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Mortgage Rates Holding Near November Lows

Mortgage rates ended their recent winning streak yesterday, but they have yet to try to get a losing streak started! In other words, rates bottomed out after a week and a half of improvement on Wednesday and they haven’t really budged since then. This leaves them at the lowest levels of November–certainly well under 4% for top tier scenarios–but certainly higher than 2019’s lowest levels seen in early September. Underlying market movement is conveying plenty of uncertainty right now. While that certainly has something to do with the patterns typically seen heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, it has even more to do with the fact that there are legitimate reasons for investors to be uncertain. Chief among these are the wide spectrums of outcomes for the US/China trade deal (and timeline
Mortgage Rates Holding Near November Lows
Mortgage Rates Holding Near November Lows

Mortgage Rates Steady Despite Bond Market Weakness

Mortgage rates spent a 2nd day with the average lender holding relatively steady . This follows a decent winning streak over the previous week and a half with the net effect being at least an eighth of a percent (.125%) improvement on the average conventional 30yr fixed quote. Holding steady was a bit anticlimactic yesterday because the broader bond market (specifically, the benchmark US 10yr Treasury yield) indicated more improvement than we actually saw. That had a lot to do with the underperformance of bonds that specifically underlie mortgages (MBS or “mortgage-backed securities). But whereas MBS lagged Treasuries yesterday, they outperformed today, thus allowing lenders to keep rates unchanged even as 10yr yields moved moderately higher. Day-to-day volatility aside, the bigger picture
Mortgage Rates Steady Despite Bond Market Weakness
Mortgage Rates Steady Despite Bond Market Weakness

Rates Hold Near Lows, But Things Could Change Tomorrow

Mortgage rates moved microscopically higher today, depending on the lender. In terms of underlying movement in the bond market, however, rates should have risen a bit more than they did. This has to do with the timing of the bond market weakness and the amount of movement lenders typically want to see before changing their mortgage rate offerings for the day. Simply put, weaker bonds suggest higher rates, but bonds didn’t weaken fast enough for most lenders to see their “re-price” threshold. All of the above means that most lenders continued to offer rates that were very close to the lowest levels in more than a year. Only a handful of days have been any better, and all of them have occurred in the past 2 months. Much of the credit for the recent drop in rates goes to the well-publicized trade
Rates Hold Near Lows, But Things Could Change Tomorrow
Rates Hold Near Lows, But Things Could Change Tomorrow

A Breath of Fresh Air

 

Eighteen months ago, HUD issued a final regulation requiring every public housing agency (PHA) across the country to provide a smoke-free environment for their residents.  Today, that rule goes into effect.

As a former pediatric neurosurgeon, I know the damaging health effects that secondhand smoke can have on infants and children, such as severe asthma and ear and respiratory infections.  Smoking is also the leading cause of fire-related deaths in multi-family apartment buildings. 

HUD’s smoke-free rule will protect the health of families who live in public housing, visitors to public housing and those who work in public housing.  This rule will also save significant amounts of money for public housing authorities. Turning over a smoker’s unit can cost more than a thousand dollars more than a non-smoker’s unit because of the additional labor and materials required. By eliminating smoking from public housing, the cost of property management and the medical costs for residents will be reduced.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates our smoke-free policies will save public housing agencies $153 million every year in repairs and preventable fires, including $94 million in secondhand smoke-related health care, $43 million in renovation of smoking-permitted units, and $16 million in smoking-related fire losses. 

To help PHAs implement the rule and facilitate access to smoking cessation resources, HUD is working with federal and private sector partners who are assisting these housing agencies in providing assistance for residents who choose to quit.  Our partner organizations include, but are not limited to:  the CDC, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Quitline Consortium, and the American Cancer Society.

This new smoke-free rule taking full effect today will improve health and safety conditions in public housing.  And it will lower costs.  Now that’s a win-win-win!

A Breath of Fresh Air
A Breath of Fresh Air

2 Paradoxes For Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates were microscopically higher today, which is paradoxical on two levels. The first paradox has to do with today’s bond market improvements. Bonds underlie rates and bond market improvements coincide with rates moving lower–usually! In some cases, the day-to-day change in the bonds that underlie mortgage rates can be quite a bit smaller than the change in US Treasuries (the core of the US bond market). That was part of the problem today. The other part had to do with weakness yesterday afternoon. That weakness meant today’s improvements merely got mortgage-backed bonds back to yesterday morning’s levels despite being in stronger territory compared to yesterday afternoon’s latest levels. The second paradox has to do with the most prevalent mortgage rate headline out in the world
2 Paradoxes For Mortgage Rates
2 Paradoxes For Mortgage Rates

A Day in the Life: Atlanta Regional Office, Office of Field Policy and Management

Photo: Dexter Brandon.

Welcome to another edition of our series, A Day in the Life, which will introduce you to HUD employees and highlight the important work they do.

 Today, we meet Dexter Brandon, a Customer Service Representative in the Office of Field Policy and Management in the Atlanta Regional Office.

 What is your typical day like?

A typical day starts with checking voicemails complaints, emails on the Georgia Webmail and interacting with customers on behalf of the organization. I provide them with information or guidance to solving their problems.

What is the overarching task of your position?

To listen and respond to customers’ needs. Every call is not the same, so it’s imperative that I provide them with the correct information. Also, transferring the customer to the proper program areas, internally and externally, is essential too. The key is to prevent people from going around in circles. Another one of my tasks is to assist with promptly processing Freedom of Information Act request and inquiries.

How long have you been in your current role? 

My career started at HUD in June 2014, as a Student Trainee (Office Support) Intern. Upon completion of my internship, I volunteered for three months and was eventually able to obtain a position as a Customer Service Representative in January 2015.

What is the most exciting part of your job? 

Providing customers with information that may change their lives for the better; it’s gratifying for me. I enjoy helping people, so when a person says, “you‘ve saved my life” or “thank you for the information,” that motivates me throughout the day.

Where did you work prior to your position at HUD?

I worked at a company as a Power Plant Technical Writer, Contractor, in Atlanta. My job consisted of generating technical documentation for power generation, petrochemical, and other heavy industrial applications, that included organizing and producing professional technical documents used in the field to build or repair equipment and systems for industrial power plants.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back for a new edition of A Day in the Life!

Joe Phillips is a Public Affairs Officer in HUD’s Atlanta Regional office.

A Day in the Life: Atlanta Regional Office, Office of Field Policy and Management
A Day in the Life: Atlanta Regional Office, Office of Field Policy and Management

Mortgage Rates Uninspired by Fed or Economic Data

Mortgage rates were flat to slightly higher today, depending on the lender. The average lender was quoting the same rates as yesterday, but with slightly higher upfront costs (or a lower credit, depending on your scenario). That said, if you could only choose one word to describe the movement, it would be “flat.” The flat trajectory has been intact for 3 straight days, even though today’s events had enough street cred to cause a shift in momentum. The morning hours brought and important economic report and an even more important update on the Treasury’s borrowing needs. Rates care about Treasury issuance because it’s the foundation of the “supply” side of the supply/demand equation for bonds (and bonds dictate rates). Rates care about economic data because a stronger economy can generally support
Mortgage Rates Uninspired by Fed or Economic Data
Mortgage Rates Uninspired by Fed or Economic Data

Rental Assistance Demonstration in Northfield, Minnesota: Three Links Apartments

Three Links Apartments in Northfield, Minnesota is a quiet and attractive senior living community of 20,000 people about an hour south of the Twin Cities and an hour north of the Iowa-Minnesota border. MaryLou Murphy, Eldora Sietz, and Diane Decker share their experience going through a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) renovation.  The improvements allowed tenants who require accessibility features to live at the property while maintaining their independence. Read more of their story here.

Rental Assistance Demonstration in Northfield, Minnesota: Three Links Apartments
Rental Assistance Demonstration in Northfield, Minnesota: Three Links Apartments

50 Years of Enforcing the Fair Housing Act

Photo: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Ongoing segregation in America, regular reports of sexual harassment in housing, newly-constructed properties inaccessible to people with disabilities – these are just some examples that underscore that we have not yet vanquished housing discrimination. We can, however, look back on 50 years of enforcement to determine how we may make the progress that has eluded us.

The 50th anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act stands as a watershed moment in our enforcement of this landmark civil rights law. We now have seen five decades of government and private enforcement of this law. This time affords us an opportunity to review what has worked, what has not, and how we might face the future in view of those lessons. It’s important to celebrate milestones, but more important is to take action.

First, I think it is critical to acknowledge that the passage of the law itself was a major victory. Walter Mondale, a co-sponsor of the Act, said this month, “The view of how America speaks is reflected in our laws. And one of the laws is fair housing.”

Having such a law on the books certainly changed American cultural norms regarding housing discrimination.  Real-estate and other housing associations in those early years pledged fair housing compliance as a central tenet of their profession. Still, it was government and private enforcement of the law in those first two decades that put muscle behind the law. It’s during those decades that much of the seminal caselaw that we rely on today developed.

It should be noted that, upon its passage in 1968, the Act did not grant HUD the full enforcement authority Congress would provide in its 1988 Amendments. However, it did provide HUD with the authority to investigate and conciliate complaints. It also empowered the Department of Justice to enforce the law and provided a private right for anyone harmed by a discriminatory practice to pursue a lawsuit in federal court.

Similarly, fair housing groups were key to policing the housing industry in their communities and bringing many early cases. The decline in documented acts of discrimination, between HUD’s 1977 and 1989 national housing discrimination studies, reflect the combined enforcement and education activities of all these actors in the early years. The 1988 Amendments then strengthened HUD’s enforcement powers, authorizing a HUD administrative law judge to make findings of discrimination and award damages.

In recent decades, HUD’s decennial Housing Discrimination Study has tracked continuing declines in documented housing discrimination in the sales and rental markets. We can attribute that trend to the ongoing enforcement and education efforts on fair housing. Today, in addition to federal enforcement at HUD and the Department of Justice, 85 state and local agencies enforce substantially-equivalent laws. Our respective agencies not only bring cases to judges, but also help resolve these cases and obtain relief for individuals during the investigation process. For example, in Fiscal Year 2017, in 44% of its cases, HUD succeeded in bringing parties together to agree to a resolution before HUD issued findings.

You would think that with this record of success, our communities would not exclude any residents based on race, all apartment buildings would be accessible to individuals with disabilities, and sexual harassment in housing would be a thing of the past. While it may be difficult to completely eradicate discrimination, we can, and will do more.  The year may have changed but our commitment hasn’t.

50 Years of Enforcing the Fair Housing Act
50 Years of Enforcing the Fair Housing Act

Undesign the Redline

It was a mix of personal and professional experiences that brought together three passionate artists to create the Undesign the Redline exhibit. Designed to address the transformation of place, race, and class, this exhibit curates a past-to-present journey, grounding discussions about race, wealth, opportunity and power.  Design practitioners, April De Simone, Sabrina Dorsainvil, and Branden Crooks wanted to provoke thought, questions, and dialogue around the policies, practices, and investments shaping the socio-spatial landscape of America. In commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the passing of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, HUD will host this interactive exhibit at its Headquarters building throughout the month of May.

What’s brilliant about this exhibit is its dual purpose. First, it seeks to educate the public on how our segregated metropolitan areas came about. The exhibit name itself offers the answer: through redlining. But ‘redlining’ here is shorthand for a host of practices, to include racially-restrictive covenants for entire subdivisions, private racial steering, government-supported redlining, and a host of other practices.

Second, the exhibit calls on us to “undesign” this legacy. To condemn these past practices and promise not to repeat them is not enough. The exhibit says we created a segregated society; now we must take active steps to undo it. This mirrors the mandate of the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act for HUD and other federal agencies to “affirmatively further” the purposes of the Fair Housing Act. The exhibit helps fill in the gaps in the public’s understanding of why we must take active steps to reverse the harm.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968, he said he was signing into law “the promises of a century.” This measure was necessary because we had not yet fully guaranteed for all Americans, equal protection under the law. President Johnson said, “We’ve come some of the way but not near all of it.”

Now, 50 years later, we still have a long course to run. We have achieved much in the way of the enforcement of the Act on behalf of individual families who have experienced discrimination.  We have helped obtain meaningful relief for them. Yet, that has not resulted in a major transformation of our neighborhoods. To do that, we must engage in more active work, at the Federal, state, and local level.

“Undesign the Redline” reminds us, going forward, we must live up to the Fair Housing Act’s central purpose—not just to root out discrimination, but, as the Act’s co-sponsor Senator Walter Mondale said, to promote “truly integrated and balanced living patterns.”

Undesign the Redline
Undesign the Redline