Five House freshmen to watch on housing issues


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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.

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.

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