July 22, 2016
I have long been concerned about the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program (DASP), a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) effort to address the foreclosure crisis by selling off distressed properties in bulk to the highest bidder. Instead of making it a priority to keep families in their homes when possible, hundreds and sometimes thousands of mortgages are packaged and sold primarily to hedge funds and private equity funds with little attention being paid to the outcomes of those sales for the homeowners and communities where these properties are located.
In response to criticism from me, other lawmakers, housing advocates and others, FHA recently announced changes to the DASP program. While I am encouraged that FHA is taking some steps to improve this program, including limiting interest rate increases on future sales and pledging to work more closely with non-profits and local governments, I am concerned that these changes won’t be nearly enough to ensure that the goal of keeping families in their homes and preserving neighborhoods takes priority over the profit-making opportunities of large financial institutions. While I appreciate the FHA’s efforts, I still think more needs to be done to improve the DASP program, including requiring servicers to notify homeowners when their loans are going to be sold.
Last week Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Castro testified at a Financial Services Committee hearing on “HUD Accountability”. The DASP program was part of that conversation. I informed Secretary Castro that while the incremental changes made to the DASP program may be a move in the right direction, they just don’t go far enough. I pointed out that Republicans on the Committee will not be satisfied with any action HUD takes. At the hearing, Secretary Castro acknowledged that when properties are sold to nonprofits, people are three times more likely to remain in their homes. Since this is the case, HUD should just make the substantive changes needed to really improve the program. You may view our exchange here.
St. Mary’s Center
I met this week with staff from the St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children in Dorchester. This non-profit organization offers a range of programs for low-income women and children. The Center provides shelter for homeless families and assistance with affordable housing placement. Educational services include job training and instructional support for those completing a high school degree. Tailored programming for pregnant teens and new teen mothers is also provided. I met dedicated staffers committed to the young families they are mentoring and toured the facility with them. I enjoyed learning more about the work they are doing and plans they have for the future.
I meet regularly with local, state and federal officials about transportation. Sometimes we are discussing transportation projects specific to one of the communities I represent. Other discussions involve national policy or regional projects that have a larger overall impact. I met this week with Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. Our focus was the Green Line Extension (GLX). As you know, I am a longtime supporter of this project beginning with my time as Mayor of Somerville. The project has experienced budget challenges and the state recently released an updated plan for the GLX. This requires additional work, including support from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). I have been checking regularly with the Secretary on this project, to offer my assistance and learn more from her about the progress the state is making with the revised plan.
Congressional App Challenge
My office is participating in the 2016 Congressional App Challenge. All high school students, living or attending school in the 7th Congressional District, are eligible to participate. If you know someone who is eligible and may be interested in participating, please spread the word.
This competition was established to encourage students’ creativity and participation in STEM fields. Students compete with their peers in each participating Congressional district by creating and exhibiting their software application, or “app”, for mobile, tablet, or computer devices on a platform of their choice.
Students may enter as individuals or in teams of up to four, as long as two of the teammates are eligible to participate in the 7th Congressional District. The deadline for submissions, an explanation of the app and an account of what the students have learned, is 12:00 PM on November 2, 2016 EST. For additional details, you may visit congressionalappchallenge.us.