The Senate confirmed Dr. Janet Yellen as treasury secretary by a bipartisan vote of 84-15 on January 25. Secretary Yellen will be the first women to hold the position of treasury secretary since its inception in 1789. Secretary Yellen previously served as the 15th chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014-2018 and a distinguished fellow in residence with the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution before taking leave after her nomination for treasury secretary. She was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on January 26.
The Department of the Treasury administers several housing and community development programs, including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, Making Home Affordable program, Hardest Hit Fund, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI). Treasury has overseen funding for several recent disaster recovery efforts, including special allocations of LIHTCs and other incentives to spur redevelopment. Treasury also oversees Housing Bonds, which finance the development of rental and homeownership units. The department offers backing to HUD’s FHA Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund and has played a key role in the nation’s housing crisis recovery efforts by purchasing mortgage-backed and debt securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
When asked about housing finance reform in her confirmation hearing, Dr. Yellen replied, “Nothing is more important to the future of housing in the U.S. than what we do with Freddie and Fannie. I need to look carefully on what’s been put in place, and ultimately we need to find a solution that has bipartisan support and work with Congress and craft an approach.” In the hearing, Dr. Yellen committed to work with low-income workers and minority communities impacted most by the COVID-19 pandemic.
NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel sent a letter on January 21 to President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen, and HUD Secretary-designate Marcia Fudge outlining significant concerns with a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document released by the Treasury Department on January 19 regarding the coronavirus-relief emergency rental assistance (ERA) program (see Memo, 01/25). Many provisions in the FAQ document would make it more difficult for the lowest-income and most marginalized households to remain stably housed during the pandemic.
A recording of the confirmation hearing can be found at the Senate Committee on Finance’s website at: https://bit.ly/38DxE9j
Read the full text of the letter NLIHC sent to President-Elect Joe Biden, HUD Secretary-designate Marcia Fudge of HUD, and Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen at: https://bit.ly/3clmmZA
More information about the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is on page 5-17 of NLIHC’s Advocates Guide.
More information about Community Development Financial Institutions Fund is on page 8-6 of NLIHC’s Advocates Guide.
More information about the Housing Bonds program is on page 5-9 of NLIHC’s Advocates Guide.
More information about FHA is on page 5-1 of NLIHC’s Advocates Guide.
More information about Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Housing Finance Reform is on page 3-15 of NLIHC’s Advocates Guide