Statement of J. Ronald Terwilliger on President Trump’s decision to nominate Foundation President Pam Patenaude to serve as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

April 28, 2017

“Pam is passionate about affordable housing and has a deep knowledge of housing policy and the programs administered by HUD. That’s why, three years ago, I asked her to join me in starting the Foundation with the goal of exposing the ‘silent housing crisis’ in our country. It was a great decision: Pam has been a wonderful, visionary leader of the Foundation.

“While I will be very sorry to see Pam move on from her Foundation work, I know the Foundation’s loss will be America’s gain. Pam is the perfect choice to serve as Secretary Carson’s deputy, and HUD will be in good hands under her stewardship. I urge the Senate to act swiftly on her nomination.”

Letter from Pam Patenaude in Support of Dr. Ben Carson for HUD Secretary

January 12, 2017

Dear Chairman Crapo and Ranking Member Brown:

I am writing to express my strong support for the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to serve as the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Dr. Carson possesses the intelligence, good judgment, leadership qualities, and communications skills to be an outstanding leader of HUD. I urge the United States Senate to swiftly confirm his nomination.

The current situation in housing is completely unacceptable: Today, more than 11 million families devote in excess of 50 percent of their incomes just to rent. A severe shortage of rental homes affordable to the lowest-income families is the primary culprit behind these high rent burdens. The national homeownership rate has also declined precipitously – the result of wage stagnation, regulatory policies, student loan debt, and high rents that make it difficult to accumulate funds for a down payment. Millions of creditworthy families seeking to purchase a home for the first time are today unable to realize their dream of homeownership. In the coming years, new household formation by tens of millions of Millennials combined with the increasing diversity and aging of the U.S. population will put additional strains on a housing system that is already falling short.

After speaking with Dr. Carson, I know he fully understands these issues and appreciates the high stakes that are involved. Once confirmed, I look forward to working closely with him and his HUD team to help meet America’s pressing housing needs.


Pamela Hughes Patenaude


Balancing the Burden: Proposing a FAIR Tax Credit for Renters Facing Affordability Challenges

By: Carol Galante, Carolina Reid, and Nathaniel Decker

November 3, 2016

By most accounts, rents have never been higher. In the United States, over 21 million people see more than 30 percent of what they earn go to rent each month. And over 11 million Americans are paying more than 50 percent of their income to rent their home, leaving little left over for other essentials like healthcare and food, and leaving too many facing a precarious stretch of days until their next paycheck.

And this is not just a problem of poverty: because rents have risen faster than incomes, even renters who are working full-time and earning modest wages are facing cost burdens. Too many families simply don’t have housing options at a price they can afford in, or near to, the communities where they can find work.

For these families, for the economy, and for the future of the American workforce, the cost of inaction is high. While an unstable housing experience undermines the physical and psychological wellbeing of families (as described in Matthew Desmond’s bestseller Evicted), their economic stability and pathways to building wealth and accessing homeownership are also increasingly out of reach. And such broad housing instability also has the cumulative effect of lowering overall economic productivity and diminishing the viability of a strong local workforce.

That is why today, we are sharing a bold proposal to help better serve renters, and ensure current and future generations can secure the housing they need to live stable, healthy, productive lives.

The Federal Assistance In Rental (FAIR) Tax Credit is a policy proposal that uses the federal tax code to provide millions of American families with relief from their current rent burdens. Our federal budget and tax code reflects our priorities as a nation, and right now, renters are largely left out; while wealthy homeowners collect thousands of dollars in deductions from the federal government by filling out a form, low-income renters stand in line to enter a lottery in which only 1 in 4 will receive any support at all.

The FAIR Credit seeks to rebalance this distribution of resources within the tax code to more fairly meet the needs of the renter population and to better ensure equal access to opportunity. It is a proposal that addresses our “demand side” challenges, and would serve as an important complement to supply-side solutions which are also needed to lower overall rental burdens. Ultimately, with big solutions on both fronts, quality rental housing that is affordable to a range of incomes will be within our reach.

The paper proposes three potential structures for the Credit: a Rental Affordability Option which would lift the burden from all renters who are a) earning less than 80 percent of the local median income and b) paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent; a Rent Reduction Option which targets the same population but provides more calibrated relief (depending on the severity family’s financial circumstance); and a Composite option which couples with the Rent Reduction option to provide additional relief in a voucher-like credit for very low-income families.

Each of these options has merit, and their advantages and potential implementation challenges are discussed in the paper. Though it is no secret that this type of effort would take significant resources – ranging from 41 to 76 billion dollars depending on the option – this amount is not out of proportion to either the needs of renters nor to other tax expenditures for homeowners and corporations. And there is evidence that it would work: similar in many respects to the widely popular and effective Earned Income Tax Credit, the FAIR Credit is an efficient use of the tax code to direct resources to those who need them most.

As we look ahead to a new administration and transitions in political leadership across the country, we have the opportunity to elevate the importance of housing stability for children, workers, and the U.S. economy, and promote more meaningful action. If we wish to remain a nation of opportunity, we must have the audacity to consider ideas that challenge the status quo and lead us towards a fairer system and more inclusive society. At the Terner Center we look forward to engaging with leaders and stakeholders to do just that.

Statement by Ron Terwilliger on the anniversary of the foundation launch

Today marks the first anniversary of the official launch of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families. Our objective this past year has been to break the silence about the crisis in housing and inject housing into the presidential campaign. We have made significant progress.

Last October, we convened the first-ever New Hampshire Housing Summit that attracted seven presidential candidates from both parties. In January, we were pleased to support the Jack Kemp Foundation as a sponsor of a presidential forum on poverty and expanding opportunity. More recently, we hosted a regional affordable housing forum at The Carter Center in Atlanta. We continue to engage and educate policymakers in Washington, DC and throughout the country.

Our message is clear: A new, more effective national housing policy is desperately needed. Excessive rent burdens are crushing the aspirations of families across America, while millions of creditworthy families seeking to purchase a home are unable to realize their dream of homeownership. Yet access to stable and affordable housing is the foundation for upward economic mobility and essential to America’s future prosperity.

I am grateful to my Executive Committee and Advisory Board colleagues for the wonderful support they have given me and look forward to working with them on the activities planned for the remainder of the year – a benefit concert to highlight the silent housing crisis in America at the Republican National Convention, and a housing forum following the elections in Dallas. These events will help set the stage for a major policy push early next year as a new Congress and Administration assume office.

Housing is not a partisan issue; it is an American issue. Every family in our country deserves access to a stable, affordable home in a decent neighborhood. The Foundation will continue to be a strong advocate for a national housing policy that supports this vision.

Ron Terwilliger

The Rental Affordability Crisis Impacts Young and Old Alike

By J. Ronald Terwilliger | March 21, 2016

What do Louisville/Jefferson County, New Orleans, and Hartford, Connecticut have in common?

These are the U.S. metro areas where the proportion of seniors burdened by unaffordable rents grew by the largest margins between 2005 and 2014, according to a new report by Enterprise Community Partners’ Make Room initiative. The Louisville/Jefferson County metro ranks at the top of the list, registering a 10.5 percentage point increase in the number of senior renters paying more than 30 percent of their income on monthly housing costs.

Perhaps more telling, the number of senior households paying unaffordable rents has outpaced the growth in the overall U.S. senior population during the past decade.

Two thoughts come to mind.

First, in discussions about the impact of rising rents and the severe shortage of affordable rental homes, the focus is often on young adults. And this focus is well deserved: High rents are making it increasingly difficult for young families to save for a mortgage down payment and become homeowners. Things have gotten so bad that the homeownership rate for those aged 35 to 44 has dropped to a level we haven’t seen since the 1960s.

But the Make Room report also reminds us that older Americans are being hit hard by soaring rental costs as well. According to the report, an astounding 1.8 million seniors are “severely burdened,” paying in excess of 50 percent of their incomes just on rent. Many of those households rely exclusively on Social Security and are forced to scrimp on essentials like nutritious food and medical care.

Second, the rental affordability crisis is national in scope. It’s affecting young and old alike, and not just in the big cities on the two coasts but also in communities like Memphis, Nashville, Richmond, and Tampa. In states such as Colorado, Minnesota, and Nevada, more than 30 percent of senior renters devote in excess of half their incomes to housing costs.

America’s senior population is on track to nearly double, reaching 73 million by 2030. Absent a major effort to boost the supply of affordable rental homes, more and more older adults will find themselves in unsustainable housing. This is a situation that a great nation like ours should not accept.

The Statistics Speak for Themselves


Infographics 04

Infographic 2

Infographic 05


Chris Estes, President and CEO, National Housing Conference

“According to a recent public poll by the MacArthur Foundation, Eight in 10 Americans believe that housing affordability is a problem and this recognition transcends age, educational attainment, income, and even political party affiliation. However, very few believe their elected officials have made this issue a priority in their policymaking. The Silent Housing Crisis by the J Ron Terwilliger Foundation is an excellent summary of the nation’s housing challenges in the lack of adequate supply, difficulty of development, the crisis in homeownership and the overall lack of affordability.  This report and the Foundation’s work offer an excellent bipartisan pathway for elected officials at the federal state and local level to get engaged with the housing community in solving these critical issues.”

Jason Grumet, Founder and President, Bipartisan Policy Center

“A former member of the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission, Ron Terwilliger is a passionate advocate for a more balanced federal housing policy that supports those families most in need.  Ron also understands that an effective policy not only responds to today’s conditions but anticipates those that will emerge in the future.  The Silent Housing Crisis vividly describes how rising rents and diminishing access to homeownership are destabilizing millions of families and how these problems are likely to worsen absent a comprehensive policy response.  It is a call to action that should resonate across the political spectrum.”

Edward J. DeMarco, Milken Institute

“Setting a future public policy path for housing requires looking ahead, not behind.  The J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation’s new report highlights the changing economic and demographic factors critical to an informed evaluation of policy options regarding home ownership and affordable rental housing.  Today’s launch of the Foundation brings an important new voice to these critical public policy issues.”

The Honorable Mel Martinez, former HUD Secretary and former U.S. Senator

“Ron Terwilliger has a sharp intellect and a big heart.  A towering figure in the housing industry known for his business success and philanthropy, Ron has a keen understanding of the demographic trends now underway in America and how they will shape the housing needs of future generations.  In direct and compelling language, the Silent Housing Crisis warns how rising rental demand and diminished access to homeownership – if left unaddressed – will destabilize millions of families and hurt the U.S. economy.   It is a powerful call to action and essential reading for those who seek a more effective housing policy.”

Ali Solis, SVP, Public Policy and Corporate External Affairs Executive, Enterprise Community Partners

“Enterprise commends the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families for its focus on shaping federal housing policy to help address our nation’s growing housing insecurity crisis. Amid dwindling federal resources, Enterprise supports sound policies that best utilize public and private funding for housing. In communities across America, rents are rising, wages are stagnating and working families are having a harder time finding a decent home that they can afford. As a result, a record number of low-income families are barely scraping by, living just one unforeseen event away from disaster. That is why we support the Foundation’s work.

Enterprise’s generational goal is to end housing insecurity in the U.S. That means no more homelessness and no more families paying more than half of their income on housing.  As a down payment toward that goal, by 2020 we will help provide opportunity to 1 million low-income families through quality affordable housing and connections to good schools, jobs, transit and health care. Enterprise looks forward to partnering with Ron Terwilliger, chairman of Enterprise Community Partners, and his Foundation to continue to raise awareness of the housing insecurity issue in this country and to work together to advocate for the best use of resources for affordable housing. Our collective voices and efforts are needed.”

Stockton Williams, Executive Director, ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing

“The Silent Housing Crisis lays out in clear, compelling terms how our country’s continuing demographic transformation is impacting rising needs for a wider range of housing options for working families. Even as the housing market continues to strengthen in many markets, the longer term picture painted so vividly in the Silent Housing Crisis suggests that entirely new approaches to development, land use, capital markets, and public policy will be needed to create housing opportunity for all Americans.”

John O’Callaghan, President and CEO, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership

“Ron Terwilliger dedicated many years of his time and talent to addressing affordable housing challenges in Atlanta, including his service as Chairman of the Board of Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership.  He has continued to advance affordable housing needs on the national stage through his tireless efforts with the Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing and the Bipartisan Housing Commission.  Today, we are in a post-Recession environment facing new, pressing market realities and rapidly changing U.S. demographics.  We cannot afford to wait.  Our national leaders must answer the Terwilliger Foundation’s call and shape federal housing policies that will ensure that American families will have access to safe, decent and affordable housing for generations to come. The health of our nation depends on it.”

David H. Stevens, President & CEO, Mortgage Bankers Association

“Safe, affordable housing is a basic human right and for too many Americans is an issue of daily concern.  The pendulum of public policy has swung back and forth in recent years, at times too far in favor of homeownership, and at others pushing people into rental in ways that have driven up prices and taxed the supply of affordable workhouse housing.  Finding the right balance is critical to the future of this nation – its people and its economy – and the Terwilliger Foundation has brought together the right people to offer reasonable, workable recommendations to the policymakers who will ultimately shape the future of housing in this country.”

John von Seggern, President and CEO, Council of FHLBanks

“Ron Terwilliger’s distinguished record of achievement reflects his vision for sustaining America’s democracy through affordable and decent housing for all our nation’s citizens.”

Julia Stasch, President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

“The nation’s affordable rental housing crisis has been mounting for decades, made worse by the Great Recession and a lagging recovery. It is time for our leaders in Washington and in cities and towns across the country to make housing a priority. Evidence shows that housing matters in very important ways for children’s educational achievement, the health and well being of children and older adults, and for economic mobility. I welcome Ron Terwilliger’s leadership in bringing voice to this “Silent Crisis” and to the positive benefits that ensuring a decent, stable affordable home can have for individuals, communities and the nation as a whole.”

Laurie Goodman, Center Director, Housing Finance Policy Center, Urban Institute

“The Silent Housing Crisis is a compelling and timely white paper that pulls together the most current and salient research on the state of the US housing market.  Highlighting the expected surge in rental demand, the paper is a call to action for policymakers to address the acute and growing need for affordable rental housing. Kudos to Ron Terwilliger and the Terwilliger Foundation for bringing this issue to the forefront.”

The Honorable Frank Keating, President and CEO, The American Bankers Association and former Governor of Oklahoma

“Longevity. Diversity. Delayed household formation. Rising rental rates. Regulatory and income barriers to home ownership. This perfect storm necessitates debate so that housing in America remains a source of delight and not an anchor of distress. The J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s families has focused on an issue that is both essential and urgent for resolution. People need affordable housing. Millions of families are trapped between unaffordable rentals and unattainable ownership. It is a ‘silent crisis’ with a short fuse and enormous explosive consequences. Something must be done. Terwilliger has rung the alarm. His vision and leadership will summon the fire department.”


Party platforms, polls, and presidential politics

By Pam Patenaude | July 26, 2016

The platforms of the two major political parties are a good barometer of the prevailing sentiments of the base of activists in each party. Public opinion polls, on the other hand, provide a broader measure of public attitudes, especially in regard to the nation’s attitudes to housing.

The 2016 platforms and recent public-opinion surveys demonstrate that housing affordability, particularly the rising cost of rental homes, has moved to the forefront of national concerns. For far too many, housing has become a source of stress rather than one of stability. The challenge now is to channel these anxieties into concrete policy responses that can help improve the lives of millions of Americans.

Let’s start with the party platforms.

It is very significant that the 2016 Republican platform explicitly recognizes the pernicious impact of high rental-cost burdens. It states: “More than six million households had to move from homeownership to renting [as a result of the Great Recession]. Rental costs escalated so that today nearly 12 million families spend more than 50% of their incomes just on rent.”

The platform then directly links the declining national homeownership rate with rising rents: “The national homeownership rate has sharply fallen and the rate for minority households and young adults has plummeted. So many remain unemployed or underemployed, and for the lucky ones with jobs, rising rents make it harder to save for a mortgage.”

In response to these developments, the platform proposes a review of regulatory policies that may contribute to higher-than-necessary housing costs: “We call for a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.”

The 2016 Democratic platform also highlights the real-life consequences of rising housing costs: “Democrats will…combat the affordable housing crisis and skyrocketing rents in many parts of the country that are leading too many families and workers to be pushed out of communities where they work.”

The platform then calls for the implementation of a comprehensive suite of supply-side and demand-side solutions: “We will increase the supply of affordable rental housing by expanding incentives and easing local barriers to building new affordable rental housing developments in areas of economic opportunity. We will substantially increase funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate millions of affordable housing rental units….We will reinvigorate housing production programs, repair public housing, and increase funding for the housing choice voucher program and other rental assistance programs.”

There is plenty of common ground here: Both platforms recognize the unsustainable nature of today’s rental-cost burdens. They acknowledge some of the externalities of rising rents – a lower homeownership rate because it’s more difficult to save for a mortgage down payment and the dislocation of families who are forced by high rents to move to lower-opportunity communities. They also hint at solutions that can draw bipartisan support.  Both platforms, for example, recognize how regulatory policies can act as barriers to new affordable housing production.

Add to this mix a new national poll by Ipsos Public Affairs conducted on behalf of theMake Room campaign. According to the poll, 59% of those surveyed say that housing affordability is a key issue for them, while 47% indicate they had personally struggled to pay their rent or mortgage in the last 12 months, or knew someone who has been in this situation.

In addition, the poll found that 76% of Americans who are likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election are more likely to support candidates who make housing affordability a focus of their campaigns and a priority in government. Most Democrats felt this way as well as significant percentages of Republicans (55%) and Independents (78%).

These results echo the findings of other polls that have attempted to assess the role that affordable housing might play in this year’s presidential election.

Although we are still more than 100 days out from Election Day, a lifetime in politics, all indications are that we are in the midst of a hotly-contested presidential race.  As political prognosticator Nate Silver put it, “it’s a close election right now.”  Needless to say, it would behoove each candidate to elevate affordable housing, a subject about which we have heard too little, as we head into the final stretch of the campaign.

Whatever the outcome in November, it will be time to transition from polls, party platforms, and presidential politics to the hard work of policymaking. Fortunately, as evidenced in the platforms and polls, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that housing affordability deserves a place at the top of our nation’s agenda.

The Millennial Student Debt Trap

By Shaun Kern | March 17, 2016

Millennials are a tough group to define. Quite literally, researchers disagree widely on who is even counted in the Millennial generation. Does this generation start in the late 1970’s or the early 1980’s? Does it conclude in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004? Depends upon who you ask. However measured, some things are certain: Millennials are the largest generation in American history, and their needs will change banking.

Surveys show that Millennials visit bank branches less, value online banking more, and carry higher levels of debt than prior generations. Millennials carry more debt in large part because they have seen education costs rise sharply and have turned to student loans to cover these costs. Research by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies confirms this, showing that for households aged 20-39, the incidence of student loan debt was 16% in 1989, but had climbed to 39% in 2013. Measured in constant dollars, there has been a drastic increase in student loan debt of $50,000 or more, quadrupling from 4% in 1989 to 17% in 2013.[1] With student loan debt having swelled to over $1.2 trillion in the United States, it has become the largest form of consumer debt held by American households.

Last October, student loan debt was a discussion at a New Hampshire event hosted by the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families. The connection between housing and student loan debt was straightforward: Millennials struggling with student loan debt are less able to afford a home. Student loan debt makes it more difficult to save for a down payment, but also weighs unfavorably in “debt-to-income” (DTI) calculations, making it harder to qualify for a mortgage in the first place. Rising rents in many American cities have also taken a larger share of Millennial income, which further complicates the path to future home ownership.

For Millennials seeking advanced degrees and opportunities in larger cities, these challenges are magnified. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Washington, DC. From 2006-2009, census data shows that Millennials were leaving the nation’s capital. However, immediately following the crisis, the DC metro area saw a migration of Millennials larger than anywhere in the country. This has made DC and its surrounding Virginia suburbs the most Millennial concentrated metro area in the United States. However, Millennials in larger cities like Washington face obvious challenges to homeownership and wealth building. To start, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Washington is a staggering $2,000 per month. When this rent burden is combined with student loan obligations, the results are alarming.

Student loan obligations for Millennials vary widely by the degree they earn, but a particularly vivid picture is painted with data on recent law school graduates. The American Bar Association estimated in 2012 that average student loan debt for law graduates of public and private law schools stood at $84,600 and $122,158, respectively. The student loan market is dominated by the federal government, which currently charges slightly above 6% for graduate student loans. After fees, the standard 10 year repayment schedule with a 6% rate and principal balance of $84,600 leads to payments of approximately $963 per month. If you change the principal balance to $122,158, the average debt for a recent private law school graduate, this leads to payments of approximately $1,390 per month.

Taken together, typical Millennial lawyers in DC are paying nearly $2,000 per month in rent and roughly $1,000 or $1,400 per month in student loans. Great salaries like $100,000 per year turn out to be about $5,000 per month after necessary withholdings and taxes. Even with such a high a salary, 60%-68% of this six figure earning Millennial’s after tax income would be dedicated to rent and student loans. This would leave $1,600-$2,000 per month to cover all of life’s expenses and save toward the future. If this Millennial saves $500 a month, a sizeable fraction of their remaining income, they’ll save $6,000 per year. However, the median sales price for a home in the DC metro area is currently $415,000. Saving $500 a month, it will take almost 14 years for this Millennial to save enough for a 20% down payment on a home that is priced at the median. While both home prices and this Millennial’s income are likely to change over the years, this rough timetable speaks volumes about why Millennials are not buying homes as early as their parents.

This illustration may bring you as close as you ever come to feeling bad for a young, high paid lawyer in Washington, DC. Still, it’s hard to garner too much sympathy for a Millennial whose income places them near the top fifth of household income in America.

However, perhaps thinking about whether such a Millennial deserves sympathy or not is beside the point. This might instead be viewed as a detailed illustration showing that even high earning Millennials with the potential to be good bank customers currently face financial hurdles that will take them years to overcome. Also, if this is the story of success for Millennials, then the untold tale of struggling Millennials must be truly disquieting.

It’s not just Washington, it’s not just mortgages, and it’s not just lawyers, either. In slightly different variations, this type of financial landscape exists across America and impacts a range of Millennials that find themselves struggling to save for emergencies, get married, form a family, or start a new business. These student loans impact Millennial college graduates significantly, but the impact of these loans are even more profound for Millennials that pursue advanced degrees in medicine, business, or other fields.

This is not to say that eventually these Millennials won’t be looking to borrow from banks, but the student loan challenge suggests that this could take time. At the Terwilliger Foundation panel in New Hampshire, one Millennial shared that their graduate school student loan balance was almost identical to the mortgage on the home they grew up in. As to whether this Millennial would be buying a home anytime soon, the message was clear: When you take out student loans, you mortgage your future once. Who can afford to do that twice?

I happen to know the story well, because that Millennial was me.

Shaun Kern is a Millennial that has resided in Washington, DC since receiving his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He is a regulatory policy attorney with the American Bankers Association. Views expressed are his own.

A version of this article will appear in a forthcoming issue of the ABA Banking Journal.

[1] Irene Lew, Student Loan Debt and the Housing Decisions of Young Households. Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. Research Brief, November 2015. Available at:

Housing: The Silent Crisis?


June 18th marked the official launch of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families. As a member of their National Advisory Committee, I was in attendance for the event, and had the opportunity to share some thoughts on the “Silent Housing Crisis.” The subject is of particular interest as I prepare to launch The Terner Center for Housing Innovation, which shares many of the goals of JRT Housing. Both JRT Housing and Terner have formed in recognition of the urgency and complexity of today’s housing landscape, in which housing affordability is increasingly elusive, and new tools, approaches and solutions are sorely needed.

The housing crisis, though increasingly audible as a subject of policy debates and media attention, is often considered silent because many of its effects are either indirect or long-term. For a family facing housing insecurity and instability, this experience has the potential to impede their socioeconomic mobility; accumulation of intergenerational wealth; the healthy development of their children; the physical and emotional well-being of their households and communities and; the environmental health of their neighborhood, city, and region. The breadth and depth of indirect and long-term impacts of a housing market in crisis is vast.

But before looking more carefully at these silent, or “hidden” effects, lets be clear about the more direct and immediate impacts. For the forty one million families that are “burdened” or “severely burdened” by their housing expenses today (paying 30% or 50% or more of their income, respectively), there are often insufficient funds leftover to cover other basic necessities. Families trying to make a mortgage or rent payment must often forego reliable transportation, secure and safe childcare, healthy food, consistent heat, or some combination of these. Foregoing these necessities can, in turn, make accessing and maintaining good employment challenging, further exacerbating the pressures of high rents or mortgage payments. For these families, the consequences of a housing market that lacks decent affordable options are near-term, pressing and profound.

But I am not the first to tell these stories. By now, the significance of housing affordability issues in the daily lives of American families is relatively well understood. What is less known, or at least less discussed, is what these consequences are long-term. For families, housing insecurity can take a deep psychological, emotional, and physiological toll. Data shows that healthy childhood development is interrupted by housing instability, and for adults, the emotional and psychological toll of chronic fears and shame surrounding potential eviction, foreclosure, or loss of housing are extensive.

Furthermore, in the particular mutations of today’s housing crisis, the double burden of tight credit and limited abilities to grow down payment capital mean that far fewer families are becoming homeowners than in previous generations. Especially for families of color, this compounds generations of exclusion from access to one of the few pathways to the American dream. But even for those families that fall into the traditional demographic of homeownership, the effects are being felt more widely, among more people, than ever before; the reach of the housing crisis is growing rapidly. The consequences here too, are large and long term: inequality will continue to grow, and an increasingly small percentage of families will enjoy true economic security.

The implications of this trend are not limited to the forty one million (and growing) affected families, though that should be reason enough to take action. The silent housing crisis, if it is to continue on this trajectory of declining rates of homeownership and increasing rates of severe rent burden, will have lasting impacts on the nation’s economic health. Fewer homeowners and more low-income families trapped in a cycle of poverty precipitated by housing instability means a dramatically diminished middle class- a fundamental component of a functional and thriving economy.

As the nation continues to chart a path out of the great recession, and towards recovery, it cannot afford to overlook the implications of an unhealthy housing market. The crisis may appear quiet now, but with large numbers of Americans anticipating the worst is yet to come (Macarthur/Pew Survey), it won’t be silent for long.

Let’s get the conversation started: 2016 presidential candidates must address America’s silent housing crisis


This month marks the sixth anniversary of the official end of the Great Recession, yet our nation’s housing system remains mired in a state of crisis. Rising rents and diminished access to homeownership are squeezing millions of families. Many now find themselves facing an unaffordable rental market and a homeownership market for which they do not qualify.

The troubling housing situation in our country deserves far more attention than it receives today.  It is largely overlooked by the media and strangely underestimated by our nation’s political leaders.  It is very much a “silent” crisis.

The upcoming presidential primaries offer a wonderful opportunity to draw attention to housing and start a national conversation about the best steps forward. To this end, we urge each of the candidates – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – to make housing central to their campaigns and speak to the twin issues of rental affordability and homeownership access.

We believe those candidates who credibly address housing on the campaign trail will benefit at the ballot box. After all, there are few issues as fundamentally important to the average voter and that hit closer to home.

We urge each of the candidates – Republicans, Democrats, and independents – to make housing central to their campaigns and speak to the twin issues of rental affordability and home ownership access.

Here are some facts for the presidential candidates to consider:

· The national homeownership rate now stands at a 22-year low. The homeownership rates for younger households, who traditionally account for most first-time homebuyers, have dropped to levels never recorded before. The rates for minority families have also plummeted, wiping out virtually all of the gains achieved over the past two decades.

· Since 2008, millions of families have transitioned from owning a home to renting.  Many of these new renters lost their homes to foreclosure when the housing market collapsed. Today’s tighter mortgage credit standards have combined with years of income stagnation to put homeownership out of reach for large segments of the U.S. population.

· With rental demand growing and rents rising as a result, millions of families are now paying unsustainable portions of their incomes on housing. According to the nonpartisan Center for Housing Policy, in 2013, one in four “working renter” households devoted more than half of their monthly incomes to housing. These cost burdens can force families to forego medical care, nutritious food, and other essentials just to pay the rent. They also make it virtually impossible to save for a mortgage down payment, even on a modest home.

· America’s changing demographics will pose additional challenges. New household formation by millions of young Millennials, combined with the increasing diversity of the population, will fuel the demand for rental housing through the remainder of this decade, pushing rents even higher. In fact, the Urban Institute projects that 62 percent of new housing demand will be rental this decade, a reversal of the past two decades when most demand was felt in the ownership market.

· The supply of affordable rental homes is woefully inadequate to meet the wave of new demand that is poised to hit the market.  HUD recently estimated there are only 39 affordable and available rental units for every 100 “extremely low-income” households, and only 65 such units for every 100 families with “very low” incomes. Other estimates point to even more severe shortages of affordable rental homes for our nation’s most vulnerable families.

· The problem of housing affordability, however, affects a large swath of the U.S. population and not just the poor.  “Where is my child going to live?” is a question being asked more and more frequently in middle-class homes as parents wonder how their college-age sons and daughters, many saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, will cope with rising rents and limited homeownership prospects.

While these issues are deeply personal, they also have profound national implications. Broad access to stable, safe, and affordable housing is a crucial part of the formula for upward mobility and essential for America’s future prosperity. Ensuring such access must be an urgent national priority.

As members of different political parties, we believe there is plenty of common ground that can serve as the basis for a bipartisan policy response. But developing this response requires us to start talking first. We hope to see this conversation begin soon in communities throughout Iowa, New Hampshire, and the early primary states.

Scott Brown and Henry Cisneros both serve on the executive committee of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families.

Housing Must be a Central Issue in the Presidential Campaign


As the 2016 presidential campaign shifts into high gear, the candidates of both political parties must start speaking to the severe and growing problems in housing.

For far too long, these problems have been largely ignored by the mainstream media and neglected by Washington. A housing focus has also been noticeably absent from our nation’s political discourse.

Three years ago, the issue of housing was barely mentioned during the Republican presidential primary, even though America was still reeling from a recession that had its very origins in housing. During the general election campaign that followed, housing was mostly an afterthought.

The silence about the continuing crisis in housing cannot obscure the profound and adverse impact it is having on millions of families across America. In its current form, the crisis has two key dimensions: affordability and access.

According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, in 2012, nearly 20 million U.S. households paid in excess of 50 percent of their incomes on housing costs. More than one-third of households, almost 41 million in total, paid over 30 percent.

Housing affordability is a particularly severe challenge for those families who rent. In 2012, more than 11 million renter households, constituting 27 percent of all renters, paid in excess of half their incomes just for housing.

Lack of household wealth, anemic income growth over the past decade, and soaring new demand that has put upward pressure on rents have all combined to make renting a home a much less affordable proposition than in years past.

Another critical factor is the acute shortage of affordable rental homes for those families at the low end of the income spectrum – just 39 affordable rental homes are available for every 100 “extremely low-income” households, according to HUD’s latest “worst case housing needs” report.

While millions of families are being priced out of the rental market, today’s homeownership market suffers from an access problem. For far too many Americans, the dream of owning a home is nothing more than a distant aspiration.

Tougher mortgage underwriting standards and higher down payment requirements have had the effect of excluding large segments of the U.S. population from the opportunity of homeownership. Record-high levels of student loan debt are also likely to have a negative impact on the homeownership prospects of millions of Millennials.

No wonder, then, that the national homeownership rate now stands at a 22-year low – 63.7 percent. The rate for African-American households has plunged to 41.9 percent, while that of Hispanics now stands at 44.1 percent, a six percentage point drop from its high of 50.1 percent in 2007. In addition, the share of home purchases by first-time buyers has fallen to its lowest level in 27 years.

Absent a comprehensive public-policy response, these problems of affordability and access will only grow in scope and severity as a result of America’s ongoing demographic transformation over the next decade.

Members of the Millennial generation are now beginning to form households for the first time. In the near term, most of these young adults will find that renting will be their only housing option since they lack the resources for a mortgage down payment.

America is also becoming increasingly diverse, with minorities – particularly Hispanics – expected to constitute a much larger share of the overall population. Lacking significant wealth and income, many minority families will simply not qualify for homeownership. Again, renting will be the only housing option available to them.

With all this new rental demand surging into the market, we can expect rents to soar even higher than they are today. This dynamic, in turn, will be a source of stress and instability for millions of families, diminishing their prospects for social and economic mobility. The ultimate result will be slower economic growth and an America that is less prosperous.

With so much at stake, those seeking the highest office in the land must make housing a central issue in their campaigns and offer some clear-cut solutions. After all, there are few subjects that can “hit home” with the voters like this one.

The Silent U.S. Housing Crisis


With the outlook for the U.S. economy continuing to improve, it is easy to believe we have finally put the Great Recession behind us. But, unfortunately, the deep fissures in our nation’s housing sector remain unhealed.

While reckless lending practices and over-exuberance in the homeownership market helped lay the foundation for the recession, today it is soaring rental demand, an acute shortage of affordable rental homes, and excessively restrictive mortgage underwriting standards that are making housing a growing source of distress and instability. Regrettably, millions of Americans now find themselves stuck between a rental market they can no longer afford and a homeownership market for which they do not qualify.

The scope and impact of this “silent” crisis in housing is too often overlooked and underappreciated by the media and our nation’s leaders.

Today, millions of American families live in homes that consume ever-larger chunks of their household budgets. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, nearly 20 million families spend over half their incomes just on housing. More than one-third of all households, almost 41 million in total, pay in excess of 30 percent to cover housing costs.

The housing cost burdens borne by renters are particularly severe. More than 11 million renter households, constituting 27 percent of all renters, now pay over 50 percent of their incomes for housing. In addition, 20.6 million renters, or half of the total renter population, pay in excess of 30 percent. These burdens are national in scope, affecting families in rural, suburban and inner-city areas. The combination of rising rents and stagnant incomes has made rental housing increasingly unaffordable for millions of families.

Those renters with the lowest incomes face another obstacle: the severe shortage of affordable and available rental homes. According to one estimate, there are only 29 such homes for every 100 “extremely low-income” renter households.

At the same time, large segments of the U.S. population remain excluded from the mortgage market altogether. Higher credit-score and down payment requirements have put homeownership out of reach for many who are nonetheless prepared to assume the burdens and risks of owning a home.

The national homeownership rate now stands at 63.9 percent, its lowest level in 20 years. The homeownership rates for Hispanic and African-American families have fallen precipitously from their pre-recession highs. Perhaps most significantly, the share of total home purchases by first-time homebuyers has hit a 27-year low, with student loan debt and higher rents among the factors making it more difficult for young adults to save for a mortgage down payment.

The double whammy of soaring rental costs and an exclusionary mortgage market will not simply vanish over time. In fact, absent remedial action, these problems are likely to worsen for a simple reason: demographics.

New household formation by millions of Millennials, many of whom stayed on the housing sidelines during the Great Recession, will contribute to already-strong rental demand. For the foreseeable future, many of these young adults will lack the resources to make homeownership a reality, particularly under today’s tight mortgage credit standards.

Adding to these pressures is the fact that America is becoming increasingly diverse, with minorities expected to account for some 77 percent of new household growth this decade. Renting will be the only housing option for many of these minority families, who typically have lower incomes and wealth than their white counterparts.

Consistent with these trends, the Urban Institute estimates that 62 percent of new housing demand will be rental during this decade, reversing the experience of past decades where most housing demand was felt in the ownership market.

While the situation is dire, solutions are possible.

The first step is to ask whether we have our priorities right. Through tax expenditures and appropriations, the federal government spends about $200 billion annually to support housing. More than 70 percent of this support is devoted to homeownership. In turn, about 75 percent of these homeownership subsidies benefit households with annual incomes in excess of $100,000, even though these households constitute fewer than 20 percent of all tax filers.

Are we striking the right balance in federal policy? What problems are we seeking to solve? In light of today’s market realities and America’s changing demographics, are there more effective ways to spend the limited pool of federal housing dollars?

Answering these questions forthrightly will illuminate the best way forward. But first we must end the silence and start asking the questions so that progress can occur.

Ron Terwilliger is Chairman and founder of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families and chairman emeritus of Trammell Crow Residential Company.
Read more here:

Press Releases

Statement of Pamela H. Patenaude on President-elect Trump’s Decision to Nominate Dr. Ben Carson to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

December 6, 2016

“Dr. Ben Carson possesses the intellect, passion, and empathy to be a great leader of HUD, one of the most important Cabinet positions. I commend President-elect Trump for his foresight in naming this inspiring American – someone who has risen from a childhood of poverty to the pinnacle of his profession – as his choice to lead the department. With high rent burdens crushing the aspirations of millions of Americans and the homeownership rate on a steady decline, it is time to put housing  front-and-center on the national agenda. I am confident that Dr. Carson, as Secretary of HUD, will be a powerful voice for the role of stable, affordable housing in promoting opportunity for all Americans.”

Media Contact: Dennis Shea, (571) 286-6819,



Washington, DC (June 22, 2016) – Ron Terwilliger, the Chairman of The J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families; Scott Brown, former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts; and Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, issued the following statements in response to The State of the Nation’s Housing 2016 report, released today by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies:

Ron Terwilliger: “The latest State of the Nation’s Housing report demonstrates that America’s rental affordability crisis continues to worsen. It is time to undertake a major revamp of national housing policy in response. Inaction is not an option.

“We learn today that the number of ‘cost-burdened’ renter households reached a record high in 2014  21.3 million. What’s worse, 11.4 million suffered ‘severe’ burdens, paying more than 50 percent of their income just on housing. These burdens hit the lowest-income families the hardest, but growing numbers of moderate-income renter households are also suffering. Over the next decade, new household formation by tens of millions of Millennials, along with the increasing diversity and aging of the U.S. population, will intensify the demand for rental housing and make these affordability challenges even more acute. The Joint Center has performed a public service by putting all these facts on the table.”

Scott Brown: “Today’s Joint Center report is a reminder that the nation’s housing system is unfortunately falling short. While the report highlights some positive developments in the housing market, record-level rent burdens and a national homeownership rate that is approaching a 50-year low are simply unacceptable. Demographic trends currently underway will exacerbate these problems. We need to get ahead of the curve and restore housing as a source of stability and opportunity for America’s families.”

Henry Cisneros: “While it’s great news that foreclosures are down and single-family home prices are up, the nation’s housing system continues to rest on a very shaky foundation, as this report demonstrates. Rising rent burdens, a severe shortage of affordable rental homes, significantly underfunded federal housing assistance programs, a plummeting homeownership rate, unequal access to affordable mortgage credit, and a further concentration of low-income families into pockets of poverty are some of the major problems we must confront. This report is an important reminder that expanding access to stable, affordable housing is critical to promoting equality of opportunity and safeguarding America’s future prosperity.”

Meghan Patenaude
(202) 470-3389


What: BBQ and Concert with award-winning country artists Big & Rich to benefit Make Room, with a special performance by Ayla Brown.

When: Tuesday, July 19, 2016, 12 noon to 4 pm

Where: Tusker’s Roadhouse, 1148 Main Avenue, Cleveland

Why: To draw greater attention to the rental housing affordability crisis and make it part of the campaign conversation. Rents are rising. Wages are stagnating. Affordable rental homes are in short supply. As a result, millions of families are forced to choose between paying their rent or paying for childcare, groceries and medicine. America suffers when families don’t have a stable place to live and can’t give their children a real opportunity to succeed. Our nation’s leaders must speak up about the affordability crisis in rental housing and propose solutions.

Host Committee: Terwilliger Foundation Executive Committee members Scott Brown (former U.S. Senator, MA); Frank Keating (former Governor, OK); and Rick Lazio (former U.S. Representative, NY)

Co-Sponsors: Mortgage Bankers Association; Bellwether Enterprise; Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing; National Multifamily Housing Council; PNC; Habitat for Humanity

For more information about Make Room, please visit

By invitation only.

Contact Meghan Patenaude at or 202.470.3389

Established in 2014, the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families seeks to recalibrate federal housing policy so that it more effectively addresses our nation’s critical housing challenges and meets the housing needs of future generations. The Foundation will offer a set of practical suggestions for tax, spending, and mortgage finance reform that is responsive to the ongoing crisis in housing and the profound demographic changes now transforming America. The Foundation is a public charity organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and contributions to it are deductible by the contributor to the extent allowed by law. Follow us on Twitter @JRTHousing.


Washington, DC (June 8, 2016) – Ron Terwilliger, the Chairman of The J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families, and former New York Congressman Rick Lazio, a member of the Foundation’s Executive Committee, issued the following statements commending the House Republican plan on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility:

Ron Terwilliger: “I commend Speaker Paul Ryan and the House Republican leadership for drawing much-needed attention to the vexing problem of poverty in America. It is simply unacceptable that so many of our fellow citizens feel trapped in lives of hopelessness with no apparent way out. Speaker Ryan and his colleagues have put forward a thoughtful and comprehensive plan to fire up the engines of opportunity. The Foundation intends to be an active participant in the national conversation the Speaker has initiated and looks forward to working with him and members of both parties to ensure that broadening access to safe, stable, and affordable housing is a key element of a national anti-poverty strategy.”

Rick Lazio: “Speaker Ryan has once again proven he is a man of principle and vision with a deep commitment to ensuring that the promise of America is open to all. I am pleased that the GOP anti-poverty plan recognizes the central importance of affordable housing to upward economic mobility while acknowledging that connecting affordable housing to job opportunities and good schools is essential. It’s my hope the plan will open the door to a broader national discussion about how expanding access to stable and affordable housing can act as a springboard for opportunity.”

Meghan Patenaude
(202) 470-3389


VIENNA, VA, February 15, 2016 – I applaud Secretary Hillary Clinton for putting forth a comprehensive plan to revitalize our nation’s distressed communities and help the millions of American families struggling with skyrocketing rents and diminished access to first-time homeownership.

The Secretary’s proposals to increase investment in the Low-income Housing Tax Credit and encourage communities to embrace land use policies that foster the production of more affordable rental homes are essential to solving the rental affordability crisis. Her ideas to promote sustainable homeownership by adopting new credit-testing tools, increasing support for housing counseling, establishing greater regulatory certainty for mortgage lenders, and providing down payment assistance for lower-income first-time home buyers, are serious and thoughtful.

By releasing the plan, Secretary Clinton has distinguished herself as a candidate who understands the critical connection between stable, affordable housing and opportunity for America’s families.
Now it’s time for the other presidential candidates to articulate their own visions for housing. As they do, we look forward to sharing their positions in the same manner we are doing today.

Last October, the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families convened an unprecedented National Housing Summit in Manchester, New Hampshire, to help elevate housing during the presidential campaign. We continue to engage and educate the candidates of both parties about the record number of families who bear unsustainable rent burdens and the forces that are limiting the ability of low- and moderate-income families to access sustainable homeownership.

The Foundation believes a robust examination of these issues during the presidential campaign will help generate the best solutions and lay the groundwork for legislative action following the November elections.

More information about the Foundation is available at Follow us on Twitter @JRTHousing

Established in 2014, the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families seeks to recalibrate federal housing policy so that it more effectively addresses our nation’s critical housing challenges and meets the housing needs of future generations. The Foundation will offer a set of practical suggestions for tax, spending, and mortgage finance reform that is responsive to the ongoing crisis in housing and the profound demographic changes now transforming America. The Foundation is a public charity organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and contributions to it are deductible by the contributor to the extent allowed by law.

NMHC President Doug Bibby Joins the Advisory Board of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families

CONTACT: Meghan Patenaude
202.470.3389 or 703.967.3616

VIENNA, VA, January 7, 2016 – The J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families announced today that Doug Bibby, the President of the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), has joined its Advisory Board.

“Over the next decade, the demand for rental homes will grow even more intense as a result of powerful demographic and household formation trends now underway in our country. Meeting this demand by ensuring that Americans of all backgrounds have access to a range of housing options is both a moral and economic imperative. As a leading national expert on rental housing, Doug will be an invaluable resource as the Foundation develops a comprehensive plan to respond to the ongoing crisis in housing. I am pleased and honored he has joined the Foundation team,” said Ron Terwilliger, the Foundation’s Chairman and Founder.

Bibby has led the NMHC, a national organization of more than 1,100 member firms involved in the multifamily housing industry, for nearly 15 years. Prior to joining NMHC, he spent 16 years as a senior officer of Fannie Mae, where he served on the company’s Management Committee throughout his tenure. Bibby began his career with the worldwide communications firm, J. Walter Thompson, where he was the youngest senior vice president in the company’s history. He is active in numerous charitable organizations in the Washington, D.C area.

More information about the Foundation is available at Follow us on Twitter @JRTHousing

Established in 2014, the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families seeks to recalibrate federal housing policy so that it more effectively addresses our nation’s critical housing challenges and meets the housing needs of future generations. The Foundation will offer a set of practical suggestions for tax, spending, and mortgage finance reform that is responsive to the ongoing crisis in housing and the profound demographic changes now transforming America. The Foundation is a public charity organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and contributions to it are deductible by the contributor to the extent allowed by law.

Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating Joins the Executive Committee of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families

CONTACT: Meghan Patenaude
202.470.3389 or 703.967.3616

Tysons Corner, VA, January 6, 2016 – The J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families announced today that Frank Keating, the former Governor of Oklahoma who retired as President and CEO of the American Bankers Association on December 31, 2015, has joined its Executive Committee.

Current members of the Foundation’s Executive Committee are Scott Brown, the former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts; former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros; former U.S. Representative from New York Rick Lazio; and Nic Retsinas, who led the Federal Housing Administration during the Clinton Administration.

“I am thrilled and honored that Frank has joined the Foundation team. Frank has a deep appreciation of the housing needs and daily struggles of America’s working families. His extensive background in public policy will prove invaluable as the Foundation develops a comprehensive plan to respond to the ongoing crisis in housing,” said Ron Terwilliger, the Foundation’s Chairman and Founder. Added Henry Cisneros: “Governor Keating is a national expert on mortgage finance. He understands that today’s renters are tomorrow’s homeowners. I look forward to working with Governor Keating to improve access to sustainable homeownership, a key objective of the Foundation.“

Keating hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. His 30-year career in public service included stints as an FBI agent, U.S. Attorney and state prosecutor, and member of the Oklahoma state House and Senate. Keating also held prominent positions in the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development during the administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Prior to joining the ABA, he served as President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers.

More information about the Foundation is available at Follow us on Twitter @JRTHousing

Established in 2014, the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families seeks to recalibrate federal housing policy so that it more effectively addresses our nation’s critical housing challenges and meets the housing needs of future generations. The Foundation will offer a set of practical suggestions for tax, spending, and mortgage finance reform that is responsive to the ongoing crisis in housing and the profound demographic changes now transforming America. The Foundation is a public charity organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and contributions to it are deductible by the contributor to the extent allowed by law.


CONTACT: Meghan Patenaude
202.470.3389 or 703.967.3616

Lack of affordable rental housing and diminished homeownership access hurt millions of families, hinder economic growth

WASHINGTON, DC, June 18, 2015 – Today marks the launch of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting more effective national housing policy. Six years after the Great Recession, America remains in a “silent” housing crisis of rising rents and diminished access to homeownership that is destabilizing millions of families. The Foundation will be a catalyst in pushing housing to the top of our nation’s domestic policy agenda, and as a first step, will seek to inject housing as a central issue in the upcoming Presidential primaries.

With its launch, the Foundation is releasing the first in a series of white papers,

The Silent Housing Crisis: A Snapshot of Current and Future Conditions.

“Millions of families are confronted by a rental market they can no longer afford and a homeownership market for which they do not qualify. Absent a comprehensive and sustained policy response, these problems of affordability and access will continue to worsen due to powerful demographic changes,” said J. Ronald Terwilliger, the Foundation’s Chairman and Founder. “For far too long, the desperate situation in housing has been largely ignored by our nation’s leaders and the media, and it’s time to break the silence.”

Joining Terwilliger on the Foundation’s Executive Committee are Scott Brown, the former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts; Henry Cisneros, chairman of the CityView companies and former HUD Secretary; Rick Lazio, partner at Jones Walker LLP and former U.S. Representative from New York; and Nic Retsinas, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and former commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration. The Foundation’s President is Pamela H. Patenaude, who most recently served as director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission.

The Foundation’s bipartisan Advisory Board includes Carin Barth, president of LB Capital, Inc.; Ed Brady, first vice chairman of the NAHB; Raphael Bostic, professor at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California; Alfred A. Dellibovi, former president of the New York Federal Home Loan Bank; Carol Galante, professor at the University of California, Berkeley; Renee Lewis Glover, chair of Habitat for Humanity International; Bart Harvey, chairman of the Calvert Foundation; Jeb Mason, partner at The Cypress Group; Rick Rosan, former president of the Urban Land Institute; and David H. Stevens, chief executive officer and president of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“As a business leader, philanthropist, and innovative policy thinker, Ron Terwilliger has had a tremendously positive impact on housing in our country. It’s a great privilege for me to join him in this worthy effort,“ said Henry Cisneros. “The rising cost of rental housing, along with the diminishing homeownership prospects for millions of families, are matters of urgent national concern. I look forward to working with Ron and my colleagues in elevating these issues to the national stage and proposing solutions of our own.”

Scott Brown added:One of the short-term goals of the Foundation is to ensure that housing becomes a central issue in the upcoming presidential primaries. By encouraging the candidates of both parties to lay out their plans to improve the housing situation in our country, we will establish a solid platform for a comprehensive legislative response.”

More than one in four renter households spend in excess of 50 percent of their incomes just on housing. A major factor contributing to these unsustainable housing cost burdens is the acute shortage of affordable rental homes. “Housing costs are rising and median incomes have declined over the past ten years. A crisis is brewing and it’s not going to be corrected if our leaders aren’t talking about it and offering solutions,“ said Rick Lazio. “We are committed to a strong, specific and meaningful discussion that must begin with the tragic unavailability of affordable rental housing.”

The national homeownership rate stands at a 22-year low. The homeownership rates for younger households, who traditionally account for most first-time homebuyers, have dropped precipitously. The rates for minority families have also plummeted, wiping out nearly all the gains achieved over the past two decades. “For more than a hundred years, American families rented, saved, then bought their first home – a giant step into the middle class. Today a trifecta of barriers blocks that first step: unaffordable rents, tight credit, and low wages. I look forward to working with my Foundation colleagues to identify ways to topple these roadblocks,” said Nic Retsinas.

More information about the Foundation is available at

Follow us on Twitter @JRThousing


Established in 2014, the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families seeks to recalibrate federal housing policy so that it more effectively addresses our nation’s critical housing challenges and meets the housing needs of future generations. The Foundation will offer a set of practical suggestions for tax, spending, and mortgage finance reform that is responsive to the ongoing crisis in housing and the profound demographic changes now transforming America.






Which 2016 Presidential Candidate Has an Affordable Housing Solution?

Last October in New Hampshire, at a forum hosted by the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families, 2016 presidential candidates — Republicans and Democrats — were asked to give their views on housing issues facing the country in post-Great Recession America. More specifically, about the potential crisis that sees Americans spending too much of their earnings on housing, a canary-in-the coal-mine indicator that ripples across the entire economy in terms of consumer spending and government entitlement program funding and just about everything else.

Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie noted that there needs to be a “new direction” in federal housing policy, and “I’ve seen the effect that housing has had in my state, or that lack of housing has had in my state, and I think we need to fix it.” But when asked why housing is not a big issue in the campaign, Christie said it is “not the sexiest issue in the world” and that the topic of affordable housing “kind of depresses people.”

Christie may be right in one respect: The numbers are kind of depressing in the current and future housing trends. In a study released last month, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found some disturbing data. Between 2001 and 2014, rents nationally rose 7 percent while incomes fell by 9 percent. That means that those paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent rose from 14.8 million in 2001 to 21.3 million in 2014, and those paying more than half of their income rose from 7.5 million to 11.4 million.

Over the next 10 years, the Harvard researchers expect the numbers of “severely burdened rental households” to grow by 11 percent. More rent-burdened Americans means less spending on cars and furniture and entertainment. So while some consider the current trends of increased rentership and higher market prices as an issue only affecting the poor, the economic impact is far more reaching.

At this point in the campaign, however, it is difficult to find any specifics from the presidential candidates that look close to a solution. While Christie has advocated fixing the affordable housing crisis in New Jersey, critics in that state have pointed out that many public housing programs have been dismantled during his governorship. The other Republican candidates still in the race have been largely silent on the issue, and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been rather vague on whether they support a focus on renter subsidies or tax credits for real estate developers or some combination.

Democratic candidate and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has proposed doubling the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which helps developers finance projects that include affordable units. In his agenda for cities, O’Malley posits that greater investment in the program “will help build or preserve up to 80,000 additional, affordable rental homes each year, while supporting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs in communities across the country.”

The rental housing crisis is a direct result of the housing bubble burst over the last decade. And as America slowly recovers, developers are building luxe housing because that’s where the money is.

“The problem is, of course, this emphasis on higher-rental housing projects increases the cost of housing for everyone,” says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. “And it is not good for this country on many levels — the economy, spending on government programs, basic quality of life — to have such a large part of the population sending half of their income each month on rent.”

“And those affected most are the elderly, the disabled, and the younger workers who are the backbone of this country’s economy and future,” Herbert continues. “Our housing policy needs to be formulated in terms that it is part of a larger platform for people to get ahead, get education and job training and to be able to save some money. And politically, the message needs to be that this is not a handout, but an important hand up, the same type of help we have given to people in the past in getting better and affordable housing.”

Whether affordable housing will become a big issue in the 2016 presidential race is tough to say right now. According to a poll of New Hampshire voters last fall, 88 percent believe that housing affordability is a problem, with 34 percent considering it a “very serious” problem. About the same amount (82 percent of those polled) believe it has become much more challenging for younger people to become homeowners in New Hampshire because of issues like student loan debt and tougher mortgage standards.

And along those same lines, 75 percent of New Hampshire adults said candidates should focus on housing, with 35 percent indicating they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who put forth a specific plan to address housing affordability.

But the reality is that most news outlets seem to be disinterested in issues that go beyond Donald Trump’s heavy-handed security at his rallies, Ted Cruz’s mother’s birth certificate, and how comedian Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame) is now backing Bernie Sanders. In fact, the only time the issue of rental housing has made big headlines in this race is over the news Bill and Hillary Clinton spent $100,000 to rent a vacation home in the Hamptons on Long Island for two weeks last summer.

It isn’t terribly surprising that in this current environment, where the candidates and media seem to be enamored with whatever Trump has said or tweeted recently, an issue like housing prices — which affects every American in some way or fashion — hasn’t shown up on the campaign radar screen yet. When asked at the New Hampshire housing policy summit why the housing issue hadn’t come up in any of the debates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pretty much summed it up: “Because they don’t ask,” he said.

Apartment Costs Leap

We talk with WSJ’s Laura Kusisto on the increase in renting costs. It’s at the fastest pace since the 2007 recession.

Direct link to story: 

Housing Subsidies: A Play In One Act

Two actors perform this satirical play on government subsidized housing.

Direct link to story:

U.S. Apartment Rents Leap at Fastest Pace Since Crisis

Apartment rents increased faster last year than at any time since 2007, a boon for landlords but one that has stoked concerns about housing affordability for renters.

Average effective rents nationwide rose 4.6% in 2015, the biggest gain since before the recession, according to a report by real-estate researcher Reis Inc. The average apartment rent now stands at nearly $1,180, up from about $1,125 a year ago.

Another report from Axiometrics Inc., a Dallas-based apartment research company, showed that rents increased 4.7% in the fourth quarter compared with the same quarter a year earlier, the strongest year-end performance since 2005.

The fourth quarter “wrapped up an incredible year for the apartment market, probably the strongest we’ve ever seen,” said Jay Denton, senior vice president of analytics at Axiometrics.

Rents have marched steadily higher for six consecutive years, in part because of tough lending standards for home buyers and in part because of a shortage of apartments for middle-income renters. The homeownership rate in the third quarter stood at 63.7%, near a 30-year low.

Unlike home prices, which crashed during the recession and have taken years to recover, rents scarcely dipped during the downturn. Since then annual increases have accelerated from 2.3% in 2010 to about 4% in each of the last two years. Over the last 15 years, rents have increased by an average of 2.7% annually, according to Reis.

In general, the higher rents go, the more difficult it will be for young people to save for down payments, making them likely to rent even longer. The percentage of first-time buyers among all home buyers is at its lowest level in three decades, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In some cases, meanwhile, professionals well into their 30s are choosing to rent rather than buy, preferring the financial flexibility and the proximity to restaurants and bars.

Alezandra Russell, a 34-year-old founder of a nonprofit, and her husband sold their five-bedroom house in suburban Maryland in 2014 in favor of an 800-square-foot apartment they rent in downtown Baltimore for about $2,500 a month.

Even though the rent has increased slightly every year, she said renting has given them much more financial freedom than when they had a mortgage that they were “stressed out about constantly.”

Analysts say the apartment market is showing some early signs of peaking. Vacancy rates rose slightly in the fourth quarter to 4.4% from 4.3% in the previous quarter.

The main factor: a flood of new supply, which is especially likely to weigh on rents in high-end buildings in downtown areas. In all, more than 188,000 apartment units were completed in 2015, the most since 1999, according to Reis.

Bob DeWitt, president and chief executive of GID, a Boston-based apartment owner and developer, is currently involved in developing 15 apartment projects across the country. But he said the increased competition is starting to limit how much more rent tenants are willing to pay.

“We certainly believe that over the next two or three years rent trends are going to slow and in some places they may actually back up,” he said.

Both reports showed that some of the hottest markets in the country are finally starting to cool, while smaller, less expensive ones are starting to heat up. That might reflect the fact that the affluent renters that dominate those markets are reaching the limit of how much they can afford and are moving to older buildings or neighborhoods farther from downtown.

Rents in the San Francisco area increased 7.6% year-over-year in the fourth quarter, compared with 11.8% in the third quarter, according to Axiometrics. Rents in San Jose increased 7.1%, compared with 9.9% in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, rents in Portland, Ore., traditionally a more affordable city, jumped by 12% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, Axiometrics said.

Kimberly Minasian Sparks, a rental broker in Portland, said a few years ago she could easily find clients a one-bedroom apartment in the $900-a-month range. Today, she is lucky to snag one for less than $1,500.

“It’s not sleepy little Portland anymore,” she said.

Much of the new demand in Portland has been driven by people fleeing cities such as Seattle and San Francisco, where rents have shot up beyond what many people can afford.

Diana Comstock, a 42-year-old painter, moved to Portland from Santa Barbara last summer. She said the local moms’ group she belongs to on Facebook is full of people decrying huge rent increases driven by people coming from out-of-state.

“I tend not to tell people I’m from California,” she said. “You can’t blame people for coming here when it’s a good bargain.”

Write to Laura Kusisto at

Henry Cisneros: Presidential candidates need to talk housing policy, now

September 9, 2015

The Week in Housing

June 15, 2015

Sign up to receive our newsletter