Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
National Community Reinvestment Coalition
2015 Annual Conference: Creating a Just Economy
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Washington, D.C.

As prepared for delivery

Thank you very much, John (Taylor), for your extremely kind and warm introduction. I always appreciate it when folks say nice words about me, but hearing those words with a Boston accent is truly special.

I had the pleasure of living in Massachusetts while attending law school but I was never able to mesh the Boston English with my Texas English. So John and I may differ in how we sound, but we're very much on the same page when it comes to expanding opportunity for American families.

And I'm grateful for his decades of dedicated service as President and CEO.

Let me also thank your Chair, Bob Dickerson-and all the Members of the Board and Staff-for their outstanding leadership over the years. 

Finally let me thank all of you-the members and supporters of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition-for the vital work you've been doing for the last 25 years.

I've heard that NCRC had 16 member organizations when it started in 1990, and that number grew to 100 within a year. Now you have more than 600 members.

This represents more than just growth - it represents a movement. A movement that values the power of partnerships and the importance of coming together for the common good. 

You've been a powerful voice for the overlooked and the underserved, and I'm so pleased to be with you today to talk about laying a firmer and fairer foundation for the next 25 years.

The Value of Local Leadership

I feel at home with y'all in so many ways. I may work in Washington now but the public servant that I am was shaped by my time at the community level back home in San Antonio. 

I served four years in the City Council and five years as Mayor, and let me tell you something: I loved every minute of it.

I loved the neighborhood meetings where folks would gather to talk about everything from code compliance to street maintenance. I loved working with diverse coalitions to advance shared goals like revitalizing our urban core and expanding access to early education for children. 

The local level is where things get done. It's where collaboration comes together, new ideas are cultivated and innovation develops. 

It's also where progress often begins. We're a nation of communities, and when they are thriving, the entire United States grows stronger and our future is brighter. So I stand before you today knowing full well that when you succeed, our nation succeeds. 

I also know that you define success through the lens of "we", not "me" - and rightfully so. 

Just because folks are of modest means doesn't mean they have modest dreams - they have the same hopes and aspirations as everyone else, and we all benefit when every American has a fair chance to achieve them. 

That's why I appreciate your focus on a just economy. You understand that our futures are linked, that when our neighbors and communities do well, we all do well. 

And all of us at HUD are eager to work with you in continued partnership to make these ideals a reality in our nation's daily life. 

HUD: The Department of Opportunity

We call HUD "The Department of Opportunity" because of the unique role we play in helping folks improve their lives and better their futures. 

Our work is about much more than housing: it's about jobs, it's about schools, it's about health, it's about the environment - it's about creating communities with the assets that families need to truly thrive. 

To paraphrase HUD's first Secretary, Robert Weaver: one cannot have physical renewal without human renewal.  Housing and communities represent people. The final test of everything we do is whether it meets human needs, secures human dignity and adds to quality of life. 

And we're firmly committed to doing our part to help you build a future where opportunity reaches everyone and upward mobility is available to anyone. 

Section 3 Jobs

In an inclusive economy this means creating jobs for folks at all income levels with our Section 3 initiatives. 

This effort was created to achieve one basic purpose: to give low-income families the chance to get jobs when HUD-funded projects are occurring in their neighborhoods.

We're talking about construction jobs, and services jobs and office jobs like payroll and bookkeeping. This work has provided generations of Americans with the chance to gain experience, build up their resume, secure a professional reference, and build a career. 

These efforts have transformed lives across the nation and sparked economic activity in areas that have often been too overlooked. 170,000 jobs have been created by HUD for low-income workers through this initiative from 2009 to 2014 alone. This represents about half of all the new hires that resulted from HUD-funded contracts. 

Keeping all these jobs, dollars and economic activity in local areas is, in many ways, the definition of community reinvestment, and we want to see this happening from coast-to-coast.  

Last week we launched a Section 3 National Business Registry to bring together local governments, businesses and residents so they can prosper through partnership. And we look forward to working with stakeholders like you to help more Americans contribute to the economic development and growth of their own communities.

FHA: Homeownership

Another critical step in building an inclusive economy is ensuring that once folks have secured their financial future, they can access credit and buy their first home. I know that this is at the core of your agenda. 

Y'all know that homeownership is still the cornerstone of the American Dream -a fact you can see in the lives of everyday folks.

One of them is Kim Hartman from Des Moines, Iowa. Kim grew up a foster child and was forced to change homes and schools on a regular basis.

Because of that experience, she always dreamed to give her kids better - a dream that came true this past September when she bought a home. Kim's wasn't an overnight success story.

She put in years of work as a pharmacy technician, took financial education classes, and spent hundreds of hours helping build homes with a local HUD partner - the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity.

And now she takes pride in the fact that she has a permanent address, that her kids can board the same bus for school each day, and that her girls know she'll be there when they arrive home.

That's why the opportunity of homeownership is so powerful. It's a source of pride. It creates wealth and builds savings, providing both a nest and a nest egg. And it strengthens communities and fuels growth in the overall economy.

That's why I've crisscrossed this nation saying it's time to remove the stigma from promoting homeownership. The American people are smart enough to heed the lessons of the past without forsaking our future. The answer isn't to deny responsible Americans homeownership - it's to do it right.

Since 2009, the Obama Administration has enacted historic safeguards to prevent our nation from revisiting the reckless lending environment we saw last decade. HUD has also worked with groups like NCRC to offer housing counseling to millions of families to prepare for homeownership. 

This work has been so effective that President Obama has asked for $60 million in his budget to expand this work - an increase of 28% that will help even more Americans reach their financial goals.

Now our responsibility is to ensure that everyone who is ready and willing can buy that home. That's where the Federal Housing Administration comes in. As many of you know, FHA has long been a beacon of hope for underserved borrowers.

We've insured 1.6 million first-time homebuyers in the last three years alone. And we want more folks to be able to access our services.

First, this means expanding access to credit. Some believe that a few years ago, it was too easy to get a home loan. Now, it's too hard.

So we've undergone a yearlong effort to clarify our policies so that lenders can feel more confident in working with a wide-range of creditworthy borrowers, and we're going to keep building on this progress to give more responsible folks the access they deserve. 

Secondly, we want to make homeownership more affordable for those who already qualify for a loan. FHA premiums were at a historically high level when we entered 2015. The cost of obtaining the American Dream was too high for too many working families. 

One estimate said that up to 255,000 creditworthy borrowers were priced out of the market last year as a result, so we took action. In January we reduced our annual mortgage insurance premiums by half a percentage point, and I thank NCRC for its support of this announcement.

You know that this modest measure will have a big impact for families. We expect our premium reduction to help more than 2 million borrowers save an average of $900 annually over the next three years.

It will also encourage nearly a quarter million new borrowers to purchase their first home. By bringing these costs down, we're helping folks lift themselves up - and expanding opportunity for generations of Americans.

Fair Housing

Of course this is only possible when folks are treated fairly during the lending process and, unfortunately, this isn't always the case. 

That's why HUD is so focused on another pillar of an inclusive economy: a lending environment that's free from discrimination.

Our dedicated Fair Housing team works tirelessly to ensure that the housing market treats every American with the dignity and respect they deserve. That's why the Freedom Mortgage Corporation settled with us to resolve allegations that it discriminated against those with disabilities.

That's why we took on Wells Fargo and reached a $5 million dollar settlement in response to allegations that it treated women who were pregnant or on maternity leave unfairly. 

That's why we made a groundbreaking settlement with Midland States Bancorp to resolve charges that it intentionally avoided doing business in African American and Latino neighborhoods in St. Louis and Northern Illinois - and now, they've agreed to originate $8 million in mortgage loans to these communities.

With every action, our Fair Housing team is doing extraordinary work to shape a housing market where everyone belongs and where everyone has a chance to thrive if they're willing to work hard and play by the rules. 

These are the ideals upon which our nation was founded, and they must continue to guide us as we look ahead toward the future. 


We come together at an important moment for our nation. 2014 was the best year for job growth in more than a decade. Manufacturing is thriving. Optimism is growing. And the housing market is remerging as an engine of economic prosperity.

Now our task is to ensure that every American can participate in this progress. This takes folks from all regions, and all backgrounds and all sectors, coming together as one great American community.

It requires fighting for one another, investing in one another, and working with each other. It's not about every person for himself. It's about creating a better future where we can all contribute and thrive.   

The key to this work is opportunity. Opportunity is the fuel that drives progress and prosperity. It's what allows American genius and ingenuity to thrive. And it's what creates an economy that works for everyone.    

I know you're committed to expanding opportunity for all and HUD will be by your side for as long as it takes to get the job done.

Let's work together to give the underserved the path they need to succeed. Let's work together to empower folks with the tools they need to thrive and achieve upward mobility.

Let's make the next chapter in the American story its greatest yet. And let's make the 21st century another American century.

Thank you very much.


Content Archived: March 17, 2017