HUD Expands Affordable Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week that it is allocating $112 million to expand the supply of permanent affordable housing to low-income people with disabilities. Funding is available through the Section 811 program.

About half of the new funding will go toward the development of new supportive housing for people with disabilities. About $37 million also will go toward rental assistance, through eligible housing agencies.

“Very simply, we need more permanent supportive housing to assist people living with disabilities,” says HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “The funding will support existing developments and, for the first time in nearly a decade, help to produce new affordable housing at a time we need it the most.”

Source: HUD.gov

Mortgage Rates ‘Are Dropping’

The 30-year fixed-mortgage fell 8 basis points this week, averaging 3.57%, Freddie Mac reports. The lower rates are drawing out more home buyers in the fall market.

“The 50-year low in the unemployment rate combined with low mortgage rates has led to increased home buyer demand this year. Much of this strength is coming from entry-level buyers—the first-time home buyer share of the loans Freddie Mac purchased in 2019 is 46%, a two-decade high,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Oct. 10:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.57%, with an average 0.6 point, falling from last week’s 3.65% average. Last year the 30-year rates averaged 4.90%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.05%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.14% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.29%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Flood Insurance Extension Likely

Congress is expected to extend the National Flood Insurance Program before it expires Sept. 30, but less clear is when Congress will turn to meaningful program reforms the National Association of REALTORS® and other housing groups have advocated for years.

Outdated federal flood maps—some of which haven’t been updated in more than 40 years, housing experts warn—may be influencing homeowners not to seek proper flood insurance if they falsely believe they don’t live in a high risk floodplain. NAR has long called on reforming the maps, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses to assess flood risk and crisis response.

Source: ‘Too Many People Are in Denial.’ FEMA Urges Homeowners to Buy Flood Insurance,” McClatchy Company (Sept. 12, 2019)

Mortgage Rates Increase

“Purchase mortgage applications up nine percent from a year ago. The improved demand reflects the still healthy underlying consumer economic fundamentals such as a low unemployment rate, solid wage growth and low mortgage rates. While there has been a material weakness in manufacturing and consistent trade uncertainty, so far, the American consumer has proved to be resilient with solid home purchase demand,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Sept. 12:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.56 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending September 12, 2019, up from last week when it averaged 3.49 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.6 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.09 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.0 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.06 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Manufactured Homes for Affordable Housing?

Home inventory of has fallen near record lows across the country, but more consumers are in need of a place to live. Some economists say manufactured homes—also known as mobile homes or trailers—may be the answer to relieve housing shortages in some markets needing more affordable housing.

In the nation’s 100 largest metros, residents living in manufactured homes—either renting or owning—spend an average of 40 percent less on housing than those living in more traditional “stick-built” homes. The average monthly gross housing cost for a mobile home is $564, compared with $1,057 for a traditionally built home or apartment, according to the report by Apartment List. (The gross housing cost includes rent or mortgage payments and property taxes, lot rent for mobile homes, and utility costs.)

Seniors on fixed incomes may find the option more appealing. Upscale mobile home parks are popping up that are aimed at attracting the 55-plus crowd, offering spacious “double-wide” manufactured homes , community centers, and pools, among other amenities.

Legislation to Ease Restrictions on Small Banks

The U.S. House passed a bipartisan bill on Tuesday that will roll back some of the strict rules placed on thousands of small- and medium-sized banks enacted as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act contains several provisions that could ease mortgage credit through reduced regulatory burdens on smaller community banks and credit unions. The bill also contained several other provisions related to housing. For example, it would require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to evaluate and consider credit innovations, like adopting alternative credit scoring models. Currently, the mortgage giants’ credit scoring models do not take into account factors such as whether borrowers have paid their rent or utility bills on time. It also gives the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection the authority to regulate Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, loans and requires lenders to corroborate a homeowners’ ability to repay the loans that are levied as tax assessments on their homes.

The bill now heads to President Trump for his final signature.

Source: National Association of REALTORS® and “Congress Approves First Big Dodd-Frank Rollback,” The New York Times (May 22, 2018)

 

Will ‘Granny Flats’ Resolve Housing Shortages?

Some housing economists believe that “granny flats” could be the key to alleviating housing shortages across the country, and they are calling on more municipalities to ease up the rules to allow such dwellings to be built on or into more single-family homes. Nicknamed “granny flats,” these accessory dwelling units tend to be separate, cottage-like structures, but may be a converted garage or basement that houses an extra living area.

In California, three new zoning laws in 2017 allowed for expanded development of granny flats. California has since seen a 63 percent increase in the number of building permits for these units—more than any other state, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate data firm. But many counties either still have zoning restrictions that don’t allow these units, or they are making the building permit process difficult.

Source: “Could ‘Granny Flats’ Be the Solution to America’s Affordable-Housing Crisis?” MarketWatch (March 26, 2018)

Home Loan Interest Rates Just Got Higher

“Optimistic testimony on Capitol Hill from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sent Treasury yields higher as Powell stated his outlook for the economy has strengthened since December,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

“We think strength in the economy and pent-up housing demand should allow U.S. housing markets to post modest growth this year even with higher mortgage rates,” Kiefer says.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending March 1:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.43 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.40 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.10 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.85 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.32 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Hispanics: ‘Helping Home Ownership Rates’

For the third consecutive year, the Hispanic population is driving growth in homeownership, according to the latest State of Hispanic Homeownership Report. Hispanics’ rising populations and household formation, as well as their increased workforce participation, is behind the uptick, according to the report by the Hispanic Wealth Project and National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

The Hispanic population in the United States increased by 1 million last year and accounted for 51 percent of U.S. population growth. Hispanics increased their homeownership rate slightly from 46 percent to 46.2 percent, or a net increase of 167,000 new-owner households in 2017. Hispanics boasted the highest workforce participation rate among any other ethnic or racial demographic at 66.1 percent, according to the report.

The three biggest obstacles facing Hispanic homeownership: Lack of inventory, recent natural disasters, and the nation’s immigration policy, according to the report.

Source: National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals

Mortgage Applications Finally Edge Up Again

A brief pause in the rise of interest rates helped buoy mortgage application volume last week, following several weeks of declines. Total mortgage applications for home purchases and refinancings rose 2.7 percent compared to the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday. Applications, however, are 2.4 percent lower than a year ago.

The bulk of last week’s increase was driven by home buyers. Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 6 percent during the week, and are 3 percent higher than a year ago, the MBA reports.

Meanwhile, refinance applications dropped 1 percent for the week and are down nearly 10 percent from a year ago. Interest rates were lower a year ago, and refinance applications tend to be more rate-sensitive.

Source: “Mortgage Applications Rise 2.7 Percent as Rates Take a Brief Breather From Surge,” CNBC (Feb. 28, 2018)