Former Senator Kit Bond, Bipartisan Policy Center, Jack Kemp Foundation Host Housing Forum in St. Louis Featuring Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard

Jun 05, 2012, 14:30 ET from Bipartisan Policy Center

Forum Highlights Impact of Innovative Public-Private Partnerships on Housing Challenges

ST. LOUIS, Mo., June 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Former U.S. Senator Kit Bond joined the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) Housing Commission and Jack Kemp Foundation in holding a public forum in St. Louis today to discuss the importance of public-private partnerships in addressing the nation's housing challenges. 

"Too many Americans remain trapped in unaffordable or unsafe housing, yet with scarce federal resources and partisan gridlock in Washington any real solution may seem impossible.  That is why I am so proud to showcase St. Louis' many success stories, proving that bipartisan, innovative partnerships between the public and private sectors can transform neighborhoods and revitalize our communities," said Senator Bond, a co-chair of BPC's Housing Commission.

The all-day event featured Missouri Representatives Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President and CEO James Bullard and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley. Local and national housing experts also spoke about the need for comprehensive resident services, homebuyer education programs, and rental housing preservation to protect and support renters and homeowners going forward.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President and CEO James Bullard pointed out that recovery from the collapse of the housing bubble is ongoing and will take many years.  In his presentation, entitled, The Aftermath of the Housing Bubble, Dr. Bullard said that the crisis left households with far too much mortgage debt compared with historical norms.

"Monetary policy has been ultra-easy during this period, but cannot reasonably encourage additional borrowing by households with too much debt," Dr. Bullard said.

Instead, panelists encouraged more robust homebuyer education programs to help low-to-moderate-income individuals make better decisions about whether to purchase homes and for those who buy, make homeownership more sustainable.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released two studies that found that housing counseling from a HUD-approved counseling organization greatly improved outcomes for both first-time homebuyers and existing homeowners facing foreclosure.  In the case of existing homeowners, the reports found that after receiving a counselor's help, nearly 70 percent of distressed homeowners obtained a mortgage remedy to stay in their home and 56 percent became current on their mortgages.

"It is clear that housing counseling programs work," said Sarah Gerecke, HUD senior policy advisor. "By providing these necessary services to families, we can help ensure that they purchase homes they can afford and can continue to live and thrive in for years to come."

During today's forum, held at the Westin St. Louis, Chris Krehmeyer, president and CEO of Beyond Housing, released a report on the organization's 24:1 Initiative.  The initiative is a model of public-private partnership, where 24 municipalities work together toward one vision – to provide a range of comprehensive services aimed at building stronger communities, engaging families and helping children to be successful.

"The way to alleviate the consequences of poverty among families in our communities is through a comprehensive approach – by improving housing stock, empowering citizens to get involved, providing an array of support services, and working together to attract much-needed business development," Mr. Krehmeyer said.  "It is through this holistic effort that we can begin to reverse decades of disinvestment, take back our neighborhoods, and make them safe, affordable, and desirable places to live."

BPC's Housing Commission also released a study entitled, Housing Programs in the United States: Responding to Current and Future Challenges, which illustrates the key problems affecting affordable housing and community development and outlines the government programs that aim to address those problems.

"Many Americans continue to struggle to find affordable housing," said Michael Bodaken, president of the National Housing Trust, a non-profit organization formed to preserve and improve affordable housing for low and moderate-income individuals and families. "Homelessness, a growing senior population, rising energy costs and the loss of affordable rental units are all challenges that we, as a nation, must confront. Our hope is that by bringing these issues to the forefront, we can begin to do just that."

Yesterday, Senator Bond led his fellow Housing Commissioners on a tour of three housing developments -- Murphy Park, Renaissance Place and 6 North. The attractive mixed income developments include urban-style lofts as well as townhomes, and provide affordable housing and an array of services for seniors and families.  Two of the developments were built on the sites of failed public housing projects. The site visits gave Commissioners the opportunity to see first-hand the impact that a comprehensive approach can have in revitalizing a community.

"By engaging both public and private stakeholders, we were able to turn once blighted areas into vibrant, thriving communities," said Richard Baron, co-founder and chairman of McCormack Baron Salazar, the developer of the three projects.  "Our hope is that these types of developments act as a catalyst – to stimulate other projects that together will revitalize the community."

Today's event was the third of four regional forums hosted by the BPC Housing Commission and Jack Kemp Foundation. Launched in October 2011, the Commission aims to reform the nation's housing policy by crafting realistic and actionable policy recommendations that consider the near-term and address the long-term challenges in the housing sector. Throughout 2012, the Commission will visit different regions of the country to hear first-hand from stakeholders and interest groups about the housing challenges affecting citizens.

About the Bipartisan Policy Center
Founded in 2007 by former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell, Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a non-profit organization that drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation and respectful dialogue. With projects in multiple issue areas, BPC combines politically balanced policymaking with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach.

SOURCE Bipartisan Policy Center