15th. Portland.
HUD Spokane hosts Fair Housing Basics Webinar, March 15th.
HUD Portland hosts Part 58 Environmental Training - Tiered Review Process, March 16th.
Santa Ana Homeownership Centers hosts Webinar on FHA special loan programs, March 17th.
Washington State University Extension Service hosts Rural Housing Summit, Moses Lake, March 18th & 19th.
HUD Office of University Programs hosts Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Institutions Assisting Communities-Tribal Colleges and Universities Program national conference March 22nd to 25th, Honolulu.
National Council of La Raza hosts Managing a Housing Counseling Program Workshop, March 21st to 23rd, Portland.
HUD Anchorage hosts Northwest Regional Tribal Housing Needs Assessment, March 23rd & 24th, Anchorage.
Idaho Department Health & Welfare and Idaho Smart Growth host Planning & Building Healthy Communities workshop, March 24th, Nampa.
Oregon Opportunity Network hosts Spring Industry Support Conference, March 29th, Corvallis.
King County Office of Civil Rights hosts Advanced Fair Housing Training, March 29th, Seattle.
Santa Ana Homeownership Center hosts Webinar for Housing Counselors on Changes at FHA, March 31st.
Spokane Fair Housing Conference, April 6th, Spokane Valley.
Spring conference of Washington Association of REALTORS, April 13th to 15th, Stevenson.
Annual conference of Washington Affordable Management Association, April 18th to 20th, Tacoma.
HUD Seattle hosts both basic and advanced Fair Housing Workshops, April 27th, Seattle.
23rd annual Oregon Conference of Oregon Coalition on Housing & Homelessness, April 27th to 29th, Hood River.