from our friends at NCSHA – NCSHA Washington Report | January 31, 2020

When President Trump established the White House Council on Eliminating Barriers to Affordable Housing Development by executive order last summer, NCSHA recalled that the dozen or so similar federal panels over the past 50 years had not accomplished, or even attempted, much to really reduce red tape, which has increased dramatically during that time.

The administration is demanding action from within. The White House council has directed nine federal agencies “to identify and assess the actions each agency can take under existing authorities to minimize Federal regulatory barriers that unnecessarily raise the costs of housing development.”

This week, NCSHA recommended 47 specific steps that the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and Treasury can take. While some would have more impact than others, they all represent things the administration can do, on its own and right away, that will lead directly to more affordable housing financing and development.

In some instances, the opportunity in front of the administration is to right-size IRS rules forcing states to divert dollars from housing into overly burdensome regulatory compliance exercises. In others, rationalizing HUD regulations — including one the department itself calls “obsolete” — will make it more feasible for lenders and owners to put federal resources to work with state HFAs.

It’s really that simple.

The administration is also asking about “policy interventions, solutions, or strategies available to state decision-makers for incentivizing local governments to review their regulatory environment.” States are acting already, according to the Sightline Institute:

Texas, North Carolina, and Arkansas have passed state laws limiting permitting delays or banning local restrictions on design. And the list of states considering legislation for abundant housing keeps growing longer: Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Florida.”

Then there’s Oregon, which last year enacted “landmark legislation that would allow duplexes, triplexes, and other denser varieties of housing to be built on some land currently zoned single-family in most cities.” And Washington, where a bipartisan effort is trying to expand a successful tax incentive.

Few states have been more committed recently than New Hampshire, which has started to see new multifamily development in communities that had resisted it, thanks to state actions requiring and enabling more types of housing and more streamlined local approvals.

A task force assembled by Governor Sununu (R) last year, which included Dean Christon and Ben Frost of the New Hampshire HFA, produced a wide-ranging set of recommendations aimed at creating more consistency and transparency in the state’s local regulatory environments. Two bills backed by the governor that would advance those ideas are before the state legislature this year.

Leaders at the state level are starting to push perhaps harder than ever against the regulatory barriers to needed affordable development. The federal government is long overdue in joining them.

Stockton Williams | Executive Director

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