The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
October 24, 2014

Six reasons to celebrate the Housing Finance Policy Center’s one-year anniversary

October 24, 2014

When we first conceived of the Housing Finance Policy Center (HFPC), it was an ambitious idea:  create a new influential player in the housing policy space that could provide unbiased, nonpartisan, sophisticated evidence-based analysis, ideas, and commentary trusted by policymakers of all stripes. Such a capacity, we were confident, would yield better outcomes for American communities and families and a wiser use of public resources.

We assembled our team, convened an Academic Research Council, and set to work. We launched a steady-stream of data-rich blog posts, commentaries, research papers, data visualizations, and regular events.

Today, one year after our October 24, 2013 launch, we are well beyond where we imagined we would be. As the director of the center, I am proud of all the work we’ve produced and the pace we’ve set for ourselves. There are six accomplishments I'm especially pleased with because they highlight how we've met our initial goal of bringing together data-driven market analysis with the needs of housing finance policymakers:

  1. HFPC’s collection of papers addressing the tight credit boxwhy it’s tight, why it matters, what policy makers are doing, and what else they should be doing to address it—has elevated the discussion and influenced decisionmakers, and contributed significantly to the steps that Federal Housing Finance Agency and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) have taken to address credit accessibility.
  2. HFPC’s interactive map showing 13 years of mortgage originations has attracted more than 15,000 visitors and led to several feature stories in elite media, ensuring that more policymakers can easily see how the housing boom and bust impacted different racial groups throughout the country.
  3. HFPC provided a stream of analytical work to negotiators during the Johnson-Crapo discussions, with various sides using our papers to understand the issues, support their positions, and ultimately help design solutions.
  4. HFPC’s recommendations on how to decrease FHA defaults, set Government-Sponsored Entity guarantee fees, and improve national mortgage settlements have been incorporated into ongoing discussions and negotiations among the major stakeholders.
  5. HFPC’s monthly chart book is now part of the briefing books for many of the primary decision-makers in housing finance policy and our bi-monthly newsletter circulates to over 4,000 targeted policymakers who open it at record-setting rates within moments of its arrival to their inbox.
  6. Finally, in proving HFPC’s value, the team has significantly increased the demand for its work. Legislators, regulators and industry stakeholders alike are asking the center to examine new data, develop and analyze fresh policy ideas, host additional forums, and participate in significant conversations regularly.

These accomplishments would not have been possible without the tremendous support we’ve had throughout our first year from so many. In particular, we would like to thank:

  • Our generous funders who supported us throughout our first year: at the leadership level, the Citi Foundation and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and at other levels, the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundation;
  • Our Housing Finance Council, a group of firms and individuals whose financial support has allowed us to expand our work;
  • CoreLogic, which has been an invaluable strategic partner, sharing crucial data with us as well as co-hosting three sunset seminars, a full-day housing finance symposium, and an upcoming symposium on November 5;
  • Our Academic Research Council, which has served as a source of guidance, insight and collaboration;
  • Our many colleagues throughout the Urban Institute, and particularly those in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, led by Rolf Pendall, who have enabled us to collaborate on projects, share and refine our ideas, and disseminate our work to a wide audience; and
  • Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute, who had the vision and passion to create HFPC, and has provided us with incredible guidance and support.

Thank you for embracing and bringing forth our vision.

And to the readers of our work, your engagement has also been a big part of our success. Thank you for your support and involvement. Please continue to share our content on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletter.

We look forward to continuing to share new research, commentaries, and events with you in the next year.

Photo by Matt Johnson, Urban Institute. From left: Sarah Rosen Wartell (Urban Institute), Faith Schwartz (CoreLogic), Gene Sperling (White House), and Laurie Goodman (Urban Institute) at an HFPC event with CoreLogic, November 2013.

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