The National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) sent a letter to Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and California Representative Maxine Waters on May 7. The letter supports legislation that funds emergency mortgage and rental assistance to Americans facing financial hardships due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Waters is the Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking, public and assisted housing, and insurance. Reed is a ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and a minority member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee.
“Mortgage lenders and REALTORS® are working through unusual and adverse circumstances to provide vital housing security,” the letter states. “Across every state and local community, we have seen the need for Congress to help homeowners and renters faced with the sudden loss of income…A comprehensive response by Congress to these needs would include direct emergency mortgage and rental assistance to advance housing stability.”
According to the letter, 3.8 million homeowners have requested mortgage forbearance since the beginning of the pandemic. Payment forbearance and lowered interest rates are crucial to the housing sector’s ability to survive the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. As of April 29, 2020, the Federal Reserve has announced it would maintain a mortgage rate of 0 to 0.25% until the economy returns to a trajectory towards maximum employment.
The letter lauds the Housing Assistance Fund created to support homeowners ability to make mortgage payments and lenders ability to create flexibility for payments.
The NAR has been engaged in a series of legislative activism to protect Americans’ homes and keep people housed in a time when income has been significantly impacted. In just the last two weeks, NAR wrote two letters to Congress including this one and also supported two coalition letters. The coalition letters also supported emergency rental assistance for Americans with lost or reduced income. They also advocate for creating a comprehensive portal for consumers to access that emergency mortgage and rental relief. The fourth letter was to the Federal Housing Administration about increased premiums.
Though it is unclear the extent to which lawmakers have been economically impacted by the pandemic, they like everyone else have been impacted by the coronavirus. Waters’ sister died of COVID-19 in Saint Louis, Missouri last week.
It is never quite certain what it will take for Washington to stay connected to the needs of the average American and respond accordingly. Sweeping legislation has been passed in record time in response to the economic shutdown, but the government has a long way to go to prove to the American people that it is trustworthy enough to protect both lives and livelihood all together.