Improving housing quality can dramatically affect the health of residents
WASHINGTON—Several federal agencies today unveiled Advancing Healthy Housing – A Strategy for Action. White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Nancy Sutley, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., and Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman discussed the new plan during an event at the National Building Museum this morning.
The initiative represents a bold new vision for addressing the nation’s health and economic burdens caused by preventable hazards associated with the home. The Strategy for Action encourages federal agencies to take preemptive actions that will help reduce the number of American homes with health and safety hazards.
People in the United States spend about 70% of their time in a home. Currently, millions of U.S. homes have moderate to severe physical housing problems, including dilapidated structure; roofing problems; heating, plumbing, and electrical deficiencies; water leaks and intrusion; pests; damaged paint; and high radon gas levels. These conditions are associated with a wide range of health issues, including unintentional injuries, respiratory illnesses like asthma and radon-induced lung cancer, lead poisoning, result in lost school days for children, as well as lost productivity in the labor force. The health and economic burdens from preventable hazards associated with the home are considerable, and cost billions of dollars.
The Strategy for Action unifies, for the first time, federal action to advance healthy housing, demonstrating the connection between housing conditions and residents’ health. It also promotes strategies and methods intended to reduce in-home health hazards in a cost-effective manner.
“It is clear that unhealthy and unsafe housing has an impact on the health of millions of people in the United States, which is why we must do everything we can to ensure that individuals and families have a healthy place to call home,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Today’s announcement will help the federal government unify action to controlling and preventing major housing-related exposures and hazards.”
“Thanks to unprecedented collaboration across the federal family and among our many partners, we now have a specific plan for action to address radon and other preventable hazards found in homes across the country. This is important progress, especially when you consider that people spend an estimated 70 percent of their time inside a home,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “At EPA we’re committed to ensuring Americans in all communities have healthy places to live, work and play, and the strategy we announced today is a critical step toward reaching that goal.”
“Healthy homes and communities are essential to our quality of life, our productivity, and our economic vitality,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. “Through this plan, Federal agencies have committed to working together to make sure all Americans can count on safe, healthy places to live, grow, and thrive.”
Dr. Mary Jean Brown, Chief of CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch added, “Healthy homes lead to healthier lives. People can take simple steps to protect themselves from health hazards in the home.”
“Energy efficiency and healthy homes are inextricably linked,” explained U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman. “We cannot, in good conscience, pursue one in the absence of the other. DOE is committed to ensuring that our efforts towards creating an efficient national housing stock also strive to maximize the health and safety of the families we serve.”
The overall vision for the Strategy is to reduce the number of American homes with residential health and safety hazards, achieved through five goals:
1) Establish healthy homes recommendations
2) Encourage adoption of healthy homes recommendations
3) Create and support training and workforce development to address health hazards in housing
4) Educate the public about healthy homes
5) Support research that informs and advances healthy housing in a cost-effective manner
For more on the Strategy for Action, visit the interagency Healthy Homes website, http://healthyhomes.hud.gov.
WASHINGTON – On January 29, 2013, President Obama signed into law a bill providing “supplemental appropriations to respond to and recover from the severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.” Today, Shaun Donovan, Chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, issued the following statement:
“This funding represents our commitment to doing all we can to support the families, businesses, cities and towns in this region as they rebuild their communities and make them stronger, more economically competitive and better able to withstand the next storm. ”As chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force – and a native of the region – I am grateful to Congress for supporting the President’s request, which is so vital to this rebuilding effort. I am especially appreciative to the congressional delegations from New York and New Jersey and Governor Christie, Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and all the local elected officials for their continued leadership. ”The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force will continue to work closely with our federal as well as state and local partners to support impacted communities as they make important decisions about rebuilding and recovery. Our focus will continue to be on ensuring that these efforts, both at the federal and the local level, are coordinated, maximizing the impact of available resources to support recovery while also mitigating against future disasters.”
Funding to Cincinnati, San Antonio, Seattle & Tampa spurs nearly
$500 million in economic, community investment
WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced today that four communities will receive a combined $108.9 million to redevelop distressed housing and bring comprehensive neighborhood revitalization to blighted areas.
HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (Choice) will help transform distressed communities in Cincinnati, Ohio; San Antonio, Tex.; Seattle, Wash.; and Tampa, Fla. This landmark initiative promotes a comprehensive approach to transforming areas of concentrated poverty into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods. The $108.9 million federal investment of Choice Neighborhoods has generated $393 million in private investments and commitments from local jurisdictions and partners, a more than 300 percent leveraging.
“HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative supports local visions for how to transform high-poverty, distressed communities into neighborhoods of opportunity,” said Donovan. “We’re emphasizing a comprehensive approach to revitalizing neighborhoods by considering the totality of a community with regard to health, safety, education, jobs and quality housing in mixed-income neighborhoods.”
Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Implementation grants announced today:
The communities announced today were selected from nine finalists HUD announced in August. Each of the finalists completed a comprehensive local planning process and ready to move forward with their plan to revitalize the housing and redevelop their target neighborhoods. Building on the successes of HUD’s HOPE VI Program, Choice links housing improvements with a wide variety of public services and neighborhood improvements to create neighborhoods of opportunity.
The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is one of the signature programs of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which supports innovative and inclusive strategies that bring public and private partners together to help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. It encourages collaboration between HUD and the Departments of Education, Justice, Treasury and Health and Human Services to support local solutions for sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods with the affordable housing, safe streets and good schools all families need.
Congress approved the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative with the passage of HUD’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget. Funding is provided through two separate programs – Implementation Grants and Planning Grants. In 2011, HUD awarded its first Choice Implementation grants for Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle, a combined $122.27 million investment to bring comprehensive neighborhood revitalization to blighted areas in these cities. With this announcement, HUD has awarded a total of $231,250,000 in Choice Implementation Grants in eight cities.
In this edition of the show Max interviews Steve Keen from Debtdeflation.com. It has been five years since global debt crisis began. The debt is now so great that it can no longer be hidden. Max discusses the issue with Steve to see what triggered the current debt crisis, what the response to it was and where we stand now. Steve also comments on the latest global debt crisis and banker’s role in the current situation.Steve Keen is a professor in economics and finance at the University of Western Sydney and the author of Debunking Economics.
HUD ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR ENTITIES TO PURCHASE TROUBLED MORTGAGES, OFFER CHANCE TO AVOID COSTLY FORECLOSURES AND STABILIZE NEIGHBORHOODS
September loan sale to include neighborhood stabilization pools in Chicago, Newark, Phoenix and Tampa as part of broader Obama Administration effort to address shadow inventory, target relief to hardest hit communities
WASHINGTON – Qualified entities interested in purchasing pools of severely distressed loans formerly insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can now submit applications for the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program, an expansion of an FHA disposition program that sells pools of defaulted mortgages headed for foreclosure and provides the opportunity for the purchaser and borrower to avoid a costly foreclosure. According to loan pool information released today, approximately 3,500 loans will be sold in four metropolitan areas that are among those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis – Chicago, IL; Newark, NJ; Phoenix, AZ; and Tampa, FL – aligning with other neighborhood stabilization efforts to help those communities recover as quickly as possible. The program is part of the Obama Administration’s broader strategy to encourage public/private partnerships to stabilize neighborhoods and home values in critical markets. Details on the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program can be found at www.hud.gov/fhaloansales.
“The housing market has momentum not seen since before the crisis,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “But some metro areas are still under pressure and some FHA borrowers remain seriously behind on their loans and stand to lose their homes in a matter of months. As one step towards avoiding unnecessary foreclosures and further stabilizing communities, we are increasing the number of loans beyond our original goals of 5,000 per quarter to approximately 9,000 this quarter. Providing the opportunity for borrowers to potentially stay in their home under a new sustainable mortgage or other meaningful help not only benefits that homeowner but reduces the costs to FHA and ultimately benefits the entire community.”
Under the program, loans are sold competitively at a market-determined price generally below the outstanding principal balance. FHA then processes an insurance claim, removes the FHA insurance and transfers the loan to the investor. Once the note is purchased, foreclosure is delayed for a minimum of six additional months, giving the new servicer time to work through alternatives with the borrower, possibly finding an affordable solution to allow the borrower to remain in their home. Because the loans are generally sold for less than what the borrower currently owes, the purchaser has the ability to reduce or modify the loan terms while still making a return on the initial investment. If no viable alternatives exist, the purchaser may be able to help the borrower sell the property through a short sale and avoid the costs of foreclosure.
“This program creates the opportunity for everyone – the homeowner, the new mortgage holder, FHA, and the community – to walk away a winner,” said Acting FHA Commissioner Carol Galante. “FHA not only avoids the costs associated with a long foreclosure process, but also the high costs of maintaining and selling vacant properties in already distressed markets.”
FHA began selling distressed single family loans through what is now the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program in 2010 and has successfully sold more than 2,100 single family loans to date. An FHA-approved mortgagee can file a claim for FHA insurance benefits and assign the loan to FHA if the borrower is at least six months delinquent on their mortgage; the servicer has exhausted all steps in the FHA loss mitigation process; the servicer has initiated foreclosure proceedings; and the borrower is not in bankruptcy. These assigned loans are then pooled by FHA for resale through the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program.
Neighborhood Stabilization Loan Sales
In addition to the standard note sales, the enhanced program features new neighborhood stabilization requirements to encourage investment in communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis. Approximately 40 percent of the 9,000 loans in the sale scheduled for September 2012 will be located in Chicago, IL; Newark, NJ; Phoenix, AZ; and Tampa, FL – four metropolitan areas where high numbers of seriously delinquent loans could expand an already large inventory of REO properties over the coming months. Designed to help stem the flow of distressed properties hitting these markets, these neighborhood stabilization requirements provide that no more than 50 percent of the loans within a purchased neighborhood stabilization pool may be sold as real-estate owned (REO) properties.
“These markets were chosen because of the high concentration of FHA loans in the pipeline for foreclosure and because each allows us to test this strategy under a variety of market conditions,” added Galante. “Further, in some of these communities, state and local leaders are already acquiring these loans and using tools like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the Hardest Hit Fund to offer workable solutions for homeowners and communities. And in each city, nonprofit and for-profit investors have shown great interest in using this program to help borrowers in their community find affordable solutions as quickly as possible. FHA is working with local leaders to create additional smaller pools to fit their targeted neighborhood strategies.”
All parties seeking to bid on the sale pools must first be qualified by HUD. Parties seeking to bid in the neighborhood stabilization pools are required to meet several additional criteria to ensure they will comply with the program’s goal that fewer homes end up as vacant REO properties in metro areas already struggling with high numbers of foreclosures. Eligible investors must have experience in asset management and property management, as well as a proven track record in helping borrowers seriously delinquent on their loans to re-perform or to achieve an affordable alternative to foreclosure. An emphasis will be placed on experience within the metro area in which the bidder is interested.
Bidder qualification materials and guidelines for the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program bidding process can be found at www.hud.gov/fhaloansales.
HUD TO EXPAND SALE OF TROUBLED MORTGAGES THROUGH PROGRAM DESIGNED TO HELP BORROWERS AVOID COSTLY, LENGTHY FORECLOSURES
Enhanced FHA note sale program part of Obama Administration effort to address shadow inventory, target relief to hardest hit communities
CHICAGO – Thousands of borrowers severely delinquent on loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will have help from a new servicer to explore affordable mortgage solutions or achieve a favorable resolution under an enhanced government note sale program announced today. In a press conference held at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative America Meeting, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and Acting FHA Commissioner Carol Galante launched the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program, an expansion of an FHA pilot program that allows private investors to purchase pools of mortgages headed for foreclosure and charges them with helping to bring the loan out of default.
“While our housing market has momentum we haven’t seen since before the crisis, there are still thousands of FHA borrowers who are severely delinquent today – who have exhausted their options and could lose their homes in a matter of months,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “With this program, we will increase by as much as ten times the number of loans available for purchase while making it easier for borrowers to avoid foreclosure. Finding ways to bring these loans out of default not only helps the borrower, but helps the entire neighborhood avoid the disinvestment and decline in value that accompanies a distressed property.”
The FHA note sales program began as a pilot in 2010 and has resulted in the purchase of more than 2,100 single family loans to date. A servicer can place a loan into the loan pool if the following criteria are met:
- The borrower is at least six months delinquent on their mortgage;
- The servicer has exhausted all steps in the FHA loss mitigation process;
- The servicer has initiated foreclosure proceedings; and
- The borrower is not in bankruptcy.
Under the program, FHA-insured notes are sold competitively at a market-determined price generally below the outstanding principal balance. Once the note is purchased, foreclosure is delayed for a minimum of six additional months as the borrower gets direct help from their servicer to help to find an affordable solution to avoid foreclosure. The investor purchases the loan at a discount and then takes additional steps to help the borrower avoid default, whether through modifying their loan terms or helping them through a short sale, in order to maximize the return on the sale.
“The Distressed Asset Stabilization Program offers a better shot for the struggling homeowner and lower losses to the FHA,” said Acting FHA Commissioner Carol Galante. “By addressing the growing back log of distressed mortgages, FHA is helping to mitigate the negative effects of the foreclosure process as part of the Administration’s broader commitment to community stabilization.”
Beginning with the September 2012 scheduled sale, FHA will increase the number of loans available for purchase from approximately 1,800 each year to a quarterly rate of up to 5,000, and add a new neighborhood stabilization pool to encourage investment in communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.
In an additional safeguard against blight, HUD will require that no more than 50 percent of the loans within a purchased pool become real-estate owned (REO) properties and – if the servicer and borrower are unable to bring the loan out of default – that the servicer hold the loan for at least three years.
“Currently, FHA’s inventory of REO properties available for sale is at its lowest level since FY 2009,” added Galante. “At the same time, the inventory of seriously delinquent loans is near an all time high. With many neighborhoods still fighting to recover from the housing crisis, going upstream will allow us to help more borrowers before they go through foreclosure and their homes ever come into the REO portfolio.”
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that Bank of America has agreed to pay up to $161,180 to settle allegations that one of the bank’s San Jose, California branches refused to refinance the mortgage of an Irvine woman because she was on maternity leave. HUD reached the agreement with Bank of America to resolve a Fair Housing Act complaint that had been filed by the Fair Housing Council of Orange County (FHCOC).
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination in mortgage lending and real estate-related transactions based on a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and disability. Refusing to approve a mortgage loan or provide refinancing because a woman is pregnant or on family leave violates the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against sex and family status discrimination.
“The Fair Housing Act prohibits lenders from denying home loans to women because they are pregnant or on maternity leave,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Today’s settlement follows HUD actions involving other lenders across the country which we will continue until maternity leave discrimination is eliminated.”
The woman told FHCOC, a non-profit fair housing organization funded by HUD, that in December 2009, a Bank of America agent offered her a 5% interest rate for a home refinance loan, with no costs or fees. But in January 2010, after she had applied for the loan and supplied the necessary documents, the bank allegedly refused to process her application because she was on maternity leave. In her complaint, the woman alleged that a bank agent told her that she would have to return to work full-time in order for her loan to be approved. Even after she informed the bank that she received the same rate of pay and benefits while on maternity leave, the bank would not process her application. In March 2010, the bank finally approved the woman’s application, but by that time the interest rate on her loan had increased to 5.25%, making each loan payment higher.
A Bank of America official said: “We regret our treatment of the applicant. We take our Fair Lending responsibilities very seriously and will work with HUD to ensure our customers on maternity leave are treated appropriately during the mortgage application process.”
Under the terms of the Conciliation Agreement, Bank of America will pay $30,000 to the woman, $16,180 to her attorney, and $15,000 to FHCOC. The bank will also create a $100,000 Compensation Fund to pay damages to loan applicants or borrowers who may have been denied a loan, subjected to adverse loan terms, or had their loan applications delayed because they were pregnant or on maternity leave. In addition, the bank is requiring all of its loan officers nationwide to complete annual fair lending training.
Anyone who believes that a bank has discriminated against them during the mortgage application process because they were pregnant or on maternity leave should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY).
RESIDENTIAL MORTGAGE-BACKED SECURITIES (RMBS) WORKING GROUP ANNOUNCES NEW RESOURCES TO INVESTIGATE RMBS MISCONDUCT
WASHINGTON – The Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group announced new resources today in the ongoing effort to investigate misconduct, including the launch of a RMBS website to report fraud and the creation of a coordination team to facilitate the various investigations underway around the country.
The RMBS Working Group is a collaborative effort led by five co-chairs including Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Stuart Delery, U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado John Walsh, Director of Enforcement for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Robert Khuzami, and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The working group and its members are focused on investigating potential false or misleading statements, deception or other misconduct by market participants in the creation, packaging and sale of mortgage-backed securities. While the working group and its members’ specific efforts are law enforcement sensitive and, therefore, must remain confidential, generally the working group continues to: identify specific RMBS offerings for priority investigation through the use of various forensic tools including risk-based analytics; analyze pending private RMBS litigation throughout the country for important evidentiary connections to existing law enforcement investigations; and convene operational meetings among investigators, attorneys, analysts and RMBS market experts and insiders.
“The RMBS website is a new call to those insiders who know about fraud that occurred in the RMBS market, who know it’s time to expose that fraud, and who want to help us hold accountable those individuals and institutions who broke the law in pursuit of even bigger paydays,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West. “Although the working group and its members have done a tremendous amount of investigative work already – including having issued more than 25 civil subpoenas – we know that hearing from insiders is particularly valuable. There are scores of people who worked in the RMBS market who acted responsibly but who also may have witnessed greed and misconduct that crossed the legal line and created havoc for investors, homeowners and our economy. We want to hear from them.
Acting Associate Attorney General West also noted that whistleblowers enjoy legal rights that protect their ability to speak out without the fear of retaliation. “When whistleblowers summon the courage to come to us, we will do everything we can to maintain their confidence and trust,” he said.
Each co-chair agency brings investigative resources and existing RMBS investigations to the working group. To facilitate communication and coordination among the various agencies conducting RMBS investigations nationwide, the five co-chairs and the Task Force’s Executive Director have appointed a coordinating team. Matthew Stegman, a career white-collar prosecutor, is the RMBS Working Group’s Coordinator. In addition to the selection of Mr. Stegman, the coordinating team in Washington includes criminal prosecutors and civil attorneys, analysts and FBI investigators who are coordinating federal and state fraud investigations nationwide.
“The working group’s approach to RMBS investigations is systematic and smart – cross-agency teams comprised of experienced prosecutors and investigators utilizing market experts and risk-based criteria to triage transactions for review, and bringing to bear the entire palette range of state and federal legal theories and remedies,” said RMBS Working Group Co-Chair Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “The numbers reveal the working group effort and commitment; the SEC alone brings to the effort more than 40 SEC staff from eight SEC offices trained in securitized products. The SEC teams bring substantial ongoing investigatory work to the effort as well. Since 2010, the SEC has issued over 300 subpoenas or document requests resulting in more than 30 million pages of documents with interviews or sworn testimony taken from over 180 witnesses, all focused on whether firms failed to disclose important information when selling RMBS securities.”
A broad coalition of state and federal officials have dedicated lawyers, investigators, analysts and staff – currently over 100 strong – actively engaged in RMBS investigatory work at the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the SEC, the New York State Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General, FBI, and Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Inspector General, as a result of these focused efforts. Investigating and bringing complex white collar civil and criminal cases can be a time-consuming and challenging process, but the resources, enthusiasm and organization brought by the members of the RMBS Working Group have already resulted in substantial strides toward that goal.
“Over the last 100 days United States Attorneys across the country have responded enthusiastically to the call to address this important enforcement initiative,” said RMBS Working Group Co-Chair John Walsh, U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado. “Dozens of Assistant U.S. Attorneys and other staff are actively engaged and we expect that the energy and resources for this effort will continue to grow.”
The working group will hold a two-day meeting at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the SEC from May 31 to June 1, 2012. The group is expecting more than 180 attorneys, agents, investigators and analysts from working group member agencies and offices around the country to attend the event, both in person as well as by video at several SEC regional offices. This will be the third time the full working group has met, though the co-chairs and Executive Director of the Task Force have held formal weekly conference calls and have had more informal discussions on an almost-daily basis. The two-day event will be an opportunity for prosecutors, civil attorneys, regulators, state attorneys general, law enforcement agencies and true experts in the field to discuss and learn from ongoing investigations, identify new potential targets and successful legal theories, and coordinate strategies.
To report RMBS fraud, go to: http://www.stopfraud.gov/rmbs.html
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced a revised Notice of Disclosure form that emphasizes the rights of the active duty military and their dependents who are protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
The Act mandates that military personnel on active duty in wartime are entitled to mortgage relief, including a lower interest rate (not more than six percent) on their mortgages and foreclosure protection. It states that a foreclosure proceeding against certain military personnel, who are recalled to active duty, is not valid unless the creditor has obtained a court order approving it and further states that the courts may stop the proceedings for a time or adjust the debt.
“We all stand behind the men and women of our military when they are called upon to serve,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act enables our armed forces to focus on their mission abroad, without worrying about their families at home.”
The form explains:
* Who May Be Entitled to Legal Protections Under the SCRA?
* What Legal Protections are Servicemembers Entitled to Under the SCRA?
* How Does a Servicemember or Dependent Request Relief Under the SCRA?
* How Does a Servicemember or Dependent Obtain Information About the SCRA?
A written request and a copy of military orders must be sent to a lender in order for a servicememeber to get interest rate relief and foreclosure protection under the Act. In its revised form, however, the Notice of Disclosure emphasizes that there is no requirement thereafter for servicemembers to alert their lenders of their military status in connection with a foreclosure. It is the lenders responsibility to make that determination and to send a copy of the Notice of Disclosure to homeowners, who are in default on a mortgage.
The Notice advises servicememebers seeking relief to call 1-800-342-9647 or visit www.militaryonesource.com/scra for additional information and guidance. It also provides guidance on obtaining military legal assistance.