AIMS Update: On-Demand “Disparate Impact” Webinar Available, Tax Reform on Capitol Hill

 

 

National Multi Housing Council | AIMS Update
National Multi Housing Council | AIMS Update
May 3, 2013
NAA/NMHC JOINT LEGISLATIVE NEWS
On-Demand Webinar: Navigating HUD's "Disparate Impact" Rule
HUD Clarifies "Assistance Animals" versus "Service Animals"
Immigration Reform Efforts Gain Additional Momentum
NAA/NMHC Testify Before House Ways and Means Committee on Tax Reform Priorities
HUD/DOJ Issue New Guidance on Accessibility "Design and Construction" Requirements
Senate Considers Energy Legislation Targeting Building Efficiency
New Policy Allows FHA Interest Rate Reductions
Obama Nominates Rep. Melvin Watt to Head FHFA
HUD Announces Major Multifamily Reorganization
Legislation Would Threaten Vital Census Data
NAA NEWS
NAA Congressional Recess Program: Your Investment in the Industry's Future
NAA/NMHC JOINT LEGISLATIVE NEWS
On-Demand Webinar: Navigating HUD's "Disparate Impact" Rule

On April 30, NAA/NMHC sponsored a webinar exploring HUD’s final “disparate impact” rule, which sets uniform standards for determining whether activities violate the Fair Housing Act. At issue are policies and practices that while neutral on their face, disproportionately impact a member of a protected class.

The rule will force the apartment industry to review rental policies and practices, especially in the areas of occupancy limitations, resident screening and policies on Section 8 vouchers.

Our webinar features legal and policy experts who review the origin of the rulemaking, key provisions of the rule, the types of policies that might be at risk for apartment operators, the state and local landscape, prospects for Supreme Court review and more.

Members can access this on-demand webinar at no charge.
 
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HUD Clarifies "Assistance Animals" versus "Service Animals"

On April 25, HUD published new guidance clarifying the distinctions between “assistance animals” and “service animals” for purposes of compliance with the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Specifically, the notice indicates that the recently amended ADA’s more narrow definition of a “service animal” – “a dog trained to do work or perform tasks,” does not apply when determining compliance with the Fair Housing Act or Section 504.

The latter two require apartments with a “no-pets” policy to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for an assistance animal. The more broadly defined assistance animal is most commonly a dog but it can also be other another animal.

More information is available at the HUD website.

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Immigration Reform Efforts Gain Additional Momentum

Immigration reform continues to gain momentum following the April 17 introduction of bipartisan legislation (S. 744) from the so-called “Gang of Eight” Senators. The Senate Judiciary Committee has held two hearings on the topic and is expected to markup the bill in mid-May.

While NAA/NMHC are generally supportive of the Senate proposal, which has been widely covered in the media, we are concerned about a provision that would limit the number of lower-skilled “W” visas allowed for construction at 15,000 jobs annually, a limitation not imposed on other industries which could exacerbate existing labor shortages in some geographic areas.

Legislation and debate are also expected in the House. NAA/NMHC and an industry coalition are urging key House members to enact comprehensive immigration reform with an ample temporary worker program that does not single out construction jobs with inflexible visa caps. We are also encouraging an effective employment verification system with a safe harbor for businesses who comply in good faith.

NAA/NMHC continue to meet with members of Congress and work as part of a coalition to ensure final legislation meets the needs of the rental apartment industry.

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NAA/NMHC Testify Before House Ways and Means Committee on Tax Reform Priorities

NAA/NMHC were invited as one of a handful of witnesses to testify at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on tax reform and residential real estate on April 25.

Tom Camp Dave Moran

Representing NAA and NMHC, Thomas Moran, Chairman and Managing Partner of Moran & Company, met with Chairman Dave Camp and then told the full committee that tax reform must be comprehensive and take special care not to harm the thousands of businesses involved in multifamily real estate nor the 35 million Americans who call an apartment home.

Moran offered a balanced approach to the hearing, which explored in depth the advisability, and political will, to trim existing home ownership incentives, such as the mortgage interest deduction.

Our testimony touched on a wide range of issues important to apartment firms in the tax code, including:

  • protecting small businesses and partnerships in addition to reducing corporate taxes,
  • maintaining the current treatment of carried interest,
  • protecting the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program,
  • retaining the existing estate tax and stepped up basis,and
  • modifying the Section 179D Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction to enable more properties to qualify for the incentive.

Our full testimony is available.

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HUD/DOJ Issue New Guidance on Accessibility "Design and Construction" Requirements

On April 30, HUD and the Department of Justice (DOJ) released new joint guidance on the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction accessibility requirements.

Importantly, the question-and-answer format guidance does not make any substantive changes to the existing law. Instead, it seeks to offer broader compliance information about the existing rules in areas they believe merit additional clarification.

Among other things, it revisits the key requirements of both acts and their applicability to covered properties as well as more nuanced requirements of the law relative to ground floor units, lofts or sunken living rooms, finished living space, additions to pre-1991 properties, elevator properties and others.

The full guidance and additional information is available. NAA/NMHC are still reviewing it and will report in more detail in future Updates.

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Senate Considers Energy Legislation Targeting Building Efficiency

On April 23, the Senate held a hearing on bipartisan energy efficiency legislation (S. 761) that aims to improve energy savings in residential and commercial buildings. It plans to mark up the bill on May 8.

The measure, introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), is a modified version of their bill from the last Congress. Importantly, the current version does not contain NAA/NMHC-opposed building code mandates, although it does provide training for building code officials while eliminating grants for other programs, including demonstration projects.  

In the last Congress, the Shaheen-Portman bill (S.1000) passed the Senate, but failed to move in the House. This year, however, the House has shown more interest in the issue, with the introduction of a bipartisan bill (H.R. 1616) by Representatives David McKinley (R-WV) and Peter Welch (D-VT) that mirrors S. 761.

NAA/NMHC will continue to urge Congress to make further improvements to the measure, including improved modeling of code compliance costs for apartments by the Department of Energy (DOE), seeking more transparency for DOE’s code activities and seeking ways for property owners to access whole building energy data.

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New Policy Allows FHA Interest Rate Reductions

On April 22, 2013, FHA issued new guidance allowing select properties outside of the lockout period to benefit from historically low interest rates by requesting a rate reduction. Until now, FHA has only considered such requests to avoid possible default. Borrowers with performing loans had to refinance to secure lower rates.

The new guidelines apply to qualifying loans financed though the Section 223(f) or 223(a)(7) programs. They outline the conditions required to secure a rate reduction, the submission requirements and the FHA processing procedures.  Notably, they allow HUD HUB directors to approve requests, eliminating headquarters action and expediting the process.

Questions on the guidance should be directed to NMHC’s Vice President of Capital Markets, David Cardwell, at 202/974-2336.

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Obama Nominates Rep. Melvin Watt to Head FHFA

On May 1, White House officials confirmed President Obama’s intention to nominate Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC) to replace Ed DeMarco as the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Watt, a 20-year veteran of the House and a member of the House Financial Services Committee, faces an uphill battle for confirmation. When his name was floated as a possible nominee earlier, Senate Republicans quickly suggested that the Agency would be better served by someone with industry background rather than a political appointee. 

NAA/NMHC are closely following the issue as whoever occupies the position will play a critical role in the debate over housing finance reform and the future role of the GSEs in multifamily finance.  

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HUD Announces Major Multifamily Reorganization

On April 24, HUD announced a major restructuring of its multifamily field offices to streamline operations and achieve cost savings.  The Department plans to consolidate its multifamily program from 50 offices nationwide to 10 sites—five hubs and five satellite offices—and close 16 smaller offices.  The move will affect approximately 900 of its 9,000 employees.

The hubs will be: New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Fort Worth and San Francisco; satellite offices will be in Boston, Jacksonville, Detroit, Kansas City and Denver. 

In a conference call with NAA/NMHC and others, HUD says it will begin implementing the cost saving plan this fall, but it will take approximately 2.5 years to complete.  

The restructuring is the latest of an ongoing four-year effort to modernize HUD/FHA. NAA/NMHC believe the plan will benefit the industry in the long term by making FHA more closely resemble other national platform lenders and resulting in a more responsive and efficient processing system.  

On April 29, NAA/NMHC and other industry stakeholders met with Carol Galante, Assistant Secretary for Housing -FHA Commissioner, and Marie Head, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing Programs to discuss the reorganization.  During that meeting, HUD committed to working together in a transparent and collaborative manner with the industry to implement their plans.  We also stressed the importance of mitigating any short-term impacts on the existing pipeline of applications and our concerns over the loss of talented staff in the offices slated for elimination.   

More information is available.

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Legislation Would Threaten Vital Census Data

Congress is currently considering three bills that would greatly restrict the American Community Survey (ACS) and other surveys that provide key data used to analyze the apartment industry.

One bill (H.R. 1638) would eradicate the ACS and the Economic Census completely, while two others (H.R. 1078, S. 530) would make participation in the ACS voluntary.

Data from the ACS—which replaced the old “long form” of the decennial census—are used to provide accurate annual counts of the number of occupied apartments and provide important statistics about apartment households, including resident income, household size and structure type.

If eliminated, Census would only collect basic demographic data (such as population) and only every 10 years. NAA/NMHC have opposed the bills and will continue to monitor developments.
 
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NAA NEWS
NAA Congressional Recess Program: Your Investment in the Industry's Future

Your involvement with your members of Congress is a year-round commitment to support the apartment industry. Take advantage of their in-district work periods by scheduling meetings with them now. Congress will be in recess the week of Memorial Day (May 27-31) so now is the time to make your appointments. Our industry’s top issues include immigration, housing finance and tax reform.

Fact sheets, talking points and resources to help you plan your meetings are available in the Congressional Recess Program Toolkit.
 

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AIMS

AIMS is the apartment industry's grassroots network operating under NAA and NMHC's Joint Legislative Program. AIMS represents more than 58,000 multifamily housing advocates.

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