In response to what they call the government’s failure to create a national housing policy, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have created the Council for Investment in the New American City.

“We are in search of a cohesive national housing agenda,” said Andrew Woodward, chairman of Bank of America Mortgage and president-elect of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Council members say cleaner, safer cities and frustration with long commutes have rekindled interest in city living. But because housing prices have outpaced income growth, they say, more and more Americans are finding themselves priced out.

Todd Howe, head of member services with the Mortgage Bankers Association, helped set up the Council for Investment in the New American City. One of its chief aims is to encourage lenders to finance multi-use developments around transit hubs, but it faces a number of obstacles.

One challenge is to unite a disparate collection of lenders, city officials, government officials and developers. Boise, Idaho, Mayor Brent H. Coles, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, says another problem is that governments pay too much attention to building roads and airports and too little to rebuilding cities and train lines.

“Housing has taken a back seat” to other issues, Mayor Coles said. The country’s next president “is going to have to deal with these issues.”

From January to April, the Council for Investment in the New American City will:

• Hold regional summits across the country with lenders and public officials.

• Share information about successful development projects

• Elicit input for a national city-revitalization policy.

• Hold a national summit bringing mayors and the private sector together within four months of the new Congress.

The consensus from lenders, the MBA, and the mayors is that lenders and officials have to communicate better.

Thomas Jacob, chairman and chief executive officer of Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp., said lenders have already taken the lead in helping families find homes in cities by offering borrowers low-down-payment mortgages.

And in June the MBA set up a downpayment-assistance program in Albany, N.Y., with help from two member banks, Fannie Mae, and the city. Current MBA president Christopher Sumner, the chairman and chief executive of Salt Lake City-based Crossland Mortgage Corp., said similar programs are in the works in several cities.


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