August 24, 2018
Fannie and Freddie End Subsidy Program for Large Private Investors
This week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced it was ending a single-family rental pilot program first authorized in 2016. The pilot allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to subsidize private sector investments in the single family rental market. FHFA ended the program citing its recognition that large private sector investors in this market are doing fine and don’t need the federal government’s assistance.
I am pleased FHFA has ended this program. I raised concerns about it last year when a Fannie Mae investment benefiting Blackstone, the largest private sector landlord in America and one of the world’s largest private equity groups, came to light. That transaction involved Fannie Mae guaranteeing a $1 billion loan provided by Wells Fargo to Blackstone’s property management subsidiary, Invitation Homes, an entity that has generated consistent protests from tenants and consumer rights groups for its abysmal record on property maintenance, rent increases, and responsiveness.
As I wrote in a letter to FHFA last year, “The lack of transparency surrounding this transaction leaves many questions about whether this is a good deal for the families living in these properties, for the communities in which these properties are located, for potential homebuyers, and for local landlords who already face severe barriers to competition. We have no idea if this deal results in more affordable rents, better lease terms for renters, or what other uses could have been made of the precious government guarantee in lieu of subsidizing an entity flush with its own resources and with endless opportunity to access the capital markets for its funding needs.” I have consistently pushed FHFA and the GSEs to use their considerable presence in the housing market to focus on outcomes for homeowners, communities, and the affordable housing missions of their agencies. This action is, hopefully, a step in that direction.
Meeting with AIPAC
I met with constituents who are active in AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. We had a thoughtful and frank discussion. They thanked me for supporting H.R. 5141, the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018. I am one of 284 co-sponsors in the House and there are 72 in the Senate, reflecting broad bi-partisan support in Congress for the safety of Israel and the maintaining of its qualitative military edge. We also discussed H.R. 1697, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. I told them, as they well knew, that I am opposed to the BDS, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Movement, and had fought divestment locally. I could not, however, support this bill. I object on First Amendment grounds because it imposes penalties for advocacy. We then spoke, candidly, about the policies of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. I expressed my concern that moving the United States Embassy would needlessly embitter our relations with states that might, otherwise, be helpful in supporting a two-state solution. I also noted my fear that settlement construction in the West Bank would make lasting peace more difficult. Finally, we spoke about the troubling resurgence of anti-Semitism and resolved to remain in close touch about how best to combat this hateful bigotry.
Celebrating the Dearborn Academy Ribbon Cutting
I joined Mayor Marty Walsh, Treasurer Deb Goldberg, local officials, community leaders, faculty, students and parents at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Dearborn 6-12 STEM/Early College Academy in Roxbury yesterday. The state-of-the-art building has been completely reconstructed with the assistance of the Massachusetts School Building Authority. It is the first new school building built in Boston in 15 years. With an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), educators at Dearborn Academy help students prepare for 21st century challenges. I had the opportunity to walk around the school before the ribbon cutting and was impressed with the new academic spaces. As the first day of school approaches for many families, it was great to spend some time with students, parents and teachers preparing for a new school year in their brand new building.
Behind the Curtain — More House and Trump Administration Actions You Don’t Want to Miss
Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.
- According to an August 2018 report in the Guardian, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is relying on an old high school football buddy to review requests for scientific research funding over $50,000. Zinke’s friend, Steve Howke, is not a scientist and has no experience working in any scientific field. He has a degree in business administration and his professional experience involves working for credit unions. The Interior Department has more than $5 billion in funding that it directs to outside groups for research on topics such as land acquisition and conservation. This additional layer of review by someone with no scientific background has significantly slowed down the whole process. Zinke has demonstrated in numerous ways that he is not interested in addressing climate change. The Climate Adaptation Science Centers, which have consistently received this funding, are negatively impacted by this new policy. Located at 8 different universities, the centers study climate change. They have been forced to delay research in some cases and hold off on hiring in others.
- According to August 2018 media reports the Trump administration is rolling back a 2015 Obama administration rule regulating power plant emissions. The rule was a component of a plan to combat climate change by requiring power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Trump’s proposed rule would require these plants to reduce emissions by a fraction of what was previously required. It does nothing to address climate change, but does go a long way in setting us back further.
What’s Up Next
The House is currently in a District Work period. The next House votes will occur on Tuesday September 4th.