5 House freshmen to watch on housing issues

WASHINGTON—Look no further than the slate of interesting additions to the House Financial Services Committee to see the future of the policy debate around housing.

The 21 new members of the committee are poised to tackle housing alongside Chair Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., and some bring notable qualifications to the table, with extensive backgrounds in consumer protection or experience authoring legislation to benefit homeowners.

Waters has emphasized that affordable housing and homelessness are among her priorities at the helm of the committee, while McHenry has expressed an interest in tackling the government conservatorship of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Observers have pointed to housing as an area that could lend itself to bipartisan compromise in this Congress, as Waters will need Republican support to ensure the survival of her legislation in the Republican-held Senate. The committee’s leadership could find partners in several of incoming freshmen, some of whom have already vowed to their constituents that they will use their post on the powerful congressional committee to secure more affordable housing opportunities and protect the rights of property owners.

While the Financial Services Committee’s agenda has not been unveiled, here are some players who — given their backgrounds — are likely to be prominent voices in the housing space:

Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif.
Katie Porter, Democratic U.S. Representative candidate from California, smiles during a campaign rally in Anaheim on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018.
Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., comes to Congress with significant experience in the housing market. She served as California’s independent mortgage monitor from 2012 to 2014 and secured more than $18 billion for homeowners as part of the national mortgage settlement.

Porter also authored in 2007 a research study examining the behavior of mortgage companies in consumer bankruptcy cases, using data from 1,700 cases.

“A majority of mortgage claims are missing one or more of the required pieces of documentation for a bankruptcy claims. Fees and charges on claims often are poorly identified and do not appear to be reasonable,” she wrote in the paper’s abstract. “The bankruptcy data reinforce concerns about the overall reliability of the mortgage service industry to charge homeowners only the correct and legal amount of the debt and to comply with applicable consumer protection laws.”

Before joining the Financial Services Committee, Porter studied under Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and was a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, where she founded a Consumer Protection Clinic and received the Champion of Consumer Rights Award from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

“From bringing accountability to the big banks to promoting affordable homeownership, I’m excited to work on some of the most important issues for the people of the 45th district,” Porter said in a press release following her appointment to the panel.
Rep. Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia, D-Ill.
Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, D-Ill., shown here in a photo from Nov. 28, 2017, when he was commissioner of Cook County.
Rep. Chuy Garcia, D-Ill., joins the Financial Services Committee from the Cook County Board of Commissioners, where he successfully led an effort to ban suburban landlords from refusing to rent to low-income families, veterans and people with disabilities. Garcia also ran for mayor of Chicago in 2015, in which his campaign highlighted affordable housing.

“The City has a responsibility — as do all levels of government — to respond when the market fails to provide housing for all its residents,” he said on his mayoral campaign website. “Our approach should link housing with transportation, economic development, education, health and the environment.”

As a member of the Financial Services Committee, Garcia has said he plans to “address unfair lending practices and decades-long, racial injustice issues that disproportionately bar low-income families and communities of color from homeownership and financial security.”

“An appointment to the powerful House Financial Services Committee ensures that the Chicagoans I represent will have a voice in shaping important banking and housing policy,” he said in a statement upon his appointment to the committee.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., center, attends a United Auto Workers candlelight vigil for General Motors workers at assembly plants targeted to close at Hart Plaza in Detroit on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019.
While serving in the Michigan state legislature, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., wrote laws to protect consumers from mortgage and tax scams, passing a bill that criminalized mortgage fraud in the state.

Tlaib told The Detroit News the legacy she was proudest of was her creation of the Mary Turner Center for Advocacy, which, among other things, offers help for residents facing mortgage foreclosure.

“People across metro Detroit face discrimination every day in housing, employment, insurance — the list goes on,” Tlaib told the Detroit Metro Times. “It might not always be explicit and in your face, but my residents know when they’re being mistreated.”

Even during her short time in Congress, Tlaib has already demonstrated her commitment to affordable housing. She delivered a speech on the House floor Jan. 9 to address the government shutdown’s impact on the Department of Housing and Urban Development, expressing concern that the department had halted health and safety inspections.

“Right now, Madam Speaker, landlords are being asked to spare families from eviction because HUD funding expired, and they are desperately trying to find reserve funds to help our residents,” she said. “This is not right.”
Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas
Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas.
Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, joins the House Financial Services Committee from the Texas House of Representatives, where during the 2017 legislative session he led a group of homeowners in a fight to protect homes from being annexed into city limits without the approval of property owners.

“It was a true David vs. Goliath fight, but judges in both Dallas and Kaufman Counties issued restraining orders to stop the city, allowing the law to go into effect and protect these homeowners from forced annexation against their will,” he told the Dallas Morning News.

His fight for homeowners earned him an endorsement from the political arm of the National Association of Realtors, after he was unanimously recommended by the Texas Association of Realtors' political action committee.

“Lance Gooden has a thorough understanding of complex policy issues as a result of his work representing East Texas in the statehouse and we have full confidence he will continue to stand up for Realtors, homeowners and private-property rights while serving in Congress,” David Alan Cox, the chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors PAC, said in a statement.
Del. Michael San Nicolas, D-Guam
Michael San Nicolas, Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives for Guam's at-large congressional district.
Del. Michael San Nicolas, D-Guam, spent five years as a senator in the Guam legislature before being elected as Guam’s delegate to Congress in 2018. As a senator, San Nicolas introduced and passed legislation to adopt regulations under the Guam Secure and Fair Enforcement of Mortgage Licensing Act of 2010 to bring the local mortgage origination market into compliance.

In 2017, San Nicolas introduced a bill that created a program to allow individuals to sue for false claims against the government of Guam, which mirrors the federal False Claims Act.

Before running for public office, San Nicolas was a landlord with the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority, but severed ties with a tenant in federally funded Section 8 housing in 2017 to avoid conflicts of interest with his government role.

San Nicolas is the first delegate from Guam to serve on the Financial Services Committee.

“This is a highly sought-after committee assignment given the committee’s responsibility for all aspects of the financial services sector throughout the United States,” he said in a statement.