Blackwell to address housing affordability at Boulder Valley Real Estate Conference

BOULDER — Realtors, lenders, and people trying to buy homes in the region lament the high costs and barriers to market entry, but there are public and private solutions.

Brad Blackwell, the recently retired executive vice president of housing policy and homeownership growth strategies for Wells Fargo, will deliver that message when he speaks at the 2018 Boulder Valley Real Estate Conference on Nov. 15 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder.

Blackwell, who retired Sept. 1, said he’ll lean on research he was involved with prior to leaving Wells Fargo to base his comments.

“Some of the analysis I did before I left Wells was what percentage of the population could afford to buy the median-priced home, and how many homes are listed that would be affordable for a family earning the median income. It’s shocking how few people can afford the median-priced home,” he said in a BizWest interview.

“There are solutions, but is there enough political will to make them happen? The solutions often fall to state and local governments and their willingness to zone properly and their willingness to take on new and different approaches such as accessory dwelling units.”

In many cases, it comes down to density. “If you don’t have land, the only way to create more housing is to increase density,” he said, which results in not-in-my-backyard arguments.

“People can be very progressive in the way they think but they still don’t want zoning changes in their neighborhoods to create more density.”

The issue about affordable housing is repeating itself “in almost every major city across America,” he said. This time, the problem of affordability isn’t related to housing priced above its value (a housing bubble), but demand that is exceeding supply.

For communities looking for a public solution, “my suggestion to the real estate community is that if you’re interested in making these things happen, you need to match the intensity of your efforts to the intensity of those opposed to changes,” he said. It can be as simple as “just being there and expressing an opinion” because those opposed to change will be there in force.

Solutions to the housing issues faced along the northern Front Range also have private solutions or solutions driven from the private sector, he said.

He said his last assignment at Wells Fargo was to work in Washington on issues that require changes in credit policies and creation of innovative mortgage products.

He said federal policy often is designed to assure ability to repay mortgages, “but its very prescriptive, which means that people who don’t fall into normal single-income or two-income families have a harder time. Self-employed people have a harder time. People in the gig economy [who work on contract on temporary assignments] have a harder time,” he said.

Blackwell said that lenders need to get more creative in how they determine the borrower’s ability to repay. “There’s thinking that artificial intelligence will come into play to help determine who can qualify for home ownership. … There is lots of room for innovation in the industry.”

Blackwell said he will also address the topic of interest rates and what the future holds.

“Tariffs are putting the brakes on the economy. Huge deficits we’re generating right now are putting brakes on the economy. And the Fed [Federal Reserve] is normalizing interest rates, which would be OK except for the other two factors,” he said.

“We’re generating the same level of deficit now that we were generating at the bottom of the recession. That shouldn’t be going on,” he said.

Blackwell’s keynote address will be at noon on the day of the conference. Tickets for the Boulder Valley Real Estate Conference are $74.49, and six VanEd continuing education credits are available for people attending the full day.

 

BOULDER — Realtors, lenders, and people trying to buy homes in the region lament the high costs and barriers to market entry, but there are public and private solutions.

Brad Blackwell, the recently retired executive vice president of housing policy and homeownership growth strategies for Wells Fargo, will deliver that message when he speaks at the 2018 Boulder Valley Real Estate Conference on Nov. 15 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder.

Blackwell, who retired Sept. 1, said he’ll lean on research he was involved with prior to leaving Wells Fargo to base his comments.

“Some of the analysis I did before I left Wells was what percentage of the population could afford to buy the median-priced home, and how many homes are listed that would be affordable for a family earning the median income. It’s shocking how few people can afford the median-priced home,” he said in a BizWest interview.

“There are solutions, but is there enough political will to make them happen? The solutions often fall to state and local governments and their willingness to zone properly and their willingness to take on new and different approaches such as accessory dwelling units.”

In many cases, it comes down to density. “If you don’t have land, the only way to create more housing is to increase density,” he said, which results in not-in-my-backyard arguments.

“People can be very progressive in the way they think but they still don’t want zoning changes in their neighborhoods to create more density.”

The issue about…