NAR Forum Examines Health of U.S. Housing Market in Wake of Pandemic

WASHINGTON (May 12, 2021) – With the nation emerging from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate industry stakeholders gathered virtually today to discuss new research on how shutdowns, job losses and seismic societal shifts will impact the long-term stability of the U.S. housing market.

The comprehensive report, released this week, was authored by representatives from the National Fair Housing Alliance and the National Community Stabilization Trust. It was dissected Wednesday for the first time in a public setting during the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings(link is external)’ Regulatory Issues Forum(link is external).

Protecting Homeownership from the Impact of COVID-19 explores paths policymakers must take to ensure America’s economic recovery does not leave behind communities of color, as the nation saw occur in the aftermath of the Great Recession. At that time, an estimated $20 trillion in equity was lost while 8 million homeowners entered foreclosure.

“By preventing unnecessary foreclosures and home loss, maintaining access to credit, ensuring vacant properties do not blight communities, and leveling the playing field for owner-occupants to purchase homes, the housing community can prevent the COVID-19 crisis from devastating homeownership and undermining racial equity in housing markets,” the NFHA and NCST’s report(link is external) reads.

To ensure racial homeownership gaps do not widen as a result of the pandemic, the National Association of Realtors® sponsored the research in focus on Wednesday, which was authored by Julia Gordon and David Sanchez from the NCST alongside the NFHA’s Lindsay Augustine, Diane Cipollone, Debby Goldberg and Lisa Rice.

“This report highlights the clear, disparate impacts on people and communities of color that the COVID-19 pandemic has had and continues to have,” Goldberg, the NFHA’s vice president of housing policy, said at Wednesday’s event. “It is apparent that without strategic, thoughtful interventions like those we recommend, communities of color will not bounce back from this crisis just as they did not bounce back from the Great Recession.”

Opening today’s event was a discussion between Jennifer Schwartz, the director of tax and housing advocacy at the National Council of State Housing Agencies, and Makada Henry-Nickie, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. Schwartz and Henry-Nickie praised federal intervention to protect housing in the midst of the pandemic, but each raised concern about the impending crisis facing millions of households should rental assistance programs not be fully and effectively utilized in the months ahead.

NAR was a national leader in the push to secure rental assistance funding—nearly $50 billion in of which was appropriated by Congress this winter—and has supported a legal fight to protect U.S. housing providers and tenants as these challenges persist.

Wednesday’s forum was hosted by NAR’s Regulatory Issues Forum Chair Iona Harrison and Vice Chair Judy Covington. Specific policies were evaluated for their ability to achieve the more broad, nationwide objectives identified by the report’s authors, including increasing access to prudent COVID-19 mortgage forbearance options, taking steps to ensure the Homeowner Assistance Fund meets its goals, eliminating forbearance penalties that decrease access to credit, and protecting borrowers’ access to new mortgages after forbearance and foreclosure.

“We’re excited to offer our recommendations on tools policymakers can use to protect homeowners and their communities from the impact of COVID-19,” Gordon, NCST’s president, told some 15,000 Realtors® registered for this week’s conference while reiterating the Great Recession’s impact on households and communities of color. “Let’s learn from the past so we can limit damage from the pandemic and see a robust and equitable economic recovery.”

Racial disparities in homeownership remain stark in the U.S., with rates for Black Americans still struggling to recover from drops that occurred as a result of the Great Recession.

“With the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color reminding us of the costs of the failure to address housing discrimination, NAR remains committed to advocating for policies that help secure equal housing opportunity for Americans of every background,” said NAR President Charlie Oppler. “We thank all of the authors for their work crafting this report, and we hope it will be utilized by both policymakers and Realtors® alike as we seek to address the multitude of economic and societal problems we’ll encounter in the wake of this pandemic.”

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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