By Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, NCLR
In a major win for homeowners, ending months of congressional stalemate, the Senate voted today to confirm Representative Mel Watt (D–NC) as Director of the Federal Housing and Finance Agency (FHFA). Rep. Watt’s confirmation brings fresh ideas and new resolve to the FHFA during a time when struggling homeowners need it most.
After months of advocacy work by NCLR and like-minded organizations, Rep. Watt’s confirmation is a welcome improvement to FHFA’s leadership. Civil rights and consumer advocates look forward to a new chance for homeowners and honest mortgage lenders alike.
Rep. Watt replaces former FHFA Acting Director Ed DeMarco, who has presented a considerable obstacle to a working housing finance system. While NCLR has frequently testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services in support of principal reduction, DeMarco has long opposed the policy.Now that overinflated housing prices have recalibrated, many families are stuck with underwater mortgages. They have collectively lost billions of dollars in wealth. A new FHFA leader and approach is long overdue to reinvigorate the American housing market and help struggling homeowners get back on their feet.
Bringing four decades of housing experience to the post, Mel Watt is the person best qualified to bring these changes about. Over his long career, Rep. Watt has championed consumer rights and proved himself a fierce advocate for affordable housing and minority homeownership.
With the FHFA now under new leadership, NCLR hopes Rep. Watt will build on his history of homeowner advocacy. We look forward to him spearheading new policies to help homeowners and homebuyers begin closing the wealth gap, now the worst recorded in 30 years.
The FHFA should work to ensure that the Latino community is never again targeted with discriminatory lending practices by large financial institutions, which helped bring about the housing crisis. As nearly half of all new homebuyers will be Latino by 2020, we know that ethnic and racial discrimination has no place in our housing finance market, and we refuse to stand for it.
Years into a slow economic recovery, communities of color remain weakened and have suffered wealth loss through vast, unnecessary foreclosures. Struggling Latino homeowners have waited far too long for relief and deserve it as soon as is possible.
With Mel Watt confirmed as FHFA Director, we have a rare chance to reverse the widening economic inequality plaguing our communities. We urge the FHFA to start its work today.