On January 6, MAR CEO Robert Authier testified before administration officials from the Exective Offices of Administration and Finance, Housing and Economic Development, and Education at the State House in support of the increased allocation of private activity bonds for MassHousing. The state agency uses the proceeds from these bonds to finance mortgages for low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers.
Testimony as Delivered by:
Robert N. Authier, Chief Executive Officer, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® January 6, 2009
Good Afternoon Secretary O’Connell, Secretary Reville, Under Secretary Brooks, and Undersecretary Gonzalez. For the record, my name is Robert Authier and I am the chief executive officer of the 21,000-member Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®. Thank you for the opportunity today to testify in support of increasing the allocation of 2009 tax-exempt bonding authority for MassHousing.
As you all are well aware, the current economic crisis has had a severe impact on the state’s real estate market. Except for this past September and October, year-over-year home sales have been down double digits every month since September 2007. And prices are down to 2003 levels.
Despite the challenging news; it will also be the real estate market that will help us climb out of this economic doldrum. To do this, we must help more buyers back into the market…especially first-time home buyers. Starter homes are the first rung of the housing ladder…and where the American Dream of homeownership begins.
However, to do this we need the type of safe, reliable and sustainable home financing that is available from MassHousing. With the abandonment of the residential financing business by some lenders, burned-out investors, and others who have been hurt by the downturn, it’s critical for the state to provide resources to encourage and facilitate homeownership. Yes, homes are now more affordable, but many first-time homebuyers are still being shut out…which then ripples across all the strata. What they need is access to financing to take advantage of today’s special buyers' market opportunities.
The stability of our local communities relies on borrowers not only being able to buy a home, but to be able to afford that home over the long term. And when they are in the financial position to move up the housing ladder, they will make their home available for the “next” first-time homebuyer.
MassHousing has long been a provider of safe and affordable mortgage products for low- and moderate-income homebuyers. Its record lending in recent years has been a critical resource to homebuyers across the state.
Yet, there is more to MassHousing than just mortgage lending. MassHousing has also provided valuable leadership in the market. Its recent partnership with the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® with the “Opportunity Knocks” program is an example of that leadership.
Together MAR and MassHousing held home fairs in the spring and fall in nine different communities across the state including: Boston, Brockton, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Hyannis, Lawrence, Lynn, New Bedford, and Worcester. The fairs were attended by hundreds of prospective homebuyers who received information from Realtors, non-profits and MassHousing approved lenders about how to buy a home safely in this tumultuous market. Along with the fairs, MAR was able to showcase several hundred “affordable” open houses. And actual home sales resulted. It is unlikely that those fairs would have taken place without MassHousing's partnership and leadership.
While education and economic development are critical needs, mitigating the crises in the state's economy and housing markets is pivotal. Managing the risk posed by rising foreclosures and tighter credit requires that the state, represented by MassHousing, bring all resources possible to bear on this problem. A robust housing market will help bring us out this current financial crisis. Please ensure that MassHousing has the resources it needs to continue to be a leader in this recovery.