U.S. Sen. Tina Smith: Affordable Housing, Rural & Native Areas Must Remain a Focus in Housing Finance Reform Discussions 

Sen. Tina Smith (D – Minnesota)

Published June 10, 2019

Senator Outlines Housing Finance Priorities in Letter to 
Nation’s Top Housing Finance Agency and Senate Banking Committee Leadership

WASHINGTON — Last Wednesday, as Congress considers reforms to the nation’s housing finance system, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) outlined her top priorities. In a letter to the nation’s top housing finance agency and leaders of the Senate Banking Committee—on which she serves—Sen. Smith pressed the officials to make sure any changes to the housing finance system support the affordable housing market and housing availability in rural areas, including on tribal lands. 

Following the Senate Banking Committee’s hearings on the housing finance system earlier this year and ongoing discussions about housing finance reform, Sen. Smith is fighting to preserve meaningful gains made in the housing finance system, especially those that support the housing market in low-income, rural, and Native areas. In her letters to leaders of the Senate Banking Committee and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria, Sen. Smith highlighted the importance of the federal requirement to serve underserved rural areas and low-income communities, and other initiatives currently in place that aim to alleviate the affordable housing crisis. 

“[The] current affordable housing goals require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase a certain percentage of mortgages to low- and very low-income households,” wrote Sen. Smith. “These goals allow mortgages originators in Minnesota and across the country to offer more loans to borrowers they might not otherwise be able to serve. To say that the private market would fill these gaps has been proven untrue.”

Sen. Smith also highlighted two projects in Minnesota –Solace Apartments and new single family homes developed by Habitat for Humanity—that were made possible by contributions from the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and the Capital Magnet Fund (CMF). “Both the CMF and HTF are dedicated specifically to helping the lowest income households and communities,” said Sen. Smith. “We should not eliminate these resources or divert funds from this important funding stream to other programs that don’t share these specific missions.”

Smith outlined the following priorities including:

· Retaining specific requirements to serve underserved rural and tribal communities and the manufactured housing market;

· Strengthening the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund which are used to develop affordable housing for low-income families;

· Preserving the affordable housing goals that require the purchase of a certain percentage of mortgages to low-and very low-income households;

· Supporting rural lenders and small lenders and ensuring that they have access to the secondary mortgage market; and

· Consulting with tribes to ensure that any changes made to the mortgage market adequately support homeownership in Indian Country.

You can access a copy of the letter to Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria here, and a copy of the letter to Senate Banking Committee leadership here.

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