Statement from Sheila Crowley and Rachel LaForest on Samuels v. Federal Housing Finance Agency

While we are disappointed in Judge Marcia G. Cooke’s ruling on Monday on our lawsuit against the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to require the agency to lift its suspension on funding for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF), we will continue our advocacy for the affordable housing that the NHTF would provide.  The need for this housing has never been more urgent. Consistent with statutory provisions, FHFA, through its Director Mel Watt, should lift the suspension and direct Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide funding for the NHTF now.

Today, there is a shortage of 7.1 million rental housing units that are affordable and available for extremely low income households.[1] Three-quarters of these households spend half or more of their income for housing, leaving them at high risk of housing instability, eviction, and homelessness.

The Housing Economic Recovery Act of 2008 established the NHTF with the purpose of reducing this shortage. The NHTF is be funded with an assessment on the volume of business of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.[2] No funding has ever been directed to NHTF, because FHFA temporarily suspended the requirement during the mortgage finance crisis of 2008.

However, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac returned to profitability in 2012. We assert that the suspension should have been lifted then, but FHFA did not do so. Thus, our organizations, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Right to the City Alliance, and three low income women without secure, affordable homes, Angela Samuels, Rossana Torres, and Danielle Stelluto, sued FHFA on July 9, 2013 in Federal District Court.

The case was dismissed on two threshold questions without consideration of the fundamental issue of funding for the NHTF.  The judge ruled that our organizations and the individual plaintiffs do not have standing to sue and that the court does not have jurisdiction over the decisions of FHFA. We strongly disagree with the ruling and will make a decision about an appeal in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, we urge Mr. Watt to lift the suspension on the funding with all deliberate speed. Earlier this year, at the outset of his tenure at FHFA, Mr. Watt assured us he was reviewing our request with great care. Mr. Watt has been encouraged by many others, including 33 U.S Senators and 78 Members of the U.S House of Representatives, to require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to begin making payments to the NHTF. Ms. Samuels, Ms. Torres, and Ms. Stelluto and the millions of other families in desperate need of secure, affordable homes are depending on him to make the right decision quickly.

[1] Extremely low income is 30% or less of the area median. These are people in the low wage, service sector workforce; people who are unemployed or underemployed; and people who are elderly or disabled on fixed income.

[2] The assessment is not on profit.



Christine Campbell

Vice President for Field and Communications

National Low Income Housing Coalition

202-662-1530 x247

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