(Revised 9/25/19) The future of government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as private utilities and the importance of counting renters in 2020 U.S. Census were two highlights at Housing Opportunity Working Group meeting Wednesday morning at the Chicago Marriott Naperville.

NAR Senior Policy Advisor Ken Fears explained how the two GSEs came to be placed in government conservatorship following the financial crisis in 2008, their importance to the U.S. economy and what the Trump administration hopes to accomplish by removing them from government control. Then he summarized NAR’s ideas to ensure the financial viability of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and preserve housing opportunities for all by making these entities private utilities. The rules for how these entities would operated will have to be negotiated.

About half of the mortgages in the U.S. depend on the backing of GSEs, he said. Because of the way they are set up, homeowners are able to secure 30 year fixed rate mortgages and lock in to interest rates with lenders. View his Powerpoint presentation.

Participate in the U.S. Census

The accuracy of the U.S. Census will affect many aspects of life in Illinois because they will involve how money and power are distributed during the next decade, said Sherrie Taylor, of the Illinois Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University. She asked REALTORS® to encourage colleagues, legislators, friends and community members to participate in the census. View her Powerpoint presentation.

Taylor is serving as the Interim Lead for the Illinois State Data Center, which helps make sense of data collected during a census. She offered to help REALTORS® who want or need census information for their communities and their businesses.

Illinois will lose at least one congressional seat because of population loss, she said. A large number of citizens have moved to other states, with white middle class residents comprising the largest demographic affected. Death rates have risen and birth rates have gone down, making accurate census more important than ever.

“The heart of the matter is that renters are under counted,” said Taylor, who wants landlords to encourage residents to participate. “Census forms are for households and sometimes roommates do not include each other on their forms. They think that their roommates will get their own census forms.

“New residents to a community are under counted, too,” she said, noting another situation where REALTORS® could encourage clients to participate. “It is sometimes hard for them to get connected to the community.”

Also speaking before the working group were Greg St. Aubin, Senior Vice President, Governmental Affairs, and Mike Scobey, Senior Director of Local Advocacy & Global Programs. Scobey spoke about the “Just Housing Ordinance” in Cook County and St. Aubin spoke about various issues.