Apartment Groups Welcome Passing of Housing Stimulus Bill in Senate

By Anuradha Kher, Online News EditorWashington, D.C.–Apartment groups, as well as the National Home Builders Association (NAHB) and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), praised the housing stimulus bill that passed in the Senate on Friday.“Although we feel the best solution to the current housing turmoil is to allow market forces to restore equilibrium to the single-family housing sector, we are pleased to see that lawmakers embraced the principles of our Balanced Housing Policy initiative in crafting this package by balancing homeownership-related provisions with meaningful rental housing incentives,” says Jim Arbury, senior vice president of government affairs at the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) and National Apartment Association (NAA).The bill increases funding for, and makes other improvements to, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, which directly supports the production of affordable rental housing. It also restores liquidity to that program. According to Arbury, the LIHTC program has been an unintended victim of the single-family meltdown and the credit crisis it created, by allowing the LIHTC to offset Alternative Minimum Tax liabilities.In the wake of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s troubles, provisions in the package that create a new regulator for the two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) provide some good news to the apartment industry. “Fannie and Freddie have been critical to maintaining basic liquidity in the apartment sector during the credit crisis. We are pleased to see that the Senate bill removes onerous provisions included in earlier versions that would have severely restricted the GSEs’ ability to purchase multifamily loans,” says Arbury.“Most importantly, we commend lawmakers for significantly trimming the homeownership incentives originally included in the bill, says Arbury. “The single-family meltdown, while extremely unfortunate, was fueled in part by a ‘homeownership at any cost’ housing policy that pushed too many families into unsustainable homeownership.  If there is a silver lining in this situation, it is that our country now has an opportunity to learn from its past mistakes and pursue a more balanced housing policy,” he adds.The MBA also praised the Senate and stressed the importance of this bill to address ongoing instability in the housing and mortgage markets. “FHA modernization and GSE oversight reform have topped MBA’s legislative agenda for the better part of the last decade,” says Kieran P. Quinn, CMB, chairman of the MBA. Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of NAHB, says, “The Senate action hasn’t come a moment too soon. Each passing day brings more layoffs, more foreclosures and more fear. This legislation will help get homebuyers back into the marketplace, stabilize house prices, stem the rising tide of foreclosures and restore confidence in our housing finance system. There’s no time to waste. Congress must finish the job now and pass this bill so that Americans can get some relief.”Leaders in the House of Representatives have indicated they want to bring the bill to the House floor as soon as next week.