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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences issues mold guidelines.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has published a set of experience-based guidelines to protect mold hazard assessors, mold remediation workers and workers who are exposed to mold in the course of maintaining building systems.

The 39-page document is the product of two workshops attended by more than 60 technical experts and is intended to be a "living document" that will be updated as understanding of mold issues grows. It call be found at www.wetp.org/wetp/newsbriefs/may05/Final_NIEHS_Mold_Guide_05-20-05.pdf.

Anti-NIMBYism Presentation Available

It's a common story. A firm proposes building a new apartment community or mixed-use development and neighbors oppose it, citing fears about crime, traffic and school overcrowding. Despite all the academic literature that refutes these fears, statistics rarely carry the day. But what can win over skeptical residents are visuals--visuals of the types of communities being built today and the way that mixed-use development can revitalize and dramatically enhance existing neighborhoods.

In a unique partnership, NMHC, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the Sierra Club have joined forces to create two visually compelling, scripted PowerPoint presentations that can be customized and used to break down barriers to apartments. One version focuses on an urban audience, while the other addresses suburban objections. Both offer visual examples of how well-designed density can create vibrant, economically strong neighborhoods.

Beyond using these presentations to overcome objections to specific projects, we are asking apartment firms to give these presentations to local groups wherever they own and manage communities. The presentations, as well as a companion booklet, "Higher-Density Development: Myth and Fact," are posted on NMHC's Web site at www.nmhc.org/Content/ ServeContent.cfm?ContentItemID=3423. They are also available on an interactive CD or as narrated versions on DVD at no charge via the Web site.

Data Destruction Rules Take Effect

Apartment firms, mortgage brokers, lenders and insurers are reminded that effective June 1 they must comply with new rules governing the disposal of consumer information that require them to shred or otherwise destroy personal information obtained to screen residents and employees.

The rules were adopted in November 2004 as part of the broader 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) legislation that was designed to help reduce the risk of consumer fraud and identify theft. Specifically, they require firms that use consumer reports or information derived from such reports to take "reasonable measures" to protect against unauthorized access to such data during disposal. This includes credit reports or scores, employment background checks, residential records or medical history. They also require firms to destroy or erase electronic media (e.g., e-mail, computer files) with such information so it cannot be read or reconstructed.

The new rules and a members-only white paper on other elements of the FACT Act are posted at www.naahq.org/govern_affairs/.

GSE Reform Legislation Moves Forward

On May 25, the House Financial Services Committee approved a comprehensive bill (H.R. 1461) that would create an independent regulator for three housing-related government sponsored entities (GSEs), Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the 12 federal home loan banks. If enacted, it would greatly increase oversight of the GSEs and would expand their affordable housing missions. The legislation could have a significant effect on apartment firms because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the single largest sources of multifamily mortgage capital. Specifically, it would create the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), a regulator with authority to, among other things, restrict the GSE portfolios and increase capital requirements.

The FHFA would also have to approve new GSE programs and business activities, which could slow down the introduction of new and improved multifamily mortgage products. Since January 2002, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have made more than 35 material changes to their multifamily products as a result of industry feedback, none of which required regulatory approval. Under the House bill, such changes would have required regulatory approval. Importantly, the bill does not set limits on the GSEs' portfolios; however, it does call on the new regulator to review and set limits as necessary on investments including retained mortgages held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Over the past decade, Fannie and Freddie have retained most of the multifamily loans they have purchased as investments to provide greater flexibility and improved pricing.

The bill would also reduce the number of loans that count toward the GSEs' affordable housing goals by limiting them to loans that serve households earning 80 percent or less of the local area median income. This change could increase the firms' emphasis on multifamily housing because they gain more qualified loans through their multifamily loan programs than their single-family programs.

Finally, the bill would require the GSEs to contribute 5 percent of their after-tax earnings to an affordable housing fund. It is unclear what impact the fund would have on rental markets, however, due to the deep income targeting. The full House will consider the bill over the summer, and a Senate version is expected to be introduced shortly. NAA/NMHC will continue to work with legislators as the bills move forward and will press for some relief in the product approval provisions and seek fair treatment on any portfolio limits that could increase the cost of mortgages.

NAR Survey: Lack of Affordable Housing a Priority

A new survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) offers further evidence of the need to educate the American public about the importance of higher density development. The good news coming out of the third annual Housing Opportunity Pulse survey is that residents rate the lack of affordable housing as a priority issue, ranking it just below affordable health care as a problem for their area. The survey also found that they will support building more affordable homes in their community as long as they don't hurt property values (80 percent of respondents); contribute to school overcrowding (75 percent); or make traffic worse (74 percent).

On the other hand, even though 71 percent of respondents said their community should have more requirements to preserve open space, when asked what kind of affordable housing they would support, 78 percent said single-family houses compared to significantly lower rates of approval for the kinds of properties that actually help preserve open space. Only 39 percent said they would support low-rise apartments, and just 21 percent would support mid- or high-rise apartments.

NAA/NMHC Testify on Proposed Changes to Section 8

On May 17, NAA/NMHC testified in Congress on legislation (The State and Local Housing Flexibility Act of 2005; S. 771, H.R. 1999) that would substantially change the Section 8 program.

Among other things, the bills would change the way the program is funded by converting it to a dollar-based system, where each voucher is funded at a specific dollar level regardless of rent levels. It would also allow public housing authorities (PHAs), which administer the voucher program, to set their own rents instead of relying on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Fair Market Rents. The measures would also require that at least 90 percent of vouchers go to families with incomes up to 60 percent of area median income.

On a more positive note, the legislation includes a long-sought after NAA/NMHC change on unit inspections. Instead of requiring annual inspections, the bill would require initial inspections for each unit within 60 days of being leased to a voucher holder. After that, PHAs could inspect at least 25 percent of units each year.

Testifying on behalf of NAA/NMHC, Chris Reilly, an Area Vice President for Equity Residential, told Congress that the proposed legislation actually creates new obstacles that would discourage apartment owners from participating in the program. For example, allowing PHAs to set their own rents would require multi-state property owners to keep track of 2,500 potentially different programs. The full written testimony and Reilly's oral statement are posted at www.naahq.org/govern_affairs/.

Information compiled by NAA/NMHC Joint Legislative Staff: Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Jim Arbury; Lisa Blackwell, Vice President of Housing Policy; Vice President of Capital Markets and Technology David Cardwell; Vice President of Property Management Jeanne Delgado; Vice President of Communications Kim Duty; Vice President of Environment Eileen Lee; Tax Advisor Howard Menell; Vice President of Building Codes Ron Nickson; Chief Economist Mark Obrinsky; and Director of Property Operations Betsy Feigin Befus.
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Title Annotation:CAPITOL BEAT
Publication:Units
Date:Jul 1, 2005
Words:1402
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