The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that promotes bipartisan political solutions, has released a new plan that calls for the scaling back of the government's role in the housing finance system and reforming housing assistance programs.
In the report, entitled ‘Housing America's Future: New Directions for National Policy,’ the center's 21-member housing commission proposes a new housing finance system that calls for an expanded role for the private sector, a continued but limited role for the federal government, the elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and reform of the Federal Housing Administration to improve efficiency and avoid crowd-out of private capital.
Specifically, the plan calls for reforms that would establish a new performance-based system for delivering federal rental assistance with greater devolution of responsibilities to state and local providers. The commission also proposes to shift existing resources to more effectively assist the most vulnerable households, and to preserve and expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program to increase the supply of affordable rental housing.
For first-time home buyers, the report emphasizes the importance of housing counseling as a means of preparing for homeownership. The commission recommends proposals to enable seniors to ‘age in place’ safely and affordably while integrating housing with health care and other programs. For the one-third of Americans who live in rural areas, the commission recommends continued support for homeownership and rental assistance in those communities.
In an op-ed column published on the Politico website, the commission's four co-chairmen – former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, former Senator Christopher S. ‘Kit’ Bond, former Senator and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Mel Martinez, and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros – noted that the federal government has yet to propose a serious strategy to reform the housing finance system.
‘Six years after the collapse of the housing market, the problems in housing remain as severe as ever and solutions continue to be elusive,’ says the op-ed. ‘We hope [our report] will serve as a catalyst for action.’
The report is now online.