Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sens.  Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and 13 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Kathleen Kraninger regarding the Bureau’s recent public enforcement actions against mortgage originators offering Veterans Administration (VA)-guaranteed loans. Between July 2020 and September 2020, the CFPB announced consent orders against eight different mortgage lenders for deceptive and misleading advertising of VA mortgages. In each case, the CFPB found that the originators’ advertisements contained false, misleading, or inaccurate statements that violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s prohibition against deceptive acts and practices, the Mortgage Acts and Practices Advertising Rule, and Regulation Z. The CFPB collected approximately $2.8 million in civil penalties from these eight violators, but did not require any of these companies to provide restitution to harmed consumers.

The lawmakers wrote, “We write to you regarding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau)’s recent public enforcement actions against mortgage originators offering Veterans Administration (VA)-guaranteed loans. We are deeply concerned by the Bureau’s failure to obtain restitution for consumers who were targeted by these companies’ deceptive marketing practices.”

“Unfortunately, because of extended travel and multiple relocations, often related to their service, servicemembers and veterans are particularly vulnerable to scams. The VA and the Bureau have long been aware of one such scam: direct-mail advertisements that contained inadequate disclosures or misleading and deceptive statements pertaining to VA home loans,” the lawmakers continued. “For instance, in 2016, the Bureau released a snapshot of servicemember complaints and highlighted that veterans had reported receiving misleading advertisements. And in November 2017, the VA and the Bureau issued a “Warning Order” alerting servicemembers and veterans to offers of mortgage refinancing that contained deceptive or false advertising.”

“As servicemembers, veterans, and their families make sacrifices for our country, they expose themselves to a number of financial risks and challenges; the Bureau must be clear that it is looking out for them in return. We are concerned that there has been no effort to ensure that thousands of servicemembers and veterans are made whole or at least compensated for damages caused by unscrupulous lenders seeking to profit by misleading homeowners,” wrote the lawmakers. 

The full text of the letter can be found here.

BACKGROUND:

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, complaints to the CFPB have increased 50 percent over the 2019 levels, including thousands of complaints about credit reporting, debt collection, credit cards and prepaid cards, and mortgages. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) requested an update from the Department of Defense (DoD) on the implementation of reforms to the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) – reforms the Senators were able to help secure in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in response to pervasive and appalling health, safety and environmental hazards in private military housing.

“From the inception of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative in 1996, the Department of Defense and frankly, Congress, placed far too much trust in the private companies implementing the program. The agreements made, including 50-year leases between these companies and the military services, stacked the deck against servicemembers and their families,” wrote the Senators. “The companies frequently failed to properly address hazards and to meet their fundamental obligations to servicemembers and their families to provide safe, healthy and high-quality housing. The Department of Defense also did not conduct sufficient oversight of the housing within their purview, and dismissed legitimate and pervasive concerns of servicemembers and their family members regarding their housing.”

They continued, “For this reason, we introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act (S.703) to begin reforming the privatized housing program, ensuring that our servicemembers have safe, healthy and high-quality housing. The FY20 NDAA included many provisions from this bill and put into place comprehensive reforms to right the program’s wrongs. Now the Department of Defense, with oversight by Congress, must see these reforms through.”

The Department of Defense released a Tenant Bill of Rights on February 25, 2020, as required by the NDAA FY20 and committed to making 15 of the 18 required rights available to military servicemembers and their families by May 1, 2020. According to DoD however, additional work remained in order to negotiate and implement the three remaining rights: a process for dispute resolution, a mechanism for the withholding of Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) payments when disputes arise between the companies and the tenants, and a means by which to make a housing unit’s maintenance history accessible to tenants.  

On June 1st – one month after its timeline – DoD indicated that only 14 of the 18 rights had been implemented. According to DoD, the three original unresolved rights remained outstanding, in addition to a fourth – the use of uniform forms and documents, including a standard lease across MHPI projects.

In their letter to Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, Sens. Warner, Kaine, and Feinstein specifically asked for an update on the four tenants’ rights that have yet to be implemented – the withholding of the BAH, a dispute resolution mechanism, work history records and a standard lease. They also requested information on the progress of other NDAA provisions intended to further reform the privatized military housing program. Particularly, they inquired about the status of the following NDAA requirements, pulled from the Senators’ Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act:

  • The establishment of a standard for minimum credentials for health and environmental inspectors of privatized military housing;
  • The approval of mold mitigation and pest control plans by installation commanders;
  • The withholding of incentives fees if landlords have not met established guidelines and procedures, and whether this authority has been invoked since the FY20 NDAA’s passage;
  • Landlords payments for reasonable relocation costs in the event of health, safety or environmental hazards; and
  • The prohibition on landlords imposing supplemental payments, in addition to rent, on tenants.

 

Noting the Pentagon’s lack of expertise in matters of housing, the Senators also urged DoD to consider convening a temporary housing advisory group of independent experts to offer sound counsel. They suggested that this expertise could help supplement the Councils on Privatized Military Housing that were required in NDAA to ensure adequate tenant protections. 

In May 2019, the Senators introduced legislation to make much-needed reforms to privatized military housing, following reports of health hazards in military homes across the country. They successfully secured large portions of this legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed in December 2019. Since then, Sen. Warner has kept up the fight to get these reforms implemented quickly. He introduced an amendment to the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act, which was included in the Senate approved bill. Sen. Warner’s provision in the defense bill requires that the military services review the indicators underlying the privatized housing project performance metrics to ensure they adequately measure the condition and quality of the home. Additionally, the provision requires the Secretary of Defense to publish in DoD’s Military Housing Privatization Initiative Performance Evaluation Report underlying performance metrics for each project, in order for Congress to provide effective oversight.

Earlier this year, Sen. Warner issued a statement once again calling for the implementation of his military housing reforms, following a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that found deficiencies in the DoD’s oversight of privatized military housing. That study issued a series of recommendations, including ones suggesting that DoD take steps to better track maintenance data and to improve communication with servicemembers and their families – measures that the Senators successfully worked to pass into law.  

Letter text is available here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Esper:

We are writing to request an update on the implementation of reforms for the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI), as included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, signed into law on December 20, 2019. These reforms addressed appalling conditions in privatized military housing, including health, safety and environmental hazards by increasing accountability and oversight of the private companies operating the MHPI program.

We strongly believe that Congress and the Department of Defense must exercise strong oversight over the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, the companies entrusted with housing, and the status of ongoing reforms required by Congress. Absent implementation of new oversight and accountability requirements, as outlined in the FY20 NDAA, and continued pressure, we worry that the tenuous progress achieved in improving privatized military housing could stagnate or even be reversed over time.

From the inception of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative in 1996, the Department of Defense and frankly, Congress, placed far too much trust in the private companies implementing the program. The agreements made, including 50-year leases between these companies and the military services, stacked the deck against servicemembers and their families. The companies frequently failed to properly address hazards and to meet their fundamental obligations to servicemembers and their families to provide safe, healthy and high-quality housing. The Department of Defense also did not conduct sufficient oversight of the housing within their purview, and dismissed legitimate and pervasive concerns of servicemembers and their family members regarding their housing.

For this reason, we introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act (S.703) to begin reforming the privatized housing program, ensuring that our servicemembers have safe, healthy and high-quality housing. The FY20 NDAA included many provisions from this bill and put into place comprehensive reforms to right the program’s wrongs. Now the Department of Defense, with oversight by Congress, must see these reforms through. 

On February 25, 2020, the Department of Defense released a Tenant Bill of Rights, as required by the FY20 NDAA, and committed to making 15 of the 18 rights required by the NDAA available to military servicemembers and their families by May 1, 2020 . However, DoD noted that additional work was needed to negotiate with the MHPI companies to implement the three remaining rights. These included: a process for dispute resolution, a mechanism for the withholding of Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) payments when disputes arise between the companies and the tenants, and a means by which to make a housing unit’s maintenance history accessible to tenants.

On June 1, 2020, the Department of Defense’s Chief Housing Officer, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, W. Jordan Gillis, stated that only 14 of the rights had largely been implemented, and that work still remained on implementing the 15th right – the use of uniform forms and documents, including a standard lease across MHPI projects . Negotiations with the MHPI companies related to the withholding of BAH, dispute resolution and work history records were still ongoing. 

We write to request an update on the status of the four rights that have not been implemented: the withholding of the BAH, a dispute resolution mechanism, work history records and a standard lease. We also are seeking information on the progress of other provisions in the FY20 NDAA that were intended to further reform the privatized military housing program. In particular, we are interested in the status of the following requirements that were pulled from our legislation, the Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act (S.703), and were subsequently included in the FY20 NDAA: 

  • the establishment of a standard for minimum credentials for health and environmental inspectors of privatized military housing;
  • the approval of mold mitigation and pest control plans by installation commanders;
  • the withholding of incentives fees if landlords have not met established guidelines and procedures, and whether this authority has been invoked since the FY20 NDAA’s passage;
  • whether landlords are now paying reasonable relocation costs in the event of health, safety or environmental hazards; and
  • the prohibition on landlords imposing supplemental payments, in addition to rent, on tenants.

Finally, as negotiations continue with the private companies over the implementation of these remaining rights, we urge you to consider convening a temporary housing advisory group of independent experts to offer you sound counsel. Expertise from both within and outside of the DoD could supplement the Councils on Privatized Military Housing that were required by the FY20 NDAA, to ensure adequate protections for tenants. Multiple perspectives and deep expertise in housing, state and local housing regulations, and environmental hazards are necessary to make stronger agreements. Clearly, these areas are not the core expertise of Pentagon leadership, nor are they part of a military leader’s career trajectory. The Department of Defense has a long history of using advisory groups to provide independent and informed advice, such as the Defense Innovation Board, Defense Science Board, Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, and the Military Family Readiness Council.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. We look forward to a response, either in writing or through a brief.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $35,719,247 in federal funding to support access to safe and affordable housing throughout Virginia, particularly in communities whose households face a higher rate of eviction. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The funding is part of the $5 billion in supplemental CDBG funding authorized by the CARES Act in March.

 “Too many Virginians are in danger of losing their homes due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus,” said the Senators. “We’re pleased to see significant funding go directly towards supporting affordable housing, and we will continue fighting to ensure people across the Commonwealth get the federal assistance they need.”

 The CDBG program offers annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.

 The following localities will receive funding through the CDBG program:

 

Recipient                      Amount

Alexandria

$943,356

Blacksburg

$210,594

Bristol

$116,003

Charlottesville

$335,024

Chesapeake

$876,358

Christiansburg

$111,118

Colonial Heights

$104,710

Danville

$228,845

Fredericksburg

$205,866

Hampton

$688,562

Harrisonburg

$326,630

Hopewell

$125,506

Lynchburg

$389,143

Newport News

$971,659

Norfolk

$1,250,901

Petersburg

$189,765

Portsmouth

$426,191

Radford

$74,893

City of Richmond

$1,362,346

Roanoke

$546,786

Staunton

$125,136

Suffolk

$323,149

Virginia Beach

$2,069,846

Waynesboro City

$117,476

Winchester

$182,191

Arlington County

$1,348,826

Chesterfield County

$1,216,799

Fairfax County

$4,850,209

Henrico County

$1,417,098

Loudoun County

$1,448,141

Prince William County

$2,145,011

Virginia Nonentitlement

$10,991,109

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement today before voting against moving forward on Senator McConnell’s latest attempt to pass a “skinny” COVID-19 relief bill:

“We’re not going to vote for a half-baked relief bill, pat ourselves on the back, and call it a day while families are left out in the lurch. The two of us are ready to vote for meaningful relief for small businesses and struggling families but not for something that deprives Americans of much-needed relief while nullifying Virginia protections to keep workers safe from COVID-19. It’s time for the Senate to take up a bill that offers what this one does not: paid sick leave, emergency rental assistance, adequate public school and child care support, funding for states and localities to continue critical services while so many are out of work, and other measures to help our troubled nation.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $8,978,420 in federal funding to help Virginians access affordable housing across the Commonwealth. The funding was awarded through the Housing Choice Voucher Program and authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Warner and Kaine.

“As housing insecurity continues to rise for many Virginians, now more than ever, Congress needs to offer critical assistance to those in need,” the Senators said. “We’re pleased to announce these federal funds that will go directly towards supporting some of the most vulnerable communities right now.”  

Through the CARES Act, Congress provided $1.25 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, which funds the Housing Choice Voucher program that helps lower-income families, the elderly, and disabled individuals afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. This funding includes $400 million for increased subsidy costs and $850 million for administrative and other expenses incurred by public housing authorities (PHAs), including activities to support or maintain the health and safety of assisted individuals and families, and costs related to retention and support of participating owners.

The funding will be awarded as below:

Recipient                                                                                          City                            Amount

Abingdon Redevelopment and Housing Authority                                 Abingdon                  14,067

Accomack-Northampton Regional Housing Authority                            Accomack                  70,053

Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                  Alexandria                384,750

Arlington County Dept. of Human Services                                         Arlington                   382,489

Big Stone Gap Redevelopment and Housing Auth.                               Big Stone Gap           14,895

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                        Bristol                       44,015

Buckingham Housing Development Corp. Inc.                                     New Canton              12,112

Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                             Charlottesville           60,969

Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                Chesapeake              273,293

County of Albemarle/Office of Housing                                               Charlottesville           68,308

Covington Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                   Covington                 6,188

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                      Danville                    202,837

Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                             Fairfax                      1,343,712

Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority                                   Franklin                     39,053

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                    Hampton                   546,358

Harrisonburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                              Harrisonburg              118,122

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                   Hopewell                    83,304

James City County Office of Housing                                                 Williamsburg               26,718

Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                 Jonesville                   60,122

Loudoun County Department of Family Services                                Leesburg                   141,428

Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                 Lynchburg                102,166

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                     Marion                       32,611

Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority                          Newport News           457,534

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                    Norfolk                      670,205

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                    Norton                       13,554

People Inc. of Southwest Virginia                                                   Abingdon                  18,907

Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                              Petersburg                120,138

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority                             Portsmouth               332,279

Prince William County Office of HCD                                              Woodbridge               467,993

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority                               Richmond                  506,406

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                 Roanoke                    250,704

Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                           Duffield                     28,438

Staunton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                Staunton                   26,821

Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority                                Suffolk                      158,077

Virginia Beach Dept. of Housing & Neighborhood Pres.                     Virginia Beach          363,274

Virginia Housing Development Authority                                         Richmond                 1,381,408

Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority                           Waynesboro              46,973

Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                            Coeburn                    90,291

Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                               Wytheville                17,848

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sens. Bob Menendez and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in introduced the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act to expand access to critical information, assistance programs and services for millions of families struggling to remain in their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout. The bill is also co-sponsored by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.),Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.),  Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

“Millions of families across our country – already suffering through job and income loss -- are now living in fear that in a matter of weeks or months, they will be facing down foreclosure, eviction and even homelessness,” said Sen. Menendez. “Knowledge is power. Along with fighting for more federal assistance and protections – we’ve got to expand access to housing counseling so that these individuals and families can get help in finding affordable ways to stay in their homes.”

“Losing a home to foreclosure or eviction turns a family’s life upside down,” said Sen. Brown. “During a pandemic, it also puts their health at risk. Providing vital funding to housing counselors will ensure that homeowners and renters – especially Black and brown homeowners and renters who have been hardest hit by this pandemic – have the tools and support they need to navigate our nation’s complex housing system.”

“Millions of Americans continue to face financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “The Congress must do everything in its power to not only extend financial relief, but also to give families the information they need to access these relief options and keep a roof over their head. This legislation provides Americans with crucial resources to stay in their homes – especially those in communities of color who have been hit hardest – so that they can weather the COVID-19 storm.”

“Arizona families are facing tough times through no fault of their own. Increasing access to housing counseling resources helps ensure Arizona families can stay in their homes during this economic and public health crisis,” said Sen. Sinema

“COVID-19 has exacerbated our national housing crisis, putting thousands of families at risk of losing their home,” said Sen. Blumenthal.  “Foreclosure, eviction, and homelessness are traumatic experiences without the added risks associated with a contagious pandemic. Better access to housing counseling means that families facing foreclosure and eviction will know their rights and how to access resources.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the barriers to accessing affordable housing in Nevada,” said Senator Rosen. “Nevada families now face an even greater challenge as they work to keep their homes during this public health crisis. Our legislation would help NeighborWorks America in supporting housing counseling services across the country so Nevada families have resources to help them navigate their housing options during the pandemic and afterwards. I will continue fighting in Congress to ensure that Nevadans, and all Americans have the resources they need in these challenging times.” 

“We must do everything that we can to support homeowners and renters during this worldwide health crisis – and housing counseling is a critical tool for people to access and maintain stable, healthy, and affordable housing. I’m glad to join Senator Menendez and Senator Brown on a bill to increase access to housing counseling services during this crisis," said Senator Warren. 

“COVID-19 is forcing families in Oregon and across the country to make tough decisions – balancing how to get food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, all while protecting themselves against a global pandemic,” said Sen. Wyden. “Congress must step up to the plate in order to give homeowners and renters the resources they desperately need to stay in their homes.”  

“Expanding housing counseling and support services will keep more Delawareans in their homes, period,” said Sen. Coons. “Amid the economic struggles many families are facing due to COVID-19, Congress needs to lay the groundwork to prevent foreclosures, evictions, or other disruptive housing events. Our bill – in tandem with the housing relief provided by the CARES Act in March – will help Delawareans learn about the housing protections and resources available to them as we weather this crisis. I will work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure this information is broadly accessible in our communities.”

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, more than 4.2 million homeowners have entered foreclosure prevention plans since the end of March.

Low-income and minority households have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and economic fallout. According to a Census Household Survey taken between June 4 June 9, 12.43% of Hispanic households and 12.74% of Black households were not able to pay their mortgage, compared to 5.71% of white households. Additionally, 23.27% of Hispanic households and 25.77% of Black households were unable to pay their rent, compared to 11.78% of white households.

HUD-approved housing counseling agencies provide individual counseling and education services to help consumers avoid foreclosure, avoid eviction, purchase homes, secure affordable rental housing, and develop sustainable budgets. They can be especially important during an economic crisis.  According to a 2018 report from NeighborWorks America, households that utilized the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program through a housing counseling agency during the Great Recession were three times more likely to receive loan modifications and less likely to go into foreclosure or re-default on their home loans compared to those who did not.

“We applaud U.S. Senator Bob Menendez for advancing this critical legislation that will help millions of families to keep a roof over their heads during these uncertain times,”said Melissa Stegman, Senior Policy Counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. “Robust funding for housing counseling is crucial during a time that so many are suffering economic pain as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly families of color, low-income homeowners, renters, and people at risk of homelessness. The funding will ensure that economically vulnerable families receive access to quality housing counseling that they so urgently need. Therefore, helping them to significantly prevent delinquencies, foreclosures, and financial devastation.”  

“We are surging into homeowner and renter crises with record unemployment and unpredictable COVID-19 infection rates,” said Bruce Dorpalen, Executive Director for the National Housing Resource Center.  “As we saw in the foreclosure crisis, working with a housing counselor can make the difference on who can stay in their home.  This bill provides the funding and support to double the capacity of housing counseling agencies to work with housing consumers and find the most sustainable solutions for America's stressed households.”

“Having a safe, affordable place to call home is an essential pillar of the National Urban League’s mission,” said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, too many of our minority communities and families of color are facing an unprecedented eviction and foreclosure crisis that we must address. We are so thankful that Senator Menendez has introduced this legislation to expand access to professional housing counseling and keep these families in their homes.”

“HUD certified housing counselors are bracing for a tidal wave of homeowners and renters in need of assistance when moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures expire,” said Staci Berger, President and CEO, Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. “Housing counseling should be a key component of pandemic relief efforts and we applaud Senator Menendez for introducing a bill that invests in this valuable resource.”

The legislation is also endorsed by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act would:

  • Provide $700 million for NeighborWorks to support housing counseling services to help homeowners, renters, people experiencing homelessness, and people at risk of homelessness navigate their housing options and rights during the COVID-19 crisis, including protections and resources provided through COVID-19 relief legislation.
  • Requires that no less than 40 percent of the $700 million fund is targeted to counseling organizations that serve minority and low-income homeowners and renters. 

The CARES Act included housing provisions to help homeowners and renters financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Homeowners with Federal Housing Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture or Veterans Affairs mortgages and those with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac can request forbearance on their payments for up to 6 months, with a possible extension for another 6 months without fees, penalties, or extra interest.  While it also included a temporary moratorium on eviction filings for tenants in properties with federal assistance or federally related financing, Senator Menendez is fighting to ensure the next federal stimulus package includes an extension of this vital protection. 

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WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and 6 of their Senate colleagues in a letter requesting additional information on the Borrower Protection Program that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced in April. The agencies’ announcement stated that the CFPB and FHFA would share data under the program but did not say how that data would be used to protect borrowers. The Senators asked the agencies what information they would share and how each agency would use this new program to avoid unnecessary borrower defaults and foreclosures, as well as misinformation, unequal treatment of borrowers, or otherwise address servicers not complying with the law.   

“It is critical that the CFPB and FHFA act quickly to ensure homeowners across the country can access the relief they need during this national emergency. Any delay could result in unnecessary delinquencies and foreclosures that will set consumers back, rather than helping them recover,” wrote the lawmakers.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Brown, the letter was signed by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D- NV), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

A copy of the letter appears here and below:

 

We are writing regarding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) joint announcement of the Borrower Protection Program. The announcement states that the CFPB will share consumer complaint data and analytics with FHFA, and FHFA will provide the CFPB with its internal data on mortgage forbearances, modifications, and other loss mitigation.

Sharing information between your agencies is an important first step to ensure that homeowners are getting the help they need. The CFPB’s supervisory, research, and market monitoring tools and consumer-oriented perspective coupled with FHFA’s loan-level data could provide unique insights into borrowers’ experiences.

But information sharing alone will not protect borrowers. Once information is shared, the CFPB and FHFA must also have plans to use their respective tools and authorities to immediately address trends that indicate borrowers are receiving inaccurate information or unequal treatment, or that servicers are not complying with the law. Timeliness of the CFPB and FHFA’s oversight is critical to avoid unnecessary borrower defaults and foreclosures. Just a few weeks of delay could have disastrous outcomes for consumers who may lose the ability to access an affordable modification after just two months or face foreclosure after four months.

To help us better understand what steps your agencies will take to protect homeowners through the Borrower Protection Program, please respond to the following questions:

1.      It has been more than nine weeks since the COVID-19 national emergency declaration, and borrowers may already have experienced weeks of financial hardship.

a.      When will the CFPB and FHFA first share data under the Borrower Protection Program?  

b.      What specific actions will the CFPB and FHFA take, respectively, if either agency identifies noncompliance or consumer harm both to get consumers accurate information and to address noncompliance? Please list all tools that could be used by each agency.  

2.      Consumer complaint data is an important source of information, but it is not the CFPB’s only tool to monitor consumer harm. In addition to consumer complaint data, what other information will the FHFA receive from the CFPB?

3.      The CFPB has regulatory and supervisory authority over many of the largest mortgage servicers, including depositories with more than $10 billion in assets and nonbank mortgage servicers.

a.      Will the information examined under the Borrower Protection Program show data by loan servicer? If so, how will the CFPB use any servicer-specific data to inform its supervisory activities?

b.      Will any servicer-specific data distinguish between loans in forbearance and delinquent loans? If so, how will the CFPB or FHFA monitor and address disparities in delinquency rates amongst servicers to ensure that those borrowers who are facing a financial hardship and eligible for forbearance can receive it?

c.      To the extent that the CFPB or FHFA receives information or identifies trends among mortgage servicers that do not fall within the CFPB’s supervisory authority, will the CFPB or FHFA communicate those findings to the appropriate regulator to ensure compliance with servicing laws and policies? If not, why not?

4.      Will information provided to the CFPB include borrower demographic information when available, including race, ethnicity, English proficiency, age, or other protected classes under the Fair Housing Act to facilitate fair lending oversight?   

a.      How will the CFPB use any available information to ensure that mortgage servicing policies and practices result in equal treatment for all borrowers? Will the CFPB monitor forbearance rates, delinquency rates, loan modifications, non-retention loss mitigation options, and foreclosures by protected class? 

b.      What tools will the CFPB and FHFA use to address any disparate outcomes?

5.      Will any information provided to either agency include a borrower’s servicemember status, when available, to monitor compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)? If possible violations of the SCRA are identified, which agency will address those violations? 

6.      Many mortgage servicers service not just Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, but also FHA, VA, USDA, and HUD Section 184 loans, as well as loans in private-label securities. 

a.      Will the CFPB enter into agreements with the other federal agencies, which collectively insure or guarantee more than 25 percent of loans, to share data and inform those agencies’ supervision of their servicers? If not, why not?

b.      Borrowers whose loans are not guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or insured or guaranteed through a federal program are not assured to receive forbearance or other relief if they face a hardship, and information about outcomes for these borrowers will be limited. How will the Borrower Protection Program protect borrowers whose loans are not guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or insured or guaranteed through a federal program? 

7.      Will the CFPB and FHFA publish regular, public updates on the Borrower Protection Program to share findings and actions? If not, why not?

It is critical that the CFPB and FHFA act quickly to ensure homeowners across the country can access the relief they need during this national emergency. Any delay could result in unnecessary delinquencies and foreclosures that will set consumers back, rather than helping them recover. Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. 

Sincerely,  

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WASHINGTON, DC Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Reed to introduce legislation to create a $75 billion Housing Assistance Fund to help protect renters, homeowners, and communities by preventing avoidable foreclosures, evictions, and utility shut offs. With the potential for a massive wave of evictions and foreclosures due to COVID-19, along with a possible second wave of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Senators are calling on Congress to act now and give Americans a lifeline to keep families in their homes, stabilize communities, and prevent multiple crises from intersecting and overwhelming the U.S. economy. The legislation would provide assistance to communities nationwide and includes a small state minimum, ensuring each state would receive no less than $250 million.

 “Too many families in Virginia risk being evicted or having their homes foreclosed on – a threat that could make it all the more difficult to recover financially, even once this pandemic is over,” said Warner. “That’s why we must make it a priority to ensure that Virginia’s renters and homeowners have continued access to safe housing during the biggest economic crisis in a century.”

“Many Americans are in danger of losing their homes due to the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” Kaine said. “Congress has to step up and prevent that from happening. I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this legislation to provide federal aid to help hardworking Americans during this time of crisis.”

The Housing Assistance Fund would build off of the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF), which provided funds to state housing finance agencies to direct targeted foreclosure prevention assistance to households and neighborhoods in states hit hard by the economic and housing market downturn. The Housing Assistance Fund expands this model to provide a flexible source of federal aid to all state-level Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs) to help people keep up with housing payments and help keep them in their homes. 

Through channels developed for HHF, HFAs could quickly and effectively use federal funding to help struggling households remain in their homes while they search for new employment or wait to get back to work.  Financial assistance could go toward mortgage payment and rental assistance; utility and internet payments; and other support to prevent eviction, mortgage delinquency, default, or foreclosure, or loss of utility services.

 Along with Warner, Kaine, and Reed, the bill is cosponsored by every Democratic member of the Senate Banking Committee, including Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), as well as Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

The bill is supported by a diverse coalition of housing advocates, including: National Council of State Housing Agencies; Habitat for Humanity; National Housing Conference; National Community Reinvestment Coalition; National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders; National Leased Housing Association; Americans for Financial Reform; National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients; Center for Responsible Lending; Rhode Island Housing; and the Rhode Island Association of Realtors.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Tim Scott (R-SC) in calling for Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to take urgent and immediate action to avoid an impending crisis in the housing finance system due to the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In a letter to Sec. Steven T. Mnuchin, the Senators asked the FSOC to help avert instability in the broader mortgage market by providing temporary liquidity to mortgage servicers. Many servicers face an impending cash crunch as more Americans affected by the COVID-19 crisis are forced to seek economic assistance on their mortgages due to economic damage and job loss caused by the health crisis.  

“Given the magnitude of the economic stress that many Americans will face as a result of the virus, and the early numbers we are seeing from lenders across the country, it is likely that many families will be unable to make their payments as scheduled, triggering widespread participation in the program, with potentially up to 25% of borrowers seeking assistance. While this is a reminder of the program’s importance, it also presents a challenge,” wrote the lawmakers, who also pointed out that servicers could see as much as $100 billion in mortgage payments forborne. “To put this in perspective, according to Moody’s Analytics, last year servicers had total net profits of less than $10 billion.  The institutions that normally provide servicers with their liquidity will be unwilling to provide this unprecedented level of support, at least at a rate that many servicers could possibly afford.  This will leave many servicers with no way to cover the growing obligations.  Since this liquidity need was created by the CARES Act’s entirely appropriate, but extraordinary, requirement to provide widespread forbearance, measures should be taken to ensure that the businesses required to execute on that commitment can survive to see it through.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides much-needed protections for homeowners, allowing any homeowner experiencing financial hardship to receive up to 6 months’ forbearance on their mortgage payments, as long as their mortgage is insured or guaranteed by the federal government. Up to 25 percent of borrowers are expected to rely on this program, leaving mortgage servicers with the responsibility of paying investors on behalf of borrowers. 

In their letter, the Senators emphasized that non-bank mortgage servicers – which currently account for half of the $7 trillion market for agency mortgages – will likely be unable to remain solvent in the near future due to limited liquidity, and the repercussions of their collapse will severely affect homeowners and the broader mortgage market.   

“While we understand that some nonbank lenders may have adopted practices that made them particularly susceptible to constraints on their liquidity during a severe downturn, imposing a broad liquidity shock to the entire servicing sector is not the way to go about reform,” they continued.  

Noting the systemic consequences of allowing mortgage servicers to fail – which include the devaluation of mortgage servicing rights (MSRs), the subsequent financial deterioration of healthy nonbank lenders and the skyrocketing costs and risks associated with providing mortgages in the future – the Senators urged the Sec. Mnuchin, the FHFA and the GSES to work through FSOC to take action in order to ensure that the unfolding crisis does as little damage to the economy as possible.

A copy of the letter is available here below. A list of Sen. Warner’s work to protect Americans amid the COVID-19 outbreak is available here.

 

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin

Chair

Financial Stability Oversight Council

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20220 

Dear Chair Mnuchin: 

Thank you for your ongoing work to help stabilize the U.S. economy and provide assistance to businesses and workers during the unprecedented health emergency caused by the onset of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  We applaud recent efforts by regulators to consider and address liquidity constraints in the U.S. housing market, including the formation of a taskforce within the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) that is appropriately focused on these matters.  We believe urgent action is required to avoid a critical strain on liquidity for certain home mortgage servicers.  Failure to quickly address the liquidity challenges facing servicers could have much broader, systemic implications for our economy.  

As you know, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides much-needed protections for most homeowners.  Any homeowner with a mortgage that is insured or guaranteed by the federal government who is experiencing financial hardship is eligible for up to 6 months’ forbearance on their mortgage payments, with a possible extension for another 6 months.  These provisions will provide substantial relief to homeowners and will reduce the risk that reductions in homeowners’ income caused by this public health crisis will trigger a housing crisis in the months ahead.  

Given the magnitude of the economic stress that many Americans will face as a result of the virus, and the early numbers we are seeing from lenders across the country, it is likely that many families will be unable to make their payments as scheduled, triggering widespread participation in the program, with potentially up to 25% of borrowers seeking assistance.  While this is a reminder of the program’s importance, it also presents a challenge.  As you know, the companies to which borrowers would normally make these payments, mortgage servicers, are obligated to pass those amounts on to investors, whether borrowers make them or not.  Thus, as borrowers participating in this program don’t send in their payments, the mortgage servicers will have to step in to pay investors on their behalf.  

Given that we could see as much as $100 billion in mortgage payments forborne through this program, it presents an existential threat to these companies, and thus to the broader mortgage market.  To put this in perspective, according to Moody’s Analytics, last year servicers had total net profits of less than $10 billion.  The institutions that normally provide servicers with their liquidity will be unwilling to provide this unprecedented level of support, at least at a rate that many servicers could possibly afford.  This will leave many servicers with no way to cover the growing obligations.  Since this liquidity need was created by the CARES Act’s entirely appropriate, but extraordinary, requirement to provide widespread forbearance, measures should be taken to ensure that the businesses required to execute on that commitment can survive to see it through.

While it may be sustainable, if not difficult, for servicers that are part of banks, which have other business lines and also access to bank-centric sources of liquidity to remain solvent, it is likely especially unsustainable for non-bank mortgage servicers, which are typically monolines and currently account for fully half the $7 trillion market for agency mortgages.  At some point in the not-too-distant-future, the strain on these nonbank mortgage servicers will become too much for many institutions to bear, and we fear that the repercussions of their failure to homeowners and the market will be severe. 

While we understand that some nonbank lenders may have adopted practices that made them particularly susceptible to constraints on their liquidity during a severe downturn, imposing a broad liquidity shock to the entire servicing sector is not the way to go about reform.  Stated differently, even if there are servicers whose thin capital and poor risk management structure make them inappropriate for assistance, ignoring the broader liquidity strain on the market right now would risk stress well beyond these companies. 

The reasons for acting are systemic.  First, as weaker nonbank mortgage servicers begin to struggle they may be forced to unload their mortgage servicing rights (MSRs) to stay afloat.  This will drive down the value of MSRs generally, reducing the value of the assets of all other nonbank lenders.  This will deteriorate the financial position of healthier nonbank lenders so that they face some of the same risks that forced the less healthy nonbank lenders into a sell-off.  At best, we are disabling a large swath of previously healthy lenders at the worst possible time.  At worst, we may be risking a downward spiral. 

Moreover, when these nonbank lenders fail, regulators will be forced to find a home for their servicing at a time when there will be very few parties interested in absorbing these obligations.  MSR values will be declining, the costs and risks of servicing will be skyrocketing, nonbank lenders will be weakened, and we fear that banks will still be reticent to get into servicing for many of the same reasons they have stayed away in recent years. 

As we are learning again in this crisis, it takes time for programs to be established and for the assistance to reach the necessary parties.  Therefore, we are calling for immediate action to avoid an impending crisis in the mortgage servicing sector, that could further threaten the mortgage market.

The CARES Act includes an appropriation of $455 billion for purposes of economic stabilization activities under Section 4003.  Congress made these resources available to the Federal Reserve in order to address the types of liquidity challenges we expect mortgage servicers to encounter in the coming days and weeks.  Thus, action in accordance with this Section would be entirely appropriate under the circumstances.  Moreover, we also believe that the FHFA and the GSEs should ensure their policies mitigate, not increase, the liquidity demands facing servicers, consistent with the GSE’s mandate to serve all markets at all times. 

When workers are able to return to their jobs and millions of households can resume making the payments they intended to make, we must all take the opportunity to examine the many challenges, successes and failures of our current regulatory regime, including whatever steps are needed to strengthen the servicing sector going forward.  While some servicers entered this crisis with too much exposure to liquidity constraints, the focus now should not be on longer-term reform, but on ensuring that the crisis now unfolding does as little damage to the economy as possible. 

We appreciate your continued efforts to help sustain the American economy and our housing finance system during these challenging times and look forward to working together to protect homeowners during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Thank you for your consideration.   

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $52,292,406 in federal funding to support access to safe and affordable housing throughout Virginia. The funding is part of the first allocation of grants from the coronavirus relief package signed into law last week.

“We’re pleased to see significant funding go directly towards supporting Virginians with affordable housing during this pandemic,” said the Senators. “We will continue fighting to ensure people across the Commonwealth get the federal assistance they need.”

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the funding through three grant programs – the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program.

The funding will be awarded as shown below.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons. The following localities will receive funding through the CDBG program:

Recipient

Amount

Alexandria

$671,570.00

Blacksburg

$314,277.00

Bristol

$159,013.00

Charlottesville

$246,699.00

Chesapeake

$690,158.00

Christiansburg

$62,234.00

Colonial Heights

$62,237.00

Danville

$517,740.00

Fredericksburg

$115,302.00

Hampton

$587,909.00

Harrisonburg

$314,293.00

Hopewell

$123,919.00

Lynchburg

$420,487.00

Newport News

$769,836.00

Norfolk

$2,653,164.00

Petersburg

$371,969.00

Portsmouth

$949,655.00

Radford

$105,448.00

Richmond

$2,683,549.00

Roanoke

$1,056,225.00

Staunton

$207,590.00

Suffolk

$282,715.00

Virginia Beach

$1,209,508.00

Waynesboro city

$114,079.00

Winchester

$133,624.00

Arlington County

$830,027.00

Chesterfield County

$861,295.00

Fairfax County

$3,506,542.00

Henrico County

$1,017,678.00

Loudoun County

$831,931.00

Prince William County

$1,585,562.00

Virginia Nonentitlement

$10,993,780.00

The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides annual grants to state, local, and private entities to assist people in quickly regaining stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness. In addition to rapid re-housing and homelessness prevention, the ESG program also provides limited funding for street outreach as well as for improving the quality and number of emergency homeless shelters. The following localities will receive funding through the ESG program: 

Recipient

Amount

Norfolk

$1,328,583.00

Richmond

$1,351,959.00

Roanoke

$525,434.00

Virginia Beach

$606,131.00

Fairfax County

$1,699,586.00

Henrico County

$508,566.00

Prince William County

$791,662.00

Virginia Nonentitlement

$10,375,562.00

The Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program provides housing assistance and related supportive services to local units of government, states, and non-profit organizations for projects that benefit low-income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The following localities will receive funding through the HOPWA program:

Recipient

Amount

Richmond

$194,445.00

Virginia Beach

$282,244.00

Virginia Nonentitlement

$178,219.00

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,844,898 in federal funding to support residents of public housing in five cities across Virginia. The funding, awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Resident Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) program, helps individuals and families work towards economic independence and housing self-sufficiency. The program aims to help residents increase earned income and enhance their quality of life.

“This federal funding is important to help Virginians build self-sufficiency and make economic progress,” the Senators said. “We’re pleased to see this investment go towards making sure more people across the Commonwealth have access to these supportive services.”

The Virginia housing authorities that will receive funding are listed below:

City                            Virginia Housing Authority Recipient                                      Amount

Hopewell                  Hopewell Redevelopment and Housing Authority                   $230,916.00

Norfolk                      Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority                       $478,500.00

Portsmouth               Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority                $239,250.00

Bristol                         Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority                         $178,482.00

Richmond                  Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority                  $717,750.00

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $47,220,892 in federal funding to support public housing and workforce development programs in 26 localities across Virginia. The funding was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Job Plus Initiative and Public Housing Capital Fund programs.

“It’s important for every Virginian to have the opportunity to secure stable housing and employment,” the Senators said. “We’re pleased that these federal funds will help ensure more Virginians have access to affordable homes and upward mobility.”

The Jobs Plus Initiative program develops locally-based, job-driven approaches to advance employment outcomes and increase earnings for residents of public housing.

The Capital Fund provides federal funding for the development, financing, and modernization of public housing developments.

The Virginia housing authorities that received funding from the Jobs Plus Program are listed here: 

City                                                          Virginia Housing Authority Recipient                                Amount

PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority

$2,300,000

 

The Virginia housing authorities that received funding from the Capital Fund are listed here:

 

City                                                          Virginia Housing Authority Recipient                                Amount

ABINGDON

ALEXANDRIA

Abingdon Redevelopment & Housing Authority

Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$70,754

$1,907,939

BRISTOL

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$930,998

CHARLOTTESVILLE

Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$960,618

CHESAPEAKE

Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,261,470

COEBURN

Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$459,136

DANVILLE

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,202,845

DUFFIELD

Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$219,382

FRANKLIN

Franklin Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$168,040

HAMPTON

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,583,634

HOPEWELL

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$888,611

JONESVILLE

Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$146,191

LEBANON

Cumberland Plateau Regional Housing Authority

$615,483

LYNCHBURG

Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$926,987

MARION

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$573,088

NEWPORT NEWS

Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$4,295,157

NORFOLK

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$7,978,621

NORTON

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$515,977

PETERSBURG

Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$930,090

PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,628,891

RICHMOND

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$11,547,123

ROANOKE

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$3,702,478

SUFFOLK

Suffolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,161,115

WAYNESBORO

Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$453,879

WILLIAMSBURG

Williamsburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$263,260

WYTHEVILLE

Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$529,125

 

 

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WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,191,750 in federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help seven Virginia tribes develop and manage affordable housing.

“We’re pleased to announce this funding to expand access to low-income housing for Virginia’s tribes,” the Senators said. “These grants will help ensure these communities have a safe and affordable place to live.”

The tribes that received funding are listed below:

 Location                                           Recipient                                                      Amount

Providence Forge                     Chickahominy Indian Tribe                                   $265,991

Providence Forge                     Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division           $74,594

Amherst                                 Monacan Indian Nation                                         $372,748

Suffolk                                   Nansemond Indian Tribe                                       $150,023

King William                           Pamunkey Indian Tribe                                          $74,594

Indian Neck                            Rappahannock Tribe, Inc.                                      $74,594

King William                           Upper Mattaponi Tribe                                           $179,206

 

The grant was awarded through HUD’s Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Program which provides grants, loan guarantees, and technical assistance to Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages for the development and operation of affordable housing.

In 2018, a bipartisan Warner and Kaine bill to grant federal recognition to six Virginia tribes was signed into law. The legislation granted these six Virginia tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government, allowing the tribes to compete for grants only open to federally recognized tribes.

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WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,056,299 in federal funding to support the development of 11 housing units in Frederick County to provide affordable housing to lower-income elderly households. The funding, available through the Section 202 program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will allow older adults to live independently while also receiving supportive services.

“We are pleased that these federal funds will provide support for affordable housing in Frederick County,” said the Senators. “These new housing units will help improve the quality of life for older adults in the community.”

The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program provides capital advances to finance the development of housing for low-income elderly residents. The program expands the supply of affordable housing with supportive services for the elderly such as cleaning, cooking, and transportation.

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WASHINGTON – Led by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), today Democrats on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee sent a letter to Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mark Calabria and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with a series of questions regarding the Trump Administration’s plans to return Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private ownership.  

“The GSEs play a critical role in the U.S. housing market, providing the necessary liquidity and stability that makes the U.S. mortgage market the most dependable market in the world. This year the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a number of hearings on our housing finance system. The message was clear – any reform must strengthen our housing finance system and provide the tools to address the nation’s affordable housing crisis,” wrote the Senators.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by Ranking Member Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (NJ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Said the Senators, “As members concerned with housing access and affordability, and the continued success of the secondary mortgage market, we request additional, detailed information regarding the Administration’s plans to reform these entities and the analysis that supports these plans. Without additional information, Congress will be unable to fulfill its proper oversight role, or otherwise design policies to protect critical access and affordability to homeownership and rental housing.”

The Senators requested responses to a variety of questions, including the Administration’s timeline for releasing the entities and how proposed changes could impact affordable homeownership:

  • Please explain, in detail, the timeline, or benchmarks, by which the Administration intends to adopt reforms and release the GSEs from conservatorship.  If multiple timelines are being considered, please provide all potential scenarios.
  • Please explain, in detail, any and all administrative reforms that you believe are necessary at the GSEs prior to their release from conservatorship, and how those reforms fulfill the GSEs’ charter obligations.
  • Would you consider releasing the GSEs prior to full implementation of the enumerated reforms?  If so, please provide your reasoning and under what circumstances you would considering doing so.  
  • Please explain, in detail, what reforms or policy changes may be adopted as part of an amendment to the Preferred Stock Purchase Agreement (PSPA).  What, if anything, prevents future modifications to these changes?
  • Do you intend to maintain a line of credit with the Treasury outside of conservatorship through the PSPAs?  Would you maintain the current dollar amount of the line of credit or adjust to some other amount?  What, if anything, prevents removing that line of credit in the future?
  • Please explain, in detail, the legal basis for using a consent agreement to accelerate the release of the GSEs from conservatorship.  Under what conditions does the Administration plan to use the consent agreement to further the release of the GSEs from conservatorship, and what reforms or restrictions would be considered under this agreement?
  • What, if anything, prevents a future modification to the consent agreement?
  • What capital levels do you believe would be necessary for purposes of releasing the GSEs from conservatorship?
  • Would you consider releasing the GSEs from conservatorship before they have built the level of capital you require of them as their regulator?   If so, please explain why you would release them prior to having met their regulatory capital requirements? 
  • How does the Administration plan to raise the level of capital that FHFA deems necessary and on what timeline?  Would the Administration consider releasing the GSEs from conservatorship prior to achieving a threshold capital level, and if so, what level would that be?
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac make valuable contributions to the housing market, in part due to investments made over the past decade. Would the Administration consider reducing the value that the GSEs provide to American taxpayers in order to expedite the release of the GSEs from conservatorship?
  • Would the Administration consider changing the repayment requirements of the existing PSPA? If so, how?
  • Does the Administration plan to reduce the GSEs’ footprint?  If so, what specific product lines and services would see an increase in price or be curtailed or eliminated at the GSEs?  What is the statutory authority for such a plan?  Please provide any models or assessment that FHFA has conducted to analyze the impact of these changes on prospective homeowners, existing homeowners, renters, and the cost and availability of credit across mortgage products. 
  • Do you believe that the GSEs will provide a smaller cross-subsidy in the mortgage market if their role is reduced, as you propose?  If not, how would they be able to provide the same level of cross-subsidy and nationwide access in both the single-family and multifamily markets in a reduced role?  If so, what do you propose to do administratively to ensure that they are still able to provide as much support for low- and moderate-income lending and access to credit among underserved communities?
  • Will the GSEs continue to contribute annually to the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund throughout any transition to your desired end state?  Under what circumstances would you potentially consider allocations to these trust funds as preventing the GSEs from completing a capital restoration plan?  Do you expect to deem either GSE as “undercapitalized”?
  • Does the Administration intend to undertake a new rulemaking for the Enterprise Housing Goals for mortgages purchased by the GSEs?  Will the scope of that rulemaking exceed the scope of the previous rulemaking, which recalibrated numerical purchase goals but did not alter the fundamental structure of the goals?
  • Will the Administration seek to amend the Duty to Serve rule, or otherwise amend the types of products and services the Enterprises may offer to meet their Duty to Serve requirements?
  • What analysis has the Administration undertaken to understand the impact of any reforms or changes in product offerings or pricing to the profitability of the GSEs?  What analysis has it performed to understand the impact of such changes on housing affordability, g-fees, or potential market disruptions across all segments of borrowers?  What analysis has it done on the impact of such changes on the production of multifamily properties?
  • What analysis has the Administration performed to model specific effects of any reforms or changes in product offerings or pricing on access to mortgage credit for low- and moderate-income homebuyers and renters; first time homebuyers; or borrowers of color? Please explain in detail any assumptions underlying your analysis.  If you have not conducted such an analysis, please explain how you could move forward on any of the proposed provisions without such calculation while also fulfilling the GSEs’ statutory mandates to “provide ongoing assistance to the secondary market for residential mortgages (including activities related to mortgages on housing for low- and moderate-income families involving a reasonable economic return that may be less than the return earned on other activities) by increasing the liquidity of mortgage investments and improving the distribution of investment capital available for residential mortgage financing” and “promote access to mortgage credit throughout the Nation (including central cities, rural areas, and underserved areas).” 
  • Please describe any concerns raised by investors with releasing the GSEs from conservatorship without an indefinite government backstop and any response you might have to those concerns. 
  • Please provide FHFA’s analysis of impacts on mortgage costs and the To-Be-Announced market from releasing the GSEs from conservatorship or any other changes to the GSEs’ current status without a line of credit or other catastrophic backstop.  
  • Will the Administration conduct a fair housing analysis of all proposed policy changes?  If not, why not? Has the Administration already conducted such an analysis of its proposed policy changes?

“As housing finance reform discussions continue we believe that it is critical to maintain a system that provides certainty for borrowers, renters, investors, and lenders; that can be sustained in all economic conditions; and that continues to support working families as they buy and rent homes and build wealth. Any contemplated reforms should be thoughtful and focused on maintaining access to credit for creditworthy home buyers and renters in every community,” noted the Senators.

A copy of the letter is available here.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded Congressional passage of the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). After the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 86-8, sending the legislation to the President’s desk for signature, Sen. Warner released the following statement:

“I’ve heard gut-wrenching stories from servicemembers and their families about being subjected to dangerous living conditions in privatized military housing. I’ve walked through these homes in communities across the Commonwealth and have seen firsthand mold and insect-infested conditions that no one should ever be exposed to. Military families shouldn’t have to worry that their homes might make their families sick, nor should they feel powerless when facing companies charged with providing high-quality housing. I’m proud to have secured large portions of my legislation within this bill to provide greater oversight over military housing and to live up to the promises we’ve made to our men and women in uniform.

“I’m also pleased that today’s bill provides a 3.1 percent pay raise for our military and repeals the unjust tax on more than 4,000 military widows in Virginia, which has prevented them from receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled. This bipartisan bill also guarantees 12 weeks of paid parental leave for Virginia’s 170,000 federal civilian employees, which will serve as an important recruitment and retention tool as more and more existing federal workers become eligible for retirement. Additionally, with the passage of today’s bill we are able to provide consistent funding to support our world-class shipbuilding fleet in Hampton Roads. This includes $11 billion for ship repair and the restoration of mid-life refueling for the USS Truman (CVN 75). It also provides funding to execute the Navy’s recently announced block buy of Virginia-class submarines, which will generate 25,000 jobs and save billions in taxpayer dollars. Collectively, these essential shipbuilding programs will support thousands of jobs in the region and help advance our nation’s security and military readiness.

“I also successfully pushed for the inclusion of the bipartisan Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) to provide our intelligence community with the resources they need to protect our country from emerging threats from countries such as China, Russia, and North Korea. The IAA also includes much-needed reforms to modernize our antiquated security clearance process to make sure we have the personnel we need to tackle emerging cyber and technology threats. While we’ve substantially reduced the background investigation backlog to under 300,000, down from 725,000, this bill includes many of my provisions to establish a vetting system that reflects today’s threats, supports our mobile workforce and capitalizes on modern technology.”

Following reports of health hazards in privatized military housing across the Commonwealth and the country, Sen. Warner has fought to improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families, introducing the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act to make much-needed reforms to privatized military housing. After pushing Congressional negotiators to protect these vital military housing provisions from the NDAA that passed earlier this year in the Senate, Sen. Warner successfully secured large portions of his legislation in this annual defense bill.

In March, Sen. Warner joined then-Secretary of the Army, now-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in visiting Fort Belvoir for a private tour and roundtable discussion to hear directly from military families about their experiences with military housing. Sen. Warner has also met with military families in Norfolk and at Fort Lee. To keep up the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the overall privatized housing program by reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.

As a strong advocate of Virginia’s defense and shipbuilding community, Sen. Warner has supported a block buy of aircraft carriers, saving billions in taxpayer dollars, and pushed for robust funding for shipbuilding and ship-repair in the annual defense bill. In December 2017, Sen. Warner joined 16 Senators in a letter to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to support a block buy. Last week, Sen. Warner praised the Navy’s block buy of nine Virginia-class submarines, poised to create 25,000 jobs in Hampton Roads, that was authorized in today’s defense bill package.

As Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner also successfully pushed for the inclusion of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020, to ensure the intelligence community is postured to effectively address the growing array of threats to our national security. This includes provisions Sen. Warner sponsored to make the security clearance system simpler and more effective, including demanding plans to reduce the number of security “tiers,” creating an electronic portal for applicants to track their progress, and much more. The broader defense bill also carries a provision providing twelve weeks of paid parental leave to civilian federal employees. The IAA included an amendment offered by Senator Warner that would have provided a similar benefit to intelligence community employees.

Additionally, the final defense bill prevents the Trump Administration from merging the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) with the General Services Administration (GSA) without first providing Congress and the public transparency on the rationale behind the move, backed by sound, independent analysis of the potential costs and benefits. This mirrors an effort pushed by Sen. Warner to prevent the federal workforce from being subjected to continued political attacks and increased political interference by the Trump Administration. Also included in the legislation is a provision led by Sen. Warner to provide financial relief to certain civilian federal employees who have to relocate for work.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $8,288,283 in federal funding to support access to safe and affordable housing in Richmond and Suffolk. This funding, from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was awarded through four grant programs – the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program, the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program.

“We are glad to see this federal funding go towards supporting access to decent and reasonably-priced housing in Richmond and Suffolk,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing both of these cities put these funds to use and help those with the greatest need.”

The funding will be awarded as below.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons:     

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$4,462,031

Suffolk

$459,389

The HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program provides formula grants to states and localities to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying, and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership as well as providing direct rental assistance to low-income people. HOME is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households:

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$1,455,440

Suffolk

$348,260


The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides funding to engage homeless individuals and families living on the street, improve the number and quality of emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families, rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families, and prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless:

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$376,954

The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program provides states and localities with resources and incentives to devise long-term comprehensive strategies for meeting the housing needs of low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS. It is the only federal program dedicated to the housing needs of people living with HIV/AIDS:

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$1,186,209


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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $779,300 in federal grants to improve the conditions of public housing units in Portsmouth and Chesapeake. The funding was awarded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“Virginians deserve to feel safe in their homes,” the Senators said. “We applaud this federal funding that will strengthen the well-being and security of these communities.”

Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority will receive $249,300 for security cameras and fencing at the Swanson Homes and Seaboard Square I and II developments to strengthen security and monitoring.

The Chesapeake Redevelopment and Housing Authority will receive $530,000 to conduct lead-based paint risk assessments, inspections, abatement, interim controls, and clearance examinations. HUD is awarding grants to 38 public housing agencies across the country to identify and eliminate lead-based paint hazards in public housing units.

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with Mark Esper, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, at Warner’s office in Washington, D.C.  In the meeting, Sen. Warner emphasized the need to continue improving conditions in private military housing. Warner and Esper have worked closely on this issue in the wake of a Reuters investigation that found hazardous living conditions in privatized military housing throughout the United States, including military families living in homes with persistent mold blooms, water leaks, and rodent and insect infestations.

“I’ve made it very clear to Secretary Esper that reforming the unacceptable conditions in military housing must be a top priority for the Department of Defense,” said Sen. Warner. “During his tenure as Secretary of the Army, we’ve developed a strong working relationship. If he is confirmed, I plan to continue working with Secretary Esper to solve this crisis and make sure our military families receive safe housing and the respect they deserve.”

Following reports of health hazards in privatized military housing across the Commonwealth and the country, Sen. Warner has fought to improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families. In March, Sens. Warner and Kaine joined Secretary Esper in visiting Fort Belvoir for a private tour and roundtable discussion to hear directly from military families about their experiences with military housing. Warner has also met with military families in Norfolk and at Fort Lee. To keep the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the privatized housing program overall through reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.

Sen. Warner has also introduced legislation to reform the system, the Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act. The text of this legislation was largely incorporated into the annual defense bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which recently passed the Senate. This includes requiring the services to establish standard health and environmental credentials for companies providing mold assessments, remediation and procedures in their agreements with privatized housing companies; ensuring that tenants have access to companies’ electronic work order systems so they can track the progress of their maintenance requests; and enabling the withholding of incentive fees and rents when landlords fail to remedy hazards. In addition, the NDAA includes a Tenant Bill of Rights, which outlines much-needed protections for servicemembers and their families, and obligations from the private housing companies and the military services.

Dr. Esper, a native of Uniontown, PA, has served as Secretary of the Army since November 2017. He also served as the Acting Secretary of Defense from June 24, 2019, to July 15, 2019. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and a veteran of the Gulf War, where he earned a bronze star for his actions in combat. After 10 years on active duty and 11 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve, Esper retired from the U.S. Army in 2007. He has held a number of government positions in the executive and legislative branches, including an appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy during the George W. Bush Administration.

###

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $40,942,352 in federal funding to support affordable housing development across Virginia. The funding was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block, Emergency Solutions, HOME, HOPWA, and Housing Trust Fund grant programs.

“Virginia families deserve access to safe and affordable housing,” the Senators said. “We are pleased that this federal funding will provide people across the Commonwealth with opportunities to improve their living conditions.”

The funding will be awarded as shown below:

The Community Development Block (CDBG) Grants program provides annual grants to state and local governments to develop communities by expanding economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income Americans and providing decent housing and a suitable living environment. The following will receive CDBG funding:

Recipient                              Amount

ALEXANDRIA                     $ 1,027,042

ARLINGTON COUNTY     $ 1,345,258

BRISTOL                               $ 257,838

PETERSBURG                      $ 617,397

VIRGINIA                             $ 18,152,427

The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides annual grants to state, local, and private entities to help people regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness.  The ESG program also provides funding for improving both the quality and number of emergency homeless shelters. The following will receive ESG funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 2,885,391

The HOME program works to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing to low-income families by providing grants to state and local governments to support housing programs that meet local needs and priorities. The following will receive HOME funding:

Recipient                              Amount

ALEXANDRIA                     $ 535,017

VIRGINIA                             $ 9,890,363

ARLINGTON COUNTY     $ 712,272

The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program provides housing assistance and related supportive services to state and local governments, and non-profit organizations for projects that benefit low-income Americans medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families. The following will receive HOPWA funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 1,087,223

The Housing Trust Fund (HTF) is an affordable housing program that complements existing efforts to increase and preserve the supply of decent, safe, and sanitary affordable housing for low-income households, including homeless families. The following will receive HTF funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 4,432,124

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate approved the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

“This year’s annual defense bill takes a bipartisan approach towards meeting our national security challenges and better supporting our servicemembers and their families. For too long, military families have been dealing with problems like mice, rodents, and mold, among other hazards in military housing. I’m pleased that this bill includes our legislation to improve oversight over the companies providing housing, including provisions establishing common credentials for environmental and health inspectors and authorizing the withholding of rental payments and incentive fees when these companies fail to perform. By improving accountability and oversight over military housing, we can ensure that servicemembers and their families have the protections they need,” said Sen. Warner.

The base text of the defense bill includes large portions of Sen. Warner’s Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act, legislation that strengthens accountability and oversight in privatized military housing following reports of hazardous living conditions in privatized military housing throughout the United States. The bill also includes a Tenant Bill of Rights, which outlines much-needed protections for servicemembers and their families, and obligations from the private housing companies and the military services.

“This year’s defense bill also advances a number of priorities critical to our servicemembers, as well as to the men and women in Virginia’s shipbuilding industry. I’m also proud to report that this bill authorizes a 3.1 percent pay raise for our servicemembers. In addition, the NDAA would provide for nearly $420 million to fund 12 military construction projects across the Commonwealth and includes robust funding for the Virginia-class submarine and carrier programs. And while the Trump Administration thankfully reversed its plan to retire the USS Truman decades ahead of schedule, this bill will require the Navy to continue with the nuclear refueling and complex overhaul needed to make sure the Truman can continue supporting the national security mission,” continued Sen. Warner.

The NDAA also includes language from Sen. Warner’s bill to provide financial relief for civilian federal employees so that they’re not hit with unexpected costs for relocating to a new duty station or returning home after completing their service. This additional cost on moving expenses is a result of the 2017 Republican tax bill, which eliminated the deduction for job-related moving costs, as well as the exclusion for reimbursements or in-kind contributions made by employers to cover the cost of moving. While the law excluded active-duty service members, it placed a burden on many federal civilian workers, like military civilian employees, law enforcement and military teachers, who are required to relocate for work, and who, as a result, have extra money withheld to cover the taxes on moving-expense “income” following the changes in the law. The NDAA now ensures that all federal employees who qualify to have their moving costs reimbursed by the government are also repaid for the taxes owed on relocation reimbursements.

The defense bill also includes several provisions by Sen. Warner to overhaul the antiquated security clearance process. And with the inclusion of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020, Congress takes key steps to modernize the nation’s security clearance process by reducing the background investigation inventory and bringing greater accountability to the system. In addition, the legislation provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave to intelligence personnel.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has introduced several amendments to the annual defense authorization bill, including one that would build on his legislation, Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act, most of which was included in the base text, by adding additional measures to improve privatized military housing.

Following reports of health hazards in privatized military housing in bases across the Commonwealth and the country, Sen. Warner has advocated on behalf of servicemembers and their families, and recently introduced an amendment to establish an advisory group to help the Department of Defense strengthen accountability and oversight in military housing. The amendment was offered in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the legislative vehicle that provides support for our servicemembers and sets the national security priorities for the United States.

“Servicemembers and their families sacrifice so much for this country. That’s why we’ve got to make things right for military families who, too often, have been subjected to subpar and sometimes dangerous living conditions. This includes making sure that the health and well-being of our nation’s servicemembers and their families are part of our national security priorities,” said Sen. Warner.

The amendment would also require the Secretaries of the Navy, Air Force, and Army to issue standard mold assessments, remediation’s and procedures in their agreements with privatized housing companies. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined Sen. Warner in introducing the amendment, which comes on the heels of Sen. Warner’s letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish an advisory group to address the prevalent health and environmental hazards in privatized military housing.

To protect U.S. innovation and combat technology threats, Sen. Warner filed a bipartisan amendment with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to establish an Office of Critical Technologies within the Executive Office of the President. The office would be responsible for coordinating a whole-of-government approach to protect the U.S. from state-sponsored technology theft and risks to critical supply chains. The amendment is based on the bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Warner and Rubio that would combat technology threats from China. Sen. Warner also introduced a bipartisan amendment with Sen. Crapo to strengthen the intelligence support to protect our supply chain from growing adversary threats.

“In the 20th century, the U.S. pioneered many groundbreaking technological advancements, and today, countries like China are using every tool in their arsenal to try to diminish U.S. leadership, set the standards for technologies like 5G, and dominate key technologies. In order to confront this challenge, the United States must push forward a coherent strategy to protect our technological edge and preserve American leadership,” continued Sen. Warner.

In a move to further defend national security and respond to emerging cyber-threats, Sen. Warner also introduced a series of amendments that would revamp the security clearance process, assess cyber threat detection and encourage the DoD to work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to identify new spectrum for reallocation for 5G services.

“To ensure the U.S. can hire trusted professionals to tackle the emerging threats in cyber and technology, we must modernize our outdated security clearance system. While we’ve already seen an encouraging drop in individuals waiting on a background check, there is still more work to be done,” concluded Sen. Warner. 

The security clearance reform language is based on legislation introduced by Vice Chair Warner, and unanimously approved in the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020. Text for the cyber threat assessment amendment can be found here.

Sen. Warner also introduced amendments to improve the quality in information submitted in background investigation requests, ensure DoD has the funding flexibility to perform the personnel vetting mission, and ensure the new Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency adequately protects the millions of pieces of personally identifiable information it will hold as the government’s primary investigative service provider.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the inclusion of provisions that would provide much-needed oversight of privatized military housing for servicemembers in this year’s Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual defense legislation lays out the nation’s overall policy priorities that are critical to our national security, and was just approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, sending the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

 Following a Reuters investigation that exposed health, safety, and environmental hazards in privatized military housing throughout the United States, Sen. Warner has been advocating on behalf of servicemembers and their families to address concerns with military housing, including health hazards. The Senate legislation includes provisions from Sen. Warner’s bill that would increase accountability and oversight over privatized housing companies, empower servicemembers and their families when tackling housing disputes with private companies, and instate new quality assurance and quality control measures. The bill also establishes a “Tenant Bill of Rights” to ensure that servicemembers and their families have the protections they need and to ensure this does not happen again. 

“For far too long, military families have been subjected to sub-par living conditions, sometimes rivaling what you might see in a bad horror movie. That’s why I’m glad that my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee stepped up to add much-needed oversight on the private companies whose sole job is to provide safe housing for military families,” said Sen. Warner. “Additionally, I’m pleased to report that this defense bill includes additional steps to modernize our security clearance process to enhance our ability to hire and retain the national security talent we need to keep our country secure. Right now, we have 480,000 individuals waiting on a background check. While this drop is encouraging, there is still more work to be done to truly transform the clearance process.” 

Sen. Warner has met with military families in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir who’ve shared their stories of hazardous living conditions in their homes and their frustrations with the lack of oversight and response from the military services and their respective housing companies. To keep the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the privatized housing program overall through reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.

As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has continued to push for security clearance modernization and reform. In February, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2019, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 and unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week. The Committee’s annual Intelligence Authorization Act also includes provisions championed by Sen. Warner that requires published guidelines so that the security clearance process cannot be abused for political purposes.

The defense bill also prioritizes innovation and technology development in the area of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), to compete with our adversaries like Russia and China. As a former technology and telecommunications executive, Sen. Warner has pushed the Administration to develop a strategy to maintain our advantages in technological innovation, as well as to lead on 5G and AI.

###

WASHINGTON – As part of his ongoing fight for military families facing hazardous living conditions, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today urged the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish a temporary housing advisory group to assist the military services in addressing widespread health hazards in private military housing. In a letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, Sen. Warner emphasized the need for an independent group capable of providing neutral analysis and advice to the department in order to develop long-term solutions for servicemembers and military families. 

“As the military services determine the best path forward, multiple perspectives and deep expertise in housing, state and local housing regulations, and environmental hazards are necessary to determine next steps and make stronger agreements. Clearly, these areas are not the core expertise of the Pentagon leadership, nor are they part of a military leader’s career trajectory. Housing is not a core mission of the Department of Defense,” wrote Sen. Warner. “Therefore, I urge you to establish a temporary advisory group for the Department of Defense – a high-level group of independent experts, well-versed in these issues who can assist the department in this process.” 

Stressing the need to reopen and renegotiate 50-year agreements between the services and the military housing companies, Sen. Warner urged Acting Secretary Shanahan to convene a housing advisory group composed of 10-15 subject-matter experts tasked with analyzing the current Military Housing Privatization Initiative as well as the agreements between the private companies and military services. This group would provide recommendations related to housing, real estate, public health, and environmental hazards in order to ensure that military families do not continue to be subjected to health threats, including persistent mold blooms, water leaks, and rodent and insect infestations. 

The letter also states that, once established, the advisory group should ensure that any agreements between the services and private companies codify the following: 

  • Ensure that independent and credentialed housing inspectors provide regular inspections and oversight at the housing units to ensure safe, secure and high-quality housing; 
  • Ensure that companies are adhering to state, local and regulatory laws related to environmental hazards. If these standards have not been determined by these authorities, DoD should establish standards in coordination with the EPA, and require that these companies adhere to standards for these hazards, including mold;
  • Require these companies to utilize appropriately credentialed and/or skilled contractors for health, safety and environmental problems across the services; 
  • Ensure that tenants have direct access to a true housing advocate, who assists the servicemembers and their families;
  • Ensure there exists an independent, third-party arbiter who can assist in resolving disputes between the tenants and the companies in a fair and transparent manner; and
  • Determine penalties when these companies fail to provide safe and healthy housing, whether that be withholding rent payments, incentive fees, cancelling the contracts or alternative mechanisms.

This letter is the latest in a series of multifaceted efforts by Sen. Warner to ensure that military families in Virginia and throughout the nation can count on high-quality housing free of health, safety, and environmental hazards. On Monday, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company on how they intend to tackle the deplorable health hazards documented by military families. Recently, Sen. Warner hosted roundtables in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir with affected families who were upset by conditions in their homes and frustrated about the lack of response from the military services and their respective housing companies. Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act – legislation that would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold rent until issues are resolved, prohibit contractors from charging certain fees, and require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

May 14, 2019

 

The Honorable Patrick M. Shanahan

Acting Secretary of Defense

U.S. Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301

 

Dear Acting Secretary Shanahan:

 

I write today to strongly encourage the Department of Defense to convene a temporary housing advisory group of outside experts to assist you in determining the best long-term solutions for addressing pervasive health hazards in private military housing across the military services. This group would analyze the current Military Housing Privatization Initiative, established in 1996, as well as the agreements between the military services and the private companies, and offer recommendations to strengthen accountability and improve the quality of housing.     

 

I have been deeply concerned about health hazards, including mold, lead, and rodent infestations in private military housing in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the country. The Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force have almost 12,000 privatized homes throughout the Hampton Roads region at Little Creek, Fort Story, Naval Station Norfolk, Oceana, and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, as well at Wallops, Dahlgren, Quantico, Fort Belvoir, and Fort Lee. Lincoln Military Housing, Clark Realty Capital, Balfour Beatty Communities, and Hunt Military Communities currently manage these units.

 

For this reason, I introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act with Senators Dianne Feinstein, Tim Kaine and Kamala Harris, to begin reforming the privatized housing program to ensure that our servicemembers have safe, secure and high-quality housing. This legislation would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold rent until issues are resolved, and prohibit the private companies from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees for poor performance.

 

While I am glad to see that the military services are taking some steps to address these hazards, including establishing call centers for current and former housing residents to address housing related environmental hazards, and establishing a tenant bill of rights, systematic change must occur in the program. These 50-year agreements between the military services and the military housing companies must be re-opened and renegotiated to tackle the problems that have been identified.   

 

As the military services determine the best path forward, multiple perspectives and deep expertise in housing, state and local housing regulations, and environmental hazards are necessary to determine next steps and make stronger agreements. Clearly, these areas are not the core expertise of the Pentagon leadership, nor are they part of a military leader’s career trajectory. Housing is not a core mission of the Department of Defense.

 

Therefore, I urge you to establish a temporary advisory group for the Department of Defense – a high-level group of independent experts, well-versed in these issues who can assist the department in this process. This group would include approximately 10-15 subject matter experts from outside of government and from other government agencies, who would provide analysis and neutral advice related to housing, real estate, public health and environmental hazards. In addition, advocates for the servicemembers and their families should be included in this group.

 

The Department of Defense has a long history of using advisory groups to provide independent and informed advice, such as the Defense Innovation Board, Defense Science Board, Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, and the Military Family Readiness Council.    

In addition to advising the DoD on broader policy, the advisory group would need to ensure that agreements between the military services and the private companies codify the following:

 

•          Ensure that independent and credentialed housing inspectors provide regular inspections and oversight at the housing units to ensure safe, secure and high-quality housing;

•          Ensure that companies are adhering to state, local and regulatory laws related to environmental hazards. If these standards have not been determined by these authorities, DoD should establish standards in coordination with the EPA, and require that these companies adhere to standards for these hazards, including mold;

•          Require these companies to utilize appropriately credentialed and/or skilled contractors for health, safety and environmental problems across the services; 

•          Ensure that tenants have direct access to a true housing advocate, who assists the servicemembers and their families;

•          Ensure there exists an independent, third-party arbiter who can assist in resolving disputes between the tenants and the companies in a fair and transparent manner; and

•          Determine penalties when these companies fail to provide safe and healthy housing, whether that be withholding rent payments, incentive fees, cancelling the contracts or alternative mechanisms. 

 

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. I am happy to discuss this issue further. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott and Elaine Luria applauded the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s announcement of $60,000,000 in federal funding through HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation program to support the revitalization of struggling housing projects in Newport News and Norfolk. These two Virginia cities were among just four localities nationwide chosen to receive HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants. The funding will allow Newport News and Norfolk to invest in the redevelopment of their public or HUD-assisted housing.  

“This is a big win to ensure safe, affordable housing for underserved communities in Hampton Roads,” the Senators and Representatives said. “We are thrilled HUD selected Virginia for these grants that will allow Newport News and Norfolk to put their redevelopment plans into action so they can start making critical public housing improvements for residents.”

"We are more than excited to have been selected from among 28 applicants nationwide and to have this opportunity to jump-start our revitalization plan.  The changes we will see will impact current residents and future generations," said Karen R. Wilds, Executive Director of the Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

·         Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the City of Newport News will receive $30,000,000.

·         Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the City of Norfolk will receive $30,000,000.

HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants support underserved communities that have undergone a local planning process and are ready to implement their “Transformation Plan” to redevelop distressed public or HUD-assisted housing and neighborhoods.

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