Oral Testimony of Secretary Julián Castro
U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations
Hearing on FY2016 Budget Request for the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

As prepared for delivery

Chairman Collins, Ranking Member Reed, members of the Committee - thank you for the invitation to speak with you today. Before I discuss HUD's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget proposal, I hope you'll permit me to say a few words in gratitude to one of this Committee's longest serving members - Vice-Chairman Senator Barbara Mikulski. 

Senator Mikulski has, of course, announced that this legislative term will be her last. That news was met with surprise and sadness at HUD, where the senator is known as a champion for the people our agency serves. Whether we were rebuilding communities in the wake of devastating storms or ensuring that our nation honors the sacrifice of our military heroes by working to end veteran homelessness, HUD could always count on Senator Mikulski's guidance and support. I want to thank you, Senator, and I wish you the best on the next chapter in your storied career of service.

The leadership of members of this committee has meant greater opportunity for millions of Americans. And while we've made significant progress together, more work remains to fulfill President Obama's commitment to support equitable community development, promote responsible homeownership, and expand access to affordable housing that is both free from discrimination and available to Americans with the lowest incomes.  This Budget proposal would help us continue our progress toward all of these goals.

That's because the President's Budget would increase our Department's funding level to $49.3 billion - nearly $4 billion more than Fiscal Year 2015's enacted level. This increase will advance HUD's mission and help us meet some of our nation's shared priorities.

That begins with helping more Americans secure a place to call home. HUD's Budget proposes more than $21 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. That would extend support to more than 2.4 million low-income families. Our Budget also fulfills the promise to restore vouchers lost to "Sequestration" - which will help 67,000 households. 

This support is urgently needed. Last year Americans living in a number of cities, including Phoenix, St. Louis, San Francisco and Denver were confronted with rents that increased by double-digits from the year before. And the crunch in housing affordability comes at a time when millions of our fellow citizens are working harder to make ends meet. As HUD outlined in our 2015 "Worst Case Housing Needs" Report, there are currently 13.7 million very low-income households in the United States that receive no assistance to cover the cost of housing. Even more alarming, 7.7 million of those households - those with the "worst case needs" - live in severely inadequate housing, pay more than 50 percent of their income in rent, or both.

Helping citizens secure and maintain quality housing pays enormous dividends to communities. We know that living in a safe, stable home is one of the single greatest predictors that a child will succeed in the classroom and experience lower rates of chronic health conditions like diabetes and depression later in life. That's why HUD is also proposing funding that would effectively end chronic homelessness and make significant strides in our work to end homelessness among families and youth. 

With Congress' support through programs like HUD-VASH, we have seen dramatic reductions in homelessness among veterans. If our nation invests in the targeted programs we know work, we can make similar progress in tackling other forms of homelessness. Specifically, HUD's Budget would fund Homeless Assistance Grants at $2.5 billion - a $345 million increase over last fiscal year's level. This funding would provide communities with the forms of housing and service investments they need to effectively end homelessness in all its forms. We are also requesting $177.5 million in targeted Housing Choice Vouchers that would support families experiencing homelessness, veterans regardless of discharge status, and American Indians living in tribal communities.

We're also proposing new investments to boost upward mobility for our residents. That includes $100 million to fund a dynamic, evidence-based initiative called Jobs-Plus. And we're making an investment of $85 million as part of HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency initiative. That would connect approximately 80,000 families to job and financial literacy training as well as important services like child care and transportation that make it possible for individuals to build their careers or pursue an education.

Finally, HUD is committed to ensuring that neighborhood opportunity is broadly shared and that all communities - rural, tribal, suburban, and urban - prosper. To help meet that commitment our Budget requests $250 million for HUD's Choice Neighborhoods initiative - a program with an impressive record of success. In fact, between fiscal years 2010 and 2013, the $351 million that HUD invested in these grants leveraged more than $2.6 billion of additional investment in extremely low-income communities.

This year, as HUD commemorates 50 years of expanding opportunity for all Americans no matter where they live or how much they earn, we're also creating a solid foundation for the next 50 years and beyond. The President's Budget helps us to do this, and I look forward to working with this Committee in continued partnership to build a future where every American can prosper. 

Thank you. 


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