HUD and HHS must work together on affordable housing

The COVID-19 crisis has taught us that health is not an isolated factor, but instead has huge ripple effects on our economy, on homelessness, on hunger and a host of other human factors. As the heads respectively of a major public health care provider and a major nonprofit affordable housing developer, we recognize the synergies between health and housing. 

We recently hosted a webinar with health care and housing experts. The webinar made clear that safe and affordable housing is critical to an individual’s health and to keeping health care costs under control, and that separate Congressional and federal agency policy and program silos impede their integration that is necessary to help individuals holistically.

Therefore, we call on HHS Secretary Javier Becerra and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge to work together to explore the synergies between health care and housing — and to take bold action to work across federal agency and program silos to improve peoples’ lives.

Our organizations are already showing the dynamic success of cutting across health and housing lines. 

National CORE’s main focus is to build and manage affordable housing. But National CORE is also engaging in innovative partnerships with health care providers. In San Bernardino, California, Common Spirit (formerly Dignity Health), helped to fund phase three of the larger Arrowhead Grove Regional Family Housing Project.  In Rancho Cucamonga, Inland Empire Health Plan is helping to fund affordable housing for the Day Creek seniors housing development.

L.A. Care has taken innovative action to demonstrate the health care cost savings and delivery improvements from providing affordable housing to the homeless and other at-risk persons. L.A Care is able to do this because it has a “closed system.” L.A. Care reaps the cost savings benefits from investments in affordable housing — by reining in the all-too-common practice of homeless persons using costly emergency rooms as their customary health care platform.

But federal programs don’t work that way. HUD programs that house homeless and other low-income families don’t receive any budget credit for cost savings in health care, for stable housing that keep youths off the street and for self-sufficiency efforts that raise incomes and federal tax receipts.

Fortunately, we are starting to see Congressional recognition of the links between health and housing. Last year, the House of Representatives adopted report language concluding that “homelessness can unnecessarily drive up Medicaid costs through excessive use of emergency room care, and that providing housing and resident services to this population can reduce such costs.” The language directed the Department of Health and Human Services to explore the use of Medicaid waivers for affordable housing for families at risk of homelessness that are experiencing runaway health costs.

For decades, Medicaid has granted waivers for community-based care for senior citizens as a cost-effective alternative to nursing homes. In recent years, Medicaid has granted waivers to fund supportive services to homeless persons to help them find and sustain housing. Medicaid should consider the next logical step of granting Medicaid waivers for rent to house homeless persons with excessive levels of Medicaid expenditures.

But Medicaid is already underfunded relative to the cost of providing health care. What is ultimately needed is a reliable source of funding for this purpose — mandatory federal spending on housing investments that have both a financial and a human return.  

There are other federal policies that could help bridge the gap between health and housing. Examples include new Section 8 housing vouchers for chronically homeless persons with excessive health care costs, and funding for services for individuals in federal low-income housing units, so we don’t just warehouse people but also improve their lives.

Our organizations got out of our comfort zones to work together to take advantage of the synergies between health and housing. It is time the federal government does the same. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.

To contact the authors of this story:
John Baackes at jbaackes@lacares.org and Steve PonTell at spontell@nationalcore.org

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Sarah Wheeler at swheeler@housingwire.com

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Source: HousingWire Magazine

Enterprise to buy First Choice in California for $398 million

Source: American Banker

The drive to digital in the title industry

The drive to digital

The title industry has used artificial intelligence and automation in various parts of the process for many years. Title production software companies have made great strides in automation that eliminates re-keying and the transferring of data from one application to another.

More and more companies — including underwriters, third-party vendors, and business process outsourcers — have started offering title production automation and using technology to improve the digitization of records. Additionally, companies are using automated reconciliation to complete this task in a timelier manner and address issues more effectively. Finally, title and escrow companies have automated communications such as email, reminders, confirmations, and notifications into title production systems.

Aside from title production, the title and settlement services industry has implemented technology and platforms that track the progress of the transaction, provide secure communication, and offer digital, intelligent closing experiences.

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Knight Barry Title acquires Florida’s MLS Title

Wisconsin-based Knight Barry Title has announced its acquisition of MLS Title, located in Fort Myers, Florida. The company now owns 12 companies in the Sunshine State.

MLS Title, owned by Susan Malach, opened in 2004.

“Bringing Susan’s great team on board serves two purposes for us — more convenience for our already loyal local customers and the opportunity to keep building the KBT brand,” said Craig Haskins, Knight Barry Title chief operating officer.

The company said Malach will stay with the company during the transition period before retiring.

It’s been a busy few years for Knight Barry Title, which in January of 2021 announced its purchase of Title One, a six-office operation that strengthened its presence in Minnesota — specifically, Minneapolis and St. Paul. Title One is headquartered in Bloomington, Minnesota, and has offices in the state in Apple Valley, Maple Grove, Ramsey, Roseville and Woodbury. The acquisition brought Knight Barry Title’s total office locations to 13 in the state and 45 employees across Minnesota.

In 2018, it acquired four title agencies south of the Twin Cities. Since then, it also established operations in Florida and Texas. In total, Knight Barry Title now has 80 offices across five states – Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida and Texas and has just gone over the 500 employee mark.

It’s been a busy year for title companies, especially when it comes to acquisitions. Several companies have expanded their footprints with recent expansions, including Stewart Title, which acquired Prima Title LLC, a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based company, in early April. That followed its acquisition of A.S.K. Services, a title and search support servicer, in March.

Blend also announced in March its acquisition of Title365 from the Mr. Cooper Group for approximately $422 million. And TitleOne, a subsidiary of Realogy Title Group, announced in March the acquisition of Land Title of Nez Perce County in Lewiston, Idaho.

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Source: HousingWire Magazine

Why New York Community-Flagstar could be a good fit

Source: American Banker

Biden’s $15K first-time homebuyer tax credit now a bill

President Joe Biden called for a first-time homebuyer $15,000 tax credit, and Congress has answered his call.

United States Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) today introduced the new legislation, dubbed the “First-Time Homebuyer Act.” The bill would provide a tax credit for first-time homebuyers of up to 10% of the purchase price, or $15,000.

In order to be eligible for the full credit, potential buyers must not have owned or purchased a home within the past three years.

The program would be targeted to low- and middle-income earners. Participants must also make no more than 160% of the area median income, and the home’s purchase price must be no more than 110% of the area median purchase price. Borrowers could claim the credit for primary residences purchased after Dec. 31, 2020.

Borrowers would need to use the home as a primary residence for at least four years, or face taxes to recover a portion of the credit.

Blumenauer, who introduced the legislation, said in a press statement that a $15,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit was a “key campaign promise of President Joe Biden.”

The proposal differs from a different piece of legislation designed to give first-time, first-generation home buyers down payment assistance in the form of a grant at closing. Lawmakers, led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) published the downpayment assistance bill last week, ahead of a committee meeting, but a White House spokesperson said it is not part of Biden’s larger infrastructure bill.

In a prepared statement, Blumenauer hinted that there may be room for both proposals.

“This legislation is just one element of the big, bold housing agenda that we are promoting to combat the housing affordability crisis and address centuries of overtly racist and discriminatory housing policies that have left massive wealth, homeownership, and opportunity gaps between white communities and communities of color.”

It is not yet clear whether Blumenauer’s bill will be included in the Biden administration’s infrastructure package, although Biden has said that “housing is infrastructure.” Its inclusion in the larger legislative push would greatly increase the chances of passing.

Sunny Shaw, the president of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, a housing industry trade association, said the legislation would “build wealth within communities that face systemic exclusions in the housing market.”

“The refundable tax credit proposed in the bill would increase homeownership among low- and moderate-income Americans, especially those from marginalized communities with historically low homeownership rates,” said Shaw.

Marcia Fudge, who leads the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has also said that combating racial inequality in housing is a top priority. In an address during the Mortgage Bankers Association’s virtual spring conference, Fudge drew attention to the homeownership gap. The gulf between Black and white homeownership is greater today than it was in 1968, when banks “could still legally discriminate against borrowers based on the color of their skin,” she said.

The last time a first-time homebuyer tax credit was available, it was wildly popular, and Blumenauer said such a program has proven effective. 1.5 million homebuyers took advantage of a first-time homebuyer tax credit that was part of the 2008 Housing and Economic Recovery Act.

The 2008 law created a $7,500 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. In 2009, the credit rose to $8,000.

That year, an independent Internal Revenue Service watchdog found that 74,000 questionable claims for the credit slipped by the agency. In some instances, borrowers were younger than 18, had owned a home within the past three years, or claimed the credit without purchasing the home.

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Source: HousingWire Magazine

As exits slow, forbearance trickles down to 4.49%

The total number of servicers’ loans in forbearance has dropped for two months, however, forbearance portfolio volume fell just one basis point last week to an average of 4.49%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Last week’s drop paled in comparison to the 40 basis point decline the previous two weeks had seen, and was likely the result of some investor categories remaining unchanged from the week prior, while others fluctuated. For instance, the share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans in forbearance remained the same relative to the prior week at 2.44%, continuing to make up the smallest share of investor portfolios.

Ginnie Mae loans in forbearance decreased seven basis points to 6.09%, while the forbearance share for portfolio loans and private-label securities (PLS) increased by eight basis points to 8.42%. As servicers continued to buy out delinquent loans from the Ginnie Mae pools, those loans became reclassified as portfolio loans, which is beneficial in lowering Ginnie Mae’s forbearance share but naturally pushes the portfolio/PLS share upward.

Overall, last week saw an increase in the number of forbearance requests while the rate of exits slowed down. The MBA also reported that 40% of borrowers in forbearance extensions have now exceeded the 12-month mark. Borrowers in this population are likely in government-backed mortgages as both the FHA and FHFA have extended their forbearance blankets out to 18 months. Borrowers in other categories — portfolios, PLS’s, IMB’s and depository servicers — have different standards and non-standard expiration deadlines.

Of the cumulative forbearance exits for the period from June 1, 2020, through April 18, 2021, 25.4% represented borrowers who continued to make their monthly payments during their forbearance period. This number has been inversely dropping for months against a rising percentage of borrowers who did not make all of their monthly payments and exited forbearance without a loss mitigation plan in place yet.

However, as of last week, that number managed to dip two basis points to 14.4%. Instead, the number of loans that resulted in loan deferral/partial claim and loan modification or trial loan modification, inched upwards.

Within the last month, the percentage of borrowers exiting with a loan deferral/partial claim has climbed above borrowers who stayed current on their payments. That’s a big shift – since the MBA began tracking these numbers, up-to-date borrowers had previously always made up the greatest share of exits.

With an estimated 2.25 million homeowners left in some form of forbearance plan, the CFPB is already performing investigations of several mortgage servicers to ensure that they are doing right by their borrowers as they exit forbearance.

Specifically, the agency is examining how many and which borrowers are in forbearance, whether loan modifications will succeed in getting borrowers to repay, whether servicers have been obstructing or delaying forbearance requests or granting only partial relief, and whether some servicers have been discriminating against borrowers based on race or ethnicity, whether deliberately or inadvertently.

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Source: HousingWire Magazine

Home sale prices reach record highs — again

The effects of low housing inventory continue to cause significant ripples in the housing market, as a recent Redfin report shows home sale prices across the country have reached an average of $344,625 — an all-time high, and an 18% increase year over year.

That’s well above the average home sale prices in Redfin’s March report, at the time a record high of $331,590. But the current prices aren’t deterring homebuyers.

In looking at more than 400 metros, Redfin found that homes sold during a four-week period ending April 18 were on the market for a median of 21 days, the shortest time on market since 2012. That’s also 16 days fewer than the same period in 2020. And 45% of homes sold for more than their list price, another an all-time high.

At the highest points in 2019 and 2020, average home sale prices never went above $300,000 and $325,000, respectively.

The average sale-to-list price ratio, which measures how close homes are selling to their asking prices, increased 2.3 percentage points year over year to an all-time high of 101.0%. That means the average home sold for 1% more than its asking price.

There are levels to the shortage that go beyond the surface. Despite what is undoubtedly a seller’s market, many prospective sellers — candidates that, in a different market, would be happy to sell — are instead choosing not to stay put for fear of being unable to find or afford a new home.

That’s led to a shortage of mid-priced homes on the market, and an uptick in available luxury-priced homes. In all, Redfin reported 528,861 active listings in the four-week period, down 40% year over year.

Markets with interesting luxury home numbers include Denver, where high-priced homes are staying on the market an average of only 14 days; Phoenix, where luxury homes are selling, on average, for 25% more than they did in 2020; Warren, Michigan, which has 73.8% more luxury homes on the market than in the first quarter of 2020; and San Francisco, where luxury homes are averaging nearly $4 million — the highest median price of Redfin’s study — but are still flying off the shelves in only 16 days, on average.

“If [prospective sellers] move and buy another home they will face a very competitive housing market as buyers, and they don’t need to sell to take advantage of record low mortgage rates — they can just refinance their current home,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin chief economist.

Fairweather added that it’s becoming increasingly clear that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the sole reason people aren’t selling their home.

“There has been an ongoing debate at Redfin about whether fear of coronavirus infection was keeping homeowners from selling,” she said. “With a third of American adults now fully vaccinated and still hardly any homes being listed for sale, we’re close to settling that debate. And on top of that, builders are struggling to construct new homes given an ongoing lumber shortage. Without more homeowners listing, buyers are scrambling to compete for the limited number of homes on the market, which continues to drive prices up to new heights.”

The ones that are selling are getting their money’s worth on the initial listing. Redfin found that the average listing price over the same four-week period skyrocketed to $356,175 — a 19% increase year over year. The highest average listing price in 2020 was in October, at $326,625. Average listing prices never approached $325,000 in 2019.

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Source: HousingWire Magazine

HSBC counting on AI to give investors an edge

Source: American Banker

Title tech company Cloudstar names new president

Cloudstar, a technology and compliance partner for the title and mortgage origination industry, has shaken up its current executive team with the recent promotion of Christopher Cury to president.

It’s the third major personnel move by Cloudstar this year, which named Nancy Allen as director of title services back in January and Roland DuBeau as president of MortgagePhish, a subsidiary of Cloudstar, in March.

Cury previously served as executive vice president of sales and customer service. In his new role, he’ll be in charge of sales management, compliance and operations, and “strategic leadership,” per the company.

“Christopher has a deep understanding of delivering cloud services and security products to our client base consisting of highly regulated industries, and has demonstrated exceptional leadership and customer service,” said Gregory McDonald, Cloudstar majority shareholder and board chair.

Cury succeeds McDonald, who founded Cloudstar and served as president and CEO for the past 12 years.

Allen, hired in January, is responsible for managing Cloudstar’s title service department, which includes consulting, server-based reporting, and workflow services, as well as development in blockchain integrations and API’s. Prior to coming to Cloudstar, Allen served as senior vice president of operations at Oversite Data Services LLC, where she helped develop a docket-based legal compliance and management solution.

DuBeau was promoted to president of MortgagePhish after joining the company in November 2016, when he served as director of product development and compliance.

For title professionals, Cloudstar offers ResWare, RamQuest, Qualia, and SoftPro Consulting. For mortgage origination, Cloudstar provides secure cloud hosting of three origination platformsEncompass 360Calyx PointCentral and Byte Enterprise

Cloudstar is part of the American Land Tile Association (ALTA) and the ALTA technology committee. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, the company recently added two additional data centers in Phoenix and Atlanta. McDonald said these “backup” centers provide a landing spot for data in the event of service disruption.

“The customer’s entire server infrastructure can be instantly transferred to a backup data center facility in minutes, with near zero data loss,” McDonald said.

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Source: HousingWire Magazine