|HUD No. 00-275|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Tuesday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||October 3, 2000|
CUOMO TELLS HOUSING POLICY CONFERENCE THAT NEW PRODUCTION IS CRITICAL TO AN EFFECTIVE U.S. HOUSING POLICY
WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo on Monday told the nation’s top housing researchers, policy-makers, academics, and industry representatives that, to ensure all Americans live in affordable, decent and safe housing, the U.S. must increase its production of new housing and couple that increase with more housing vouchers.
"Though we have made the American Dream of homeownership a reality for many, there is still much to be done," Cuomo told attendees of the HUD-sponsored conference, Federal Housing Policy in the New Millennium. "Today, a record 67 percent of Americans own their homes, but the robust economy is also driving rent payments to new highs. We need to take advantage of the strong economy and put substantial new money into a housing production program."
"The time for the false choice between production or vouchers is over," Cuomo said. "We need a balanced housing strategy, which includes both vouchers and production."
Cuomo said that housing experts, lawmakers, industry representatives and others are now realizing the limits of a voucher system.
"The ‘vouchers only’ approach does not work well where there are low vacancy rates, rapidly rising rents or large families," Cuomo said. He added that although HUD is cracking down on housing discrimination and enforcing its zero tolerance policy, discrimination still exists and often results in voucher holders being shut-out of some markets or concentrated in others.
To address these problems, Cuomo said HUD has recently made changes to the voucher system. These changes include raising the fair market rent rate in select areas, allowing seniors to use vouchers for assisted living, and allowing vouchers to be used to help purchase homes as well as help pay for rent.
Because of these widely recognized problems, that is why "for the first time in 24 years HUD is talking about a new production program, and Congress is listening," Cuomo said.
Cuomo said that the Administration began pushing for increased housing production in January with the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2001. In March, President Clinton followed up his budget request with a call for a new production program. And in recent months, Cuomo and FHA Commissioner William Apgar have been meeting with housing industry leaders and housing non-profits to solicit their ideas and to promote the HUD plan for a housing production program.
Cuomo cited three crucial elements needed to establish a credible production program: it must result in mixed-income developments, it has to be targeted exclusively to extremely low-income individuals and families, and it must be accessible by local and national intermediaries.
"Our budget requested 120,000 new vouchers, but even if Congress provides these additional vouchers that won’t solve the problem," Cuomo concluded. "The solution is to start building houses."
Cuomo’s address came at the end of the first day of the conference. In addition to focusing on the affordable housing crisis, the two-day conference examined emerging housing challenges such as predatory lending and the future of public housing. The participants also studied the future direction of housing policy and offered broad policy perspectives on the tools communities will need to boost homeownership opportunities, raise production levels of affordable housing, and address the problem of "sprawl."
A series of housing white papers will be developed from the conference sessions. Once completed, those papers will be posted on the HUD website at www.hud.gov.