On Monday, October 28, 2019, Senator Kevin Matthews hosted an Interim Study entitled “Study on Reducing Poverty by Increasing Home Ownership and Entrepreneurship Opportunities.” Senator Matthews invited a wide range of speakers including Deborah Jenkins, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), Darrell Beavers and Lee Ann Smith with OHFA, Melvin Gilliam with Spirit Bank; Josh Cockroft with the Oklahoma Association of REALTORS®, Nate Webb with the Oklahoma Credit Union Association; Mary Daniels Dulan with the Metropolitan Fair Housing Council; and Mike Means with the Oklahoma Home Builders Association.
Senator Matthews opened the study stating that he hoped that turning perpetual renters into homeowners would bring retail to his district. Senator Matthews would also like to change the trajectory of poverty via homeownership for low to moderate-income Oklahomans.
Ms. Jenkins gave an overview of the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency programs. Mr. Beavers provided information on financing programs available through OHFA including Oklahoma Housing Trust Funds (instituted by former Governor Bellmon), the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Act as well as other federal programs. Mrs. Smith discussed the various down payment assistance programs offered by OHFA including OHFA Shield, OHFA for Teachers and OHFA Gold. Homebuyers can qualify for 3.5%-4% down payment assistance through various OHFA approved lenders and Blue Ribbon REALTORS®.
Mr. Gilliam, a commercial lender with Spirit Bank, discussed education opportunities needed for renters desiring to become homeowners and the need to bring new development to areas of Tulsa that have had no new development in 20+ years.
Mr. Webb discussed that income is not necessarily always the roadblock preventing homeownership, sometimes it is the ability to repay.
Ms. Dulan explained that disparate impact occurs when a rule or policy is instituted that on its face is neutral, however, the result ends in discrimination. Ms. Dulan provided a brief history of the Fair Housing Act and the inception of the Metropolitan Fair Housing Council. Ms. Dulan also recognized the common misconception by municipal leaders and communities that affordable housing means public housing or Section 8 housing. Established in 1978 by Oklahoma housing advocates, Metro Fair Housing provides legal resources, counseling and advocacy services and is the only private nonprofit full-service fair housing agency in the state. Metro Fair Housing has processed over 14,000 allegations and filed more than 800 complaints with HUD.
According to Ms. Daniels, zoning issues requiring that affordable housing only be built in certain areas and city councils can also inadvertently perpetuate disparate impact. Many times, zoning and design requirements tie developers’ hands that are attempting to build housing for low to moderate income households. Earlier this year, the State of Oklahoma released the Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice in support of Oklahoma’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan.
Mr. Means discussed the importance of the construction industry from economic development and workforce development perspectives. He identified the three main barriers to affordable housing development as:
- Trades/Workforce development
- Money Management/Income Qualification
- Policies and Regulations
According to Mr. Means, a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders found that every $1,000 in a price increase on a home, 1,940 Oklahoma families are priced out of the market. Regulations increase the cost of construction by 20-25% per housing unit. Exclusionary zoning also can increase costs. Exclusionary zoning is zoning that does not provide a health or safety benefit. Rather the real purpose is socio-economic and may prevent affordable housing from being in areas of high opportunity.
The Coalition would like to thank Senator Matthews for organizing the study on the need and impact of affordable housing. We would also like to thank Senator Leewright, Chair of Senate Business and Commerce for approving the study.