Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
City of Boulder
Activist Calls for Pandemic-Related Density Reduction: Gary Wockner, best known for his work with Save the Poudre filing lawsuits to stop the NISP reservoir projects, published an opinion piece in the Daily Camera recently asking the City of Boulder to limit density because it is bad for public health. Density, he explained, was “the primary cause of the transmission of COVID-19.”
Wockner suggested the City should pass a density reduction ordinance or failing that, put it to a public vote in November. He argued, “The very best science tells us that the coronavirus is not the only pandemic we will face but is merely the first of many as human populations soar across the planet encroaching into wild nature. In our new pandemic world, packing even more people into Boulder, and packing poorer people into dense housing where they are forced to use public transit, is a city planning crime.”
Note: Expect this anti-density argument to become more common around our region in the Pandemic and post-Pandemic era.
Safer at Home: The Safer at Home order went into effect on April 27. Specific guidance for real estate and field service professionals was posted shortly thereafter. Some counties extended their Stay at Home orders (Boulder, Denver, Jefferson, Arapahoe, etc.) until May 9 with stricter requirements.
Safer at Home still requires social distancing, the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) and disinfecting protocols and other practices. Showings are allowed with strict guidelines. However, brokers should also refer to their managing brokers for specific policies. https://covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home/safer-at-home-field-services-and-real-estate
$3 Billion Budget Shortfall? Like local governments, the State of Colorado is anticipating budget deficits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Colorado Sun, the General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee must consider “massive budget cuts.” The Governor’s Budget Office is projects $3 billion in lost revenue for the current fiscal year and into 2020.
Cuts will be across the board and affect all State agencies. Unfortunately, discretionary spending is limited so impacts could affect K-12, higher education, transportation and other key services.
Help for Small Businesses: The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade maintains a working list of alternative funding for small businesses affected by COVID-19. The list includes credit card deferral programs, small bank loans and local and regional disaster assistance programs. View the list here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18B-l5Rz8XE14Bn9LdQ1a8oDOpi6kKB1p0v2L_qQtVBE/edit#gid=987142964
NAR Supports HEROES Act: NAR President Vince Malta wrote to Congressional leaders recently expressing support for the proposed $3 trillion legislation known as the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act. The bill would expand forbearance provisions for renters and homeowners and continue funding for PPP and EIDL.
The HEROES Act passed the House on May 16 but is stalled in the Senate, where Republican leaders have voiced concern over the price tag. Observers say Senate President Mitchel McConnell will wait to observe the economic impact of previous stimulus bills like the CARES Act before taking further legislation action.
FHFA Delivering Certainty: On May 14 National Association of Realtors® President Vince Malta issued a statement of appreciation after the Federal Housing Finance Agency unveiled a new repayment option for homeowners struggling financially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the proposal, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer borrowers currently in forbearance the ability to replay missed principle and interest when their home is sold, refinanced or at maturity.
The FHFA’s new program creates “payment deferral option for borrowers.” Payment deferral takes the missed mortgage payments and puts them into a payment due at the sale or refinancing of the home, or at the end of the loan. The borrower’s monthly mortgage payment will not change. Mortgages that exercise the payment deferral option will remain in Enterprise Mortgage-Backed Securities, subject to the terms of the trust agreements. However, the borrower is responsible for taxes and insurance while in forbearance.
NAR Asks for COVID & Mortgage Finance Website: NAR joined a coalition of real estate and consumer groups to send a letter to the Treasury, HUD, and CFPB calling on them to create a single, central website for consumers to find information on how the CAREs Act affects their options as homeowners and renters. This site would collect information on forbearance, foreclosure and rental assistance into a single, intuitive website instead of the current diaspora of information across multiple regulators and agency websites.
Phase 3.5 Legislation Enacted, New Tranche of $310B Provided for PPP: On April 24, President Trump signed a $483B package which is generally referred to as the Phase 3.5 coronavirus package. The bill includes $310B in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), $60B in funding EIDL small business grant/loan programs, $75B for hospitals, and $25B for testing efforts. Notably, of the $310B PPP funding, $30B is for mid-sized depositories (i.e., $10B to $50B in assets) and $30B is for community financial institutions and smaller depositories (i.e., <$10B in assets).
Effectively, the statute creates three separate funding pools and it is unclear at this stage how the SBA will police those volumes. The initial tranche of PPP funding was exhausted in roughly two weeks and it is expected this tranche will be disbursed in a relatively similar time period, which suggests that Congress will be forced to consider a third tranche of PPP funding as part of the forthcoming Phase 4 negotiations.
More information on these programs is available here: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19#section-header-5
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