Trasviña Hints at a Fairer Housing Act; Principal Reduction in Store?

John Trasvina, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, emphasized HUD and Treasury’s central role the federal response to the housing crisis, this morning, as well as hinting at further tacks taken by the administration as it continues to address a crisis with as yet elusive solutions

Trasvina offered his remarks to roughly 250 housing advocates at the National Community Reinvestments Coalition’s 2010 National Convention, taking place this week in Washington, DC., while echoing an agency-wide message of reviving the agency’s relevance. “It’s my job to make sure the office relevant in 2010 and to the needs and concerns of people across the country,” he said.

Specifically, the assistant secretary pointed to the 1968 passage of the Fair Housing Act following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suggesting that the Act was not only necessary policy, but one that promoted national solidarity. “We have to make sure we are accessible to everyone, and we have to be a gateway to those who are marginalized.”

Part of that access is making the Fair Housing Act “relevant to the 21st century,” including for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Congress has begun what is expected to a be series of hearings on the Fair Housing Act that will consider whether changes to the law are necessary, as well as considering an expansion of the law to include LGBT people. After ENDA, expansion of the Fair Housing Act would only be the second effort of Congress to include the LGBT community in the country’s civil rights laws.

“People are hiding behind their identies to buy a house,” Trasvina said, adding that HUD is currently conducting a housing discrimination study — conducted once every 10 years.

Principal Reduction?

Trasvina also gave a glimpse of more action taken by HUD and Treasury in responding to the foreclosure crisis. In response to a question posed by Phyllis Salowe-Kaye of New Jersey Citizen Action about the administration’s recently announced short-sale program within Making Home Affordable, where the servicing bank receives a subsidy to assist a family in danger of foreclosure with relocation assistance, Trasvina appeared to suggest the administration is considering encouraging banks to engage in mortgage principal reduction — a move long supported by housing advocates, despite a cool response from the administration so far.

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