Weekly Column

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The charitable housing organizations in Nebraska and throughout our country provide a source of hope for families in need. Community-based organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, have historically built homes for struggling families. Not only does Habitat for Humanity build the homes, they also provide the new homeowners with low- or no-interest mortgage loans. Habitat for Humanity’s generosity awards families with a fresh start and an opportunity to open a new line of credit.

The Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity’s Lincoln chapter shared with my office the story of a couple who recently became the recipients of a new home.

Abdelkarim and Sailwa work hard to provide for their five sons. With a helping hand from Habitat, the couple was approved for a 30-year mortgage with zero interest. Payments were limited to 30 percent to adjust to their combined monthly income. Abdelkarim and Sailwa’s children are now comfortable in their new neighborhood, where they have made new friendships and attend the schools nearby.

However, in recent years not-for-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity have been held back because of unnecessary, misguided policies.

Following the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act into law, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was tasked with simplifying mortgage loan forms. The intent was to streamline disclosure forms required by the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlements Act. But what came to fruition was a nearly 2,000-page document known as the “TRID” rule.

The TRID rule was not only burdensome but complicated, especially for small lenders and housing charities. Larger corporations and banks can better afford to hire financial experts who are well-versed on the rule. However, not-for-profit charitable organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, were left buried in mountains of complex paperwork. The TRID rule presents a variety of unnecessary obstacles, including the required purchase of expensive software with a cost calculator.

Regardless of political party, we can all agree that charitable organizations should not be hurt by a preventable oversight. As the Habitat’s Executive Director of Lincoln told my office: “With the ability to focus on our mission, instead of burdensome regulatory requirements and expenses, we can help more families build strength, stability and self-reliance through homeownership.”

That’s why I recently reintroduced the bipartisan, bicameral BUILD Act to do exactly that for nonprofit organizations. This bill will allow nonprofits to use simpler forms, such as the Truth is in Lending, good faith estimateand HUD-1 forms, instead of the overbearing, nearly 2,000-page TRID rule. 

These forms were used by Habitat for Humanity for years. It also gave volunteers who had financial expertise an opportunity to sit down with the new homeowner and review each section of the forms. In doing so, volunteers could educate the homeowners on personal finance and the important steps he or she can take to develop as a financially-responsible citizen.

The BUILD act would provide common sense reform to ensure all housing charities are able to provide communities with hope and stability. They should do so without having to endure the cost of overly-burdensome regulations. 

Habitat chapters in Lincoln, Grand Island, and Fremont will directly benefit from its passage.

I want to thank Senator Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Representatives Barry Loudermilk and Brad Sherman for their partnership in spearheading this important legislation.

Every family deserves a roof over their heads. When needless regulations are holding the fruitful work of charitable housing organizations back, we should provide them with relief they need. If both parties can work together in the 116th Congress, we can fix this. Families like Abdelkarim and Sailwa’s are counting on us to get the job done.

Last year, the BUILD Act passed unanimously through the House of Representatives. We can build upon that momentum this Congress and push this important bill over the finish line. In his state of the union address, President Trump highlighted many areas where we can work across party lines to be effective for the American people.

I believe we can start by passing the BUILD Act into law.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you next week.