Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro National League of Cities Congress of Cities and Exposition

Thursday, November 20, 2014
Austin, TX

As prepared for delivery

Thank you very much, Mayor Becker, for your kind introduction and for your years of leadership. I wish you all the best as you prepare to take the helm of NLC on Saturday. Let me also recognize your current President, Mayor Coleman-and all the Board Members - for your outstanding leadership.

I'd also like to thank Mayor Leffingwell for hosting us in the great City of Austin.

Finally, let me thank everyone involved with the National League of Cities. As someone who was working in a City Hall just a few months ago, I value all that you do on the frontlines.

Former New York City Mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, once said "there is no Republican or Democratic way to clean the streets."

As local officials, you can't afford to let politics get in the way of helping people. You know that progress requires partnership, not partisanship. That's why cities are where things get done.

And I'm honored to be here to talk about getting more things done for the American people. We gather at an important moment.

We're living in a Century of Cities - a time when human beings around the world are urbanizing at a breathtaking pace. In China. In India. Throughout Africa and Latin America. And here in the United States, more and more Americans have been moving back to cities.

By 2050, the Census Bureau projects our nation's population will grow by 80 million people, 60 million of whom are likely to live in urban areas. Why throughout history-and why now-are they coming?

One reason above all: opportunity.

Cities are rich with possibility - places where folks can bring their big dreams and bold ideas to life. They're also the heart of regional economies-impacting suburban, rural and tribal areas-so it makes sense that creating thriving urban areas should be a top national priority.

That's why President Obama has put forth an opportunity agenda to help cities, block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood. That's why he's launched the "Build America Investment Initiative" to strengthen our nation's infrastructure and keep your cities moving.

That's why he's fighting to expand quality early-education so that children today can lead the cities of tomorrow. That's why he's helped millions of Americans gain access to affordable health coverage - leading to healthier families and healthier cities.

And with open enrollment for 2015 starting a few days ago, we're sure to see this progress continue. Across the board, all of us in the Administration are committed to ensuring that the cities of the future are rich with opportunity - and HUD is central to this work.

You see, HUD is the Department of Opportunity. We play a unique role in the life of our nation. Nearly 50 years ago, when he signed the HUD Act into law, President Lyndon Johnson said that our work could give "every family a home of dignity, a neighborhood of pride, a community of opportunity and a city of hope."

And today, I want to talk to you about some of our efforts to make this promise real in people's lives. For example, to give every family a home of dignity, we're taking a leading role in the President's commitment to ending homelessness as we know it.

Back in 2010, he launched Opening Doors, the first federal strategic effort designed to prevent and end homelessness. It represented a sharp departure from the old and tired approaches of the past that we know didn't work.

Now we're using tailored solutions - from rapid rehousing to permanent supportive housing - to give people the support they need. We've increased collaboration with other federal agencies to better serve communities.

We're also using data to drive results through an initiative we call HUDStat. As a result, we've made tremendous progress including a 53 percent drop in unsheltered families and a 33 percent decline in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness.

To finish the job, we need you. We can't end homelessness nationally if we don't end it locally.

Mayor Becker and Mayor Stanton in Phoenix have already ended chronic homelessness for veterans, and are now committed to ending homelessness for all veterans. We know that many of you have already done so as well.

In fact, more than 250 local officials have joined the First Lady's Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. And to bolster this work, on behalf of HUD, earlier today, I was proud to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the National League of Cities.

We're going to create regional forums to raise awareness about the benefits of joining the Challenge. In doing so, we're sending a loud message that ending homelessness is not a dream.

It's a goal within reach for veterans, for youth, for families and for individuals. It's up to us to make it a reality.

Let's get it done and give every family a home of dignity. Let's also come together to shape communities of opportunity.

It's not enough to build quality housing. We must surround that housing with the schools, jobs, transportation and other assets that folks need to truly thrive.

That's why HUD is championing a comprehensive approach to community development with efforts like Choice Neighborhoods. This is a competitive initiative that gives local leaders the flexibility to transform their neighborhoods in their own unique way.

In Pittsburgh, for instance, efforts are underway to provide hundreds of new mixed-income units, as well as generate new transit investments, new parks and new economic development.

We want more cities to be able to fulfill their local vision for change.

That's why today, I'm proud to announce we're ready to award grants of up to $30 million dollars each to help folks transform their local communities. These dollars are a catalyst for change.

The 13 Choice Neighborhoods grantees to date have leverage more than $2.6 billion in additional investment. This is providing local areas with the resources necessary to create real, lasting progress.

I urge all of you to work with your stakeholders and compete for these grant dollars. We want to be your partner.

No person should have their futures limited by their zip code. Let's work together to turn neighborhoods with problems into neighborhoods with promise.

Finally, I want to talk about ways the Administration can support you to create cities of hope.

As a former Mayor, I know that these tough fiscal times have been difficult on your operations. And for all of us in this age of limited government, the answer must be smarter government.

To help you, we've brought together leaders from the private and philanthropic sectors for an effort we call the National Resource Network. This Network serves as an innovative "one-stop shop" for cities seeking to find answers to their toughest questions.

Local governments confront many complex challenges every day. Easy access to knowledgeable partners with expertise in criminal justice, workforce training, economic development and more, can make all the difference.

After all, knowledge is the fuel for progress and innovation. So we urge you to go to and bring your questions and ideas.

We're eager to work with to fulfill the promise of this Century of Cities. Today this much is clear: Cities are America's engines of opportunity.

When you succeed, our nation succeeds. And I'm here today to pledge my support to you.

My business card may say HUD Secretary, but I'm still a Mayor at heart. I know that progress often begins from the ground up. It begins with you.

So let's work together to give every American a home of dignity. Let's work together to create communities of opportunity. And let's work together to create cities where hope reaches all.

Thank you.


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