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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Housing Issues in the 111th Congress

Maggie McCarty, Coordinator
Specialist in Housing Policy

Libby Perl, Coordinator
Specialist in Housing Policy

Housing issues related to the recent turmoil in U.S. housing markets, as well as perennial issues related to the housing needs of low-income individuals and families, were prominent in the 111th Congress. The recent recession that was, in part, both a cause and a result of issues in the housing finance system put legislation designed to address current foreclosures and prevent a future crisis on the congressional agenda. At the same time, the 111th Congress faced questions about how best to meet the affordable housing needs of low-income and vulnerable populations, particularly as unemployment climbed and the economy worsened. While the recession officially ended during the first session of the 111th Congress, housing markets in many parts of the country continued to experience the effects of an economic downturn. The 111th Congress considered a number of measures to shore up housing markets and to address issues related to both housing finance and housing assistance for low-income populations. While a number of measures were enacted, other issues were left unresolved at the end of the 111th Congress.

This report summarizes housing issues that were considered in the 111th Congress. The report divides issues into three main sections: “Housing Finance and Homeownership,” “Housing for Low-Income Individuals and Families,” and “Other Issues.”

Within the realm of housing finance and homeownership, the 111th Congress enacted the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act, P.L. 111-203). While not exclusively focused on housing, the Dodd-Frank Act did include foreclosure preventionrelated provisions and changes to mortgage origination standards and practices. Notably absent from the Dodd-Frank Act were changes to the way in which the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs)—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—are structured and their role in the mortgage market, although the 111th Congress did feature discussions regarding reform of the GSEs. The 111th Congress also enacted tax provisions meant to bolster housing markets by providing a tax credit for first-time homebuyers. Foreclosure issues and FHA reform were other issues considered by the 111th Congress.

Congress also enacted laws that made changes to existing programs that provide housing assistance to low-income individuals and families. The Homeless Assistance Grants, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were amended to give communities greater flexibility in providing housing and services to homeless individuals (P.L. 111-22). The programs that fund housing for low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities (Section 202 and Section 811, respectively) also were changed to allow greater integration of funding from non-HUD sources in housing developments (P.L. 111-372 and P.L. 111-374). The 111th Congress also considered legislation related to housing assistance programs that was not ultimately enacted, including reform to HUD’s largest assistance programs: public housing and the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.

In addition to these activities, the 111th Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5). This legislation, aimed at stimulating the economy, provided additional appropriations to several HUD programs

Date of Report: January 10, 2012
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R41616
Price: $29.95

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