HUD candidate pledges to promote affordable housing and work with Congress

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WASHINGTON – President Biden’s candidate for head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday promised lawmakers that if confirmed, she would consult Congress on changes to mortgage insurance premiums and work to prevent a wave of seizures linked to COVID-19.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, also told the Senate Banking Committee during a hearing to consider her appointment that her first priority as secretary would be to help troubled tenants and landlords and “to bring give people the support they need to get back from the sea. . “

“We need to make the dream of homeownership – and the security and wealth creation that comes with it – a reality for more Americans,” Fudge said in prepared remarks. “It will force us to end discriminatory practices in the housing market and ensure that our fair housing rules do what they are supposed to do. “

Some mortgage industry players have speculated that the Biden administration could move quickly to lower mortgage insurance premiums for Federal Housing Administration loans, an option Fudge left open during the hearing.

“We want to be sure that the FHA is available for people who want to take the next step,” she said. “It may help with down payment assistance, it may mean lowering rates.”

But Fudge has committed to Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, the committee’s top Republican, to discuss changes to the bonus structure with Congress before making any decisions.

“If I am lucky enough to be confirmed, I will speak to the staff at HUD,” she told Toomey. “We’ll figure out what the status is right now and get back to you to discuss where we should go from there. “

Several lawmakers, including Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the new chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, have also expressed concern about possible foreclosures and evictions if borrowers and tenants affected by the pandemic are unable to pay. their rent or mortgage.

“Many of us in Congress have said that we must do more to prevent the waves of foreclosures and evictions in order to prevent millions of people from suffering a permanent financial blow as a result of the crisis,” Brown said.

Fudge touched on a number of ideas she said she would pursue as secretary to prevent borrowers and tenants from losing their homes, including increasing the supply of affordable housing, preserving public housing, expanding housing choice vouchers and offering down payment assistance.

Fudge also told lawmakers that if upheld, she would seek to overturn the Trump administration’s overhaul of the HUD’s “disparate impact” standard in fair lending rules.

The legal standard, which can be used to punish lenders for discriminatory effects even if none were intended, has long been unpopular with banks, but Democrats called him “The most important tool” to enforce the Fair Housing Law.

Fudge said she was “willing to consider” following the rule-making process for advice and commentary with a closer look at the rule, according to President Biden. recent executive decree.

She also promised that any changes she made would be consistent with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project Inc., who supported using a disparate impact theory if it disproportionately affects a protected class without sufficient legal justification.

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