WASHINGTON, D.C., December 15, 2014 – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) applauds the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) decision to fund the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF), which will expand the supply of safe, decent affordable housing for those who are most in need. FHFA Director Melvin L. Watt announced the move in letters sent to the chief executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on December 11, 2014. Congress authorized the NHTF through the Housing & Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), which specified that Fannie and Freddie would each pay a percentage of their annual volume of business to fund the NHTF. That obligation was temporarily suspended when Fannie and Freddie were placed under receivership at the height of the 2008 financial crisis but was reinstated through Director Watt’s letter. The Lawyers’ Committee strongly supported Director Watt’s nomination for his position as the Director of FHFA.
As the FHFA establishes regulations and guidance for the administration of the NHTF, it is critical that the agency fulfill its statutory obligation to affirmatively further fair housing and ensure that NHTF dollars are spent in a manner that promotes integration. Under HERA, states must spend the vast majority of their NHTF allocations on rental housing for extremely low-income household, an area of acute unmet need nationwide. With strong oversight, the NHTF can become a true force for housing choice.
“Director Watt’s decision is a landmark victory for housing advocates who have sought to make the National Housing Trust Fund a reality for many years,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Barbara Arnwine. “It is now incumbent upon the FHFA to ensure that the Fund becomes a catalyst for realizing the promise of inclusive communities.”
“In this climate of perpetually diminishing funding for core affordable housing programs, Director Watt’s decision provides needed relief for low-income communities that are already reeling from a national housing affordability crisis,” said Joe Rich, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Fair Housing & Community Development Project. “We expect that the National Housing Trust Fund will facilitate equitable recovery from natural disasters, sustain non-profit community development corporations, and promote access to opportunity.”