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The American Housing Industry’s Biggest Challenges

house, homeHistorically low interest rates and sustained strength in numerous economic sectors have helped jump the for-sale housing market this year. However, the housing industry is bearing a particularly harsh brunt of COVID-19—especially in terms of a scarcity of affordable rental housing, unequal access to good-quality homes, and vulnerability of much of the housing stock to natural disasters. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies has released the 2020 State of the Nation’s Housing report, which highlights these housing industry challenges.

Renters earning under $25,000 yearly were much more likely to report lost employment income since the March shutdown as of the waning days of September. During this period, over 50% of lowest-income renters experienced dwindling wages. In comparison, 41% of all households--and around one in five renters earning less than $25,000 reported being behind on rent.

While state and federal moratoriums have so far put a partial brake on evictions, in light of the lack of federal aid, payments have been missed by a number of households that might not be in a position to cover their back rents. Consequently, eviction and possible homelessness could become inevitable.

Also hit disproportionately hard have been homeowners, households of color, and low wage earners. A total of 36% of all homeowners reported the loss of income between March and September while the shares top out at 44% among owners earning under $25,000, with Black owners at 41%, Hispanic, 49%. Toward the end of September, 7% of White homeowners were behind on mortgage payments compared to 18% of Hispanic owners, 17% of Black owners, and 12% of Asians owners.

In October, the FHFA released its Annual Housing Report, which outlines Freddie Mac's and Fannie Mae's 2019 affordable housing activities, fulfilling a requirement of 1992's Safety and Soundness Act, and more, according to TheMReport.com.

In addition to describing the GSE's affordable housing-related actions, the report provided information about single-family loan GSE purchases broken down by race or ethnicity, gender, census tract median income, fixed-rate vs. adjustable-rate, loan-to-value ratio, and credit score, according to the introduction.

Some examples of single-family goals, outlined in the report:

  • A low-income home purchase goal for home purchase mortgages to families with incomes no greater than 80% of area median income (AMI);
  • A very low-income home purchase goal for home purchase mortgages to families with incomes no greater than 50% of AMI;
  • A low-income areas home purchase subgoal for home purchase mortgages to families living in census tracts, with tract incomes no greater than 80% of AMI, or families with incomes no greater than 100% of AMI who live in census tracts with a minority population of 30% or more, and a tract median income of less than 100% of AMI;

The report also delves into subprime, nontraditional, and higher-priced mortgage loan data.

Finally, the document includes information about the national mortgage market based on the National Mortgage Database (NMDB), a program jointly funded and managed by FHFA and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, designed to provide a robust source of information about the U.S. mortgage market.

The new State of the Nation’s Housing report is available in its entirety here.

About Author: Chuck Green

Chuck Green has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and others covering various industries, including real estate, business and banking, technology, and sports.

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