We did it! Yesterday evening, housing advocates celebrated a major victory when the U.S. Senate confirmed Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) as the new director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Thank you for your partnership in supporting Mr. Watt’s confirmation!
Mr. Watt’s confirmation was heralded as
“a great day for the millions of low income Americans in need of decent, affordable homes.”
Click here to read NLIHC President Sheila Crowley’s press statement
What You Need to Know
- Under the chamber’s new filibuster rules, the U.S. Senate was able to confirm Mr. Watt as director of the FHFA on December 10. He is replacing Acting Director Edward DeMarco.
- Mr. Watt is expected to be sworn in as director of the FHFA in the coming weeks.
- As director, Mr. Watt will have the authority to determine the future of the government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, including whether they begin to make contributions to the National Housing Trust Fund as required by law.
- According to a U.S. News op-ed, one of the top four things Mr. Watt should do as FHFA Director for housing is “Enforce Fannie's and Freddie's mandatory contributions to affordable rental housing.”
Mr. Watt’s journey to confirmation began on May 1, when he was nominated to fill the position of FHFA Director by President Obama. Despite widespread support, Mr. Watt’s vote was blocked by the Senate on October 31. In response to the unprecedented obstruction of Mr. Watt and other nominees’ confirmations, Senate Democrats passed changes to the chamber’s filibuster rules on November 21. The Senate now allows confirmation of certain presidential nominees by a simple majority of 51 senators. As a result, the Senate was able to successfully invoke cloture on Mr. Watt’s nomination yesterday morning, and later in the evening, achieved a majority vote which finally confirmed Mr. Watt as director of the FHFA.
What This Could Mean for the NHTF
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is the agency that regulates government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As director of the FHFA, Mr. Watt now holds the authority to require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide funding to the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF), as was initially intended by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s statutory obligation to contribute to the NHTF was temporarily suspended when the GSEs were taken into conservatorship in 2008.
Now that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are reporting record profits, NLIHC contends that the conditions for the suspension no longer apply and revenue to the NHTF should begin immediately.
Once funded, the National Housing Trust Fund will provide the first new federal money for rental housing production targeted to extremely low income families since the Section 8 program was passed in 1974. With the implementation of the National Housing Trust Fund, we can begin to finally address the acute shortage of low cost rental housing and end homelessness in our country.
Thank you again for your support!