The Trump Budget: Padding the Wallets of the Wealthy at Your Expense

By Amelia Collins, Policy Analyst, NCLR

Photo: peasap

Next Tuesday, the Trump administration is expected to release its full fiscal year 2018 (FY18) budget request, which will be a blueprint for funding levels for federal programs. Many of those programs, like nutrition assistance for families, affordable housing initiatives, early childhood education opportunities, and Medicaid and Social Security, help millions of Americans.

If the “skinny budget” Trump released in March is any indication, the full Trump budget will gut programs that provide basic living standards for millions of low-income Americans to pay for tax cuts for millionaires, to increase defense spending, and to ramp up immigration enforcement by funding an unnecessary wall and a deportation force.

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Latino Families Benefit from Strong Leadership at FHFA

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FHFA Director Mel Watt

Over the past year, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has taken significant steps to improve America’s housing market for struggling homeowners, prospective homebuyers, and those suffering from foreclosure. Yesterday, FHFA Director Mel Watt testified before the House Financial Services Committee to highlight how the agency’s actions have helped homeowners since his confirmation about a year ago.

Just last month, NCLR applauded Director Watt’s decision to fund two essential affordable housing programs: the National Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund. In the wake of a housing crisis that cost more than one million Latino families their homes due to foreclosure, our nation is in desperate need of increased affordable housing stock. Funded with just one-twentieth of a percentage point of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s business purchases, at least $400 million is expected to become available for these programs annually.

In addition, the FHFA’s actions in promoting the Home Affordable Refinance Program has allowed thousands of qualified underwater homeowners—who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth—to refinance their mortgages, enabling savings on mortgage payments and preventing needless foreclosure.

Access to affordable mortgage credit continues to be a real barrier to homeownership; in response, the FHFA has recently introduced mortgage products with 3 percent down payments. These products are an important step in helping Latino families whose savings were wiped out by the financial crisis enter the home purchase market. By expanding mortgage eligibility to a greater section of prospective buyers, the FHFA is working to ensure all demographics are fairly served by our housing system. Low down payment products will be offset by proven housing counseling, private mortgage insurance, and other compensating measures of creditworthiness.

While the FHFA has taken great strides in improving the housing sector for families, the agency can still do more to improve mortgage access for the Latino community. We encourage the FHFA to strengthen its commitment to all Americans by issuing a strong duty to serve rule, requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to fulfill their statutory responsibility to serve all creditworthy borrowers. The FHFA should also continue to promote housing counseling in new ways, and should move beyond traditional FICO scores and toward alternative scoring options such as Vantage and FICO-9.

To truly make a difference in the lives of America’s millions of underwater borrowers, the FHFA should also direct Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to implement principal reduction, adjusting mortgages to what underwater borrowers’ homes are currently worth.

As Director Watt approaches his one-year anniversary at the FHFA, the agency is on track to continue making a difference in the lives of American homeowners, prospective homebuyers, and renters. We urge Director Watt to continue the FHFA’s efforts to make housing more affordable and to take new and significant action to expand mortgage access to serve all creditworthy borrowers.

Watch the entire hearing below:

Relief for Latino Families, FHFA to Fund Essential Affordable Housing Programs

Family in front of homeThis week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced plans to fund two essential affordable housing programs—the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and the Capital Magnet Fund.

At NCLR, we’ve long urged the FHFA to fund these programs, which would begin to correct the dire shortage of affordable housing in this country.

Nearly a year of inaction after his swearing in, we’re pleased to see FHFA Director Mel Watt take a stand for struggling families by directing FHFA to fund the much-needed affordable housing programs. To be funded from less than one-twentieth of a percentage point of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s business purchases, the funds are expected to total between $400 and $500 million annually, amounting to a boon for low-income Latino families.

Created during the height of the housing crisis in 2008 and designed to increase the affordable housing supply at a time when families were rapidly losing their homes, the critical programs remained unfunded after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed under conservatorship in 2008.

Photo: Jeffrey Turner

Photo: Jeffrey Turner

Since the programs’ creation more than five years ago, America’s affordable housing stock for extremely low-income households has sharply declined.

With the freeing up of funds for the NHTF and the Capital Magnet Fund, this trend could soon be reversed as the programs’ provisions take effect in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia.

With full funding, the overwhelming majority of NHTF money will go toward the construction of affordable rental housing stock for extremely low-income individuals. This will greatly benefit Latino families who are struggling to get by, making 30 percent or less of the federal poverty income level.

Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New HouseA fully capitalized Capital Magnet Fund would also direct its funds toward the affordable housing work of registered community development financial institutions (CDFI) across America. These qualifying nonprofit organizations would be able to compete for grants to fund low-income housing developments and other projects designed to stabilize low-income communities, including workforce development, day care, and health care centers.

In deciding to direct funds toward the National Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund, Director Mel Watt and the FHFA have taken a powerful step toward mitigating the shortage of affordable housing in America. This is essential for the estimated 1.3 million Latinos having lost their homes between 2009 and 2012.

This holiday season, the FHFA announcement will help prevent homelessness and give Latino families the gift of basic housing security.

Citigroup Settlement Penalties Are the Largest in History

Gavel and Law BooksThe U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup Inc. over the bank’s faulty mortgage securities and egregious practices. The settlement includes the largest civil fraud penalty ever levied by the Justice Department under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) and is more than twice what many analysts expected.

The government’s description of Citi’s wrongdoing closely mirrors conduct outlined in the Justice Department’s settlement with J.P. Morgan Chase. In both cases, the banks, or entities that they acquired, acknowledged repeatedly giving investors misleading information about mortgages underlying the securities. In many cases, those mortgages didn’t meet internal underwriting guidelines—which ensure that safe and secure loans are issued and help set the terms of the loan—but were included in packages and sold to investors.

Since the housing crisis hit in 2008, NCLR supported the efforts of state attorneys general in pursuing financial institutions whose predatory lending practices decimated the household wealth of millions of families, which was particularly devastating to Latinos and other communities of color. Working alongside advocates, housing counselors, and champions within the administration and the attorney general coalition, a national settlement was reached that made key changes to the mortgage servicing industry.

In California, NCLR worked closely with Attorney General Kamala D. Harris in the state’s successful passage of the Homeowner Bill of Rights, the first legislation of its kind that gives homeowners protections against abusive foreclosure practices by banks, and put an end to dual tracking.


This settlement is a reminder of the main causes of the financial collapse: poor practices in subprime mortgage lending, lack of transparency in the complex securitization process, and lax regulatory enforcement and oversight. Regulatory reforms are now in place that, we hope, will substantially improve the financial system.

The agreement also appears to improve on prior settlements by including affordable housing financing and counseling funds as permissible activities, a strong monitor, and it references relief to reach hard-hit areas.

That said, it will be important to assess how well the settlement is administered. Citi can make amends by working in good faith to ensure that hard-hit areas receive the relief and attention they deserve. In addition, the bank can significantly improve the financial system by collecting and reporting impact data by race and ethnicity, adding a substantial measure of transparency and accountability to the process. In doing so, the bank can ensure that those most harmed by their wrongdoing receive the help they need.

It is important for banks and mortgage lenders to settle accounts with the public for the 2008 crisis once and for all, and to provide as much relief and help as possible to those damaged by it. In doing so, they will help to build a better and stronger financial market in the future.

Family in front of houseLatinos are expected to comprise 40 percent of new households over the next two decades, and 50 percent of homebuyers will be Latino. Even with the recent foreclosure crisis, the desire for Latinos to be homeowners has not abated. According to a poll conducted by Latino Decisions and NCLR, the majority of Latino voters still believe that a key component of the American Dream is owning a home. Overall, 53 percent of Latino voters and 58 percent of immigrants agree that homeownership is a principle of the American Dream.

Latinos can contribute to the recovery of the nation’s housing market, but the widespread availability of safe and affordable mortgages depends on whether financial reforms can create a housing finance system that is accessible, transparent, and accountable for all Americans.

Why the “California Homes and Jobs Act of 2013” is Needed

Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New House

Last year, we and our Affiliate Network worked feverishly to get the California Homeowner Bill of Rights passed and signed into law.  The work was hard and the hours were long, but ultimately we prevailed.  When Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the bill, he instantly gave California one of the country’s strongest laws to protect homeowners from shady lending practices.  It was a great victory that showcased the power of our Affiliate Network.

Our work isn’t over, though.  Continue reading