Housing Stimulus Bill Passes House, Still Long Way from Becoming Law

By Anuradha Kher, Online News EditorWashington, D.C.–The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed an omnibus housing bill (H.R. 3221) addressing the nation’s foreclosure crisis. The package combined several bills into a single measure, including reforms for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE), and $11 billion in tax-related relief.While the package was designed to address the downturn in the single-family market, the bill includes issues pertaining to tax-exempt bonds, Real Estate Investment Trusts, GSE and FHA reform, and homebuyer tax credit, all of which are of interest to apartment firms, according to the National Multi Housing Council (NMC).Before a bill is enacted, Senate and House leaders must negotiate a compromise version of the bill that can pass both houses“The Senate bill does not pay for any of the tax breaks while the House does and this could be a major point of contention,” Jim Arbury, NMHC senior vice president of Government Affairs, tells MHN. “There is very little in either House or Senate action that is beneficial to multifamily.  So we are trying to keep any final bill from being too ‘over the top’ in terms of new benefits for single-family market.”Arbury expects this bill to be debated back and forth for several more weeks.The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), on the other hand, praised the bill. MBA Chairman Kieran Quinn, CMB, said in a statement, “FHA modernization has long been one of MBA’s top legislative priorities and we are extremely pleased to see the legislation included in this bill.”He went on to say that creating a new regulator for the GSEs is crucial given the current state of the market. “Legislation to allow FHA to assist troubled borrowers has the potential to help a significant number of borrowers avoid foreclosure. We want to ensure there are appropriate safeguards to help those borrowers most deserving while keeping the program voluntary for lenders,” Quinn says.He also said that the MBA supported a provision that gives tax incentives designed to stabilize the housing market by encouraging consumers to start buying homes again. “By passing this legislation, Congress is giving lenders additional tools to help troubled borrowers stay in their homes as well as helping to prevent future problems for the housing market,” says Quinn.Congress originally hoped to complete work on its housing bill by Memorial Day, but is now targeting July 4.