Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
National Action Network
2015 National Convention
Thursday, April 9, 2015
New York, NY

As prepared for delivery

Reverend Sharpton, you sure know how to deliver an introduction. To quote your mentor James Brown - "I feel good."

Thank you for your kind words and, more importantly, for your tremendous leadership over the years. 

I'd also like to thank the National Action Network's Board of Directors, staff and supporters for your commitment to advancing social justice. 

HUD has been proud to work with you on a number of issues, from housing finance reform to fair housing - and I'm so pleased to be with you again.

Finally, let me thank all of you in the audience for the outstanding work you do each and every day. 

You're on the frontlines of progress - in the community, the classroom, the boardroom and beyond, and I deeply appreciate this chance to join you at this 2015 National Convention.  

Selma Anniversary

Roughly one month ago I had the privilege of joining President Obama, Reverend Sharpton, Congressman John Lewis and thousands of others-including many in this room-to stand on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to mark the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

It was a time to look back and honor the American heroes who sacrificed so much to awaken our nation's conscience and to secure the rights of all humanity. 

It was a time to give thanks for their courage, which paved the way for all of us to gather here today as CEO's, Cabinet Members, elected officials and leaders from all fields.

And it was a time to recommit ourselves to completing the journey, for as far as we've come, we all recognize the challenges that remain. 

One of the most memorable stories I heard in Selma was about Dr. Amelia Boynton Robinson - the civil rights pioneer who was left unconscious on Bloody Sunday 50 years ago. 

Last month, at 103 years old, she was able to cross the bridge again in her wheelchair - and this time the President of the United States was by her side.

And to this day younger generations come up to Ms. Boynton Robinson and tell her that they're proud to stand on her shoulders. But she always tells them to "get off my shoulders because there is more work to do."

HUD: The Department of Opportunity

All of us here know there is indeed more work to do. 

We have a responsibility to do in our time what the folks in Selma did in theirs - to carry on the torch of equal opportunity and to use it to light the way forward for every American.

Housing has and must continue to be at the center of this work. Quite simply, housing is where everything begins.

It's where our children grow up and our families make their memories. It's the center of our lives and the foundation of our futures. 

And where we live often determines the education our kids receive, the jobs we have access to, and the health of our families.   

We know this because of folks like Sabrina Oliver - a mother of two. 

After moving from a troubled neighborhood in Baltimore to another area of Maryland, her daughter's asthma stopped and her son went from failing in school to the honor roll. 

And Sabrina herself went from being unable to work because of depression to getting a job and enrolling in community college.

Her story shows that quality affordable housing and strong communities provide the platform that folks need to better their lives and to achieve their dreams. 

That's why all of us at HUD are doing everything we can to carry on the torch of opportunity to help others achieve upward mobility. 

Fair Housing

For our Department "more work to do" means leveling the playing field so that every American can pursue housing free from discrimination. 

HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act, and we work every day to promote housing mobility so that people-regardless of what they look like or where they come from-have both the chance and the choice to live in communities that best suit their needs and goals.

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.   

It'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. 

And it's why we keep working to shape a housing market where everyone belongs because no person should ever be trapped in the pain of poverty, and no child should ever have their future determined by their zip code. 

Shaping Neighborhoods With Promise

In addition to promoting housing mobility, there is "more work to do" in revitalizing the most distressed communities. 

We must never forget those who're committed to both staying in their communities and to turning them around.

HUD is working with local leadership to turn neighborhoods with problems into neighborhoods with promise. First this means addressing the affordable housing crisis that has millions of Americans spending more than $1 out of every $2 dollars they earn on rent. 

Our RAD initiative has allowed local communities to raise more than $700 million dollars in private investment to bring public housing into the 21st century. 

For example, in Lexington, North Carolina, the local housing authority is making 58 years' worth of repairs in just 22 months - including new lighting, modern windows and better insulation to help residents stay warm and cut energy costs. 

We're asking Congress to give every community the chance to participate by lifting the restrictions on this program. No American should ever have to wait six decades to have a decent and healthy place to call home. 

With our Choice Neighborhoods initiative, we're working with local leaders to address obsolete housing units and to connect these homes to the quality schools, good jobs and transit options that folks need to prosper.

This is generating new optimism and opportunity across the nation from Seattle to New Orleans to right here in New York City. 

In the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago, for example, we're working with folks to renovate and create more than 1000 rental units.

The University of Chicago is also partnering with the local Public Schools to give children in the community the best chance for success. 

We're also linking adults with the literacy, health and other services they need to grow. This is a model that HUD is taking into cities across the United States. 

President Obama has proposed expanding this initiative as part of his Budget, and we're eager to work with you to help more communities make the transition from poverty to prosperity. 

At the core of this work is increasing access to jobs. The right to live wherever a family wants is only one part of the opportunity equation - the other is ensuring that they have the means to afford the rent and provide for their families.

That's why last week I announced that HUD is investing $24 million with nine public housing authorities for an effort we call Jobs-Plus. It equips folks with the skills, the education, and the support to succeed in the 21st century global economy.   

I recently visited with Dorothy Stowe, a mother of three who lives in Charlotte and will benefit from the initiative. 

She told me that this effort represents opportunity for her and her community - that it will help folks lift each other up and go for their goals. 

Jobs-Plus will do this across the nation. Studies show that it works, and we're asking Congress to invest $100 million in this effort to give more Americans the chance to participate in the growth of their community. 

And once folks secure their financial future we want them to be able to buy a stake in their community through homeownership. Y'all know that homeownership is still the cornerstone of the American Dream.   

It's still the best way to create wealth and help folks enter the middle class. 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 response to the recent crisis isn't to deny responsible Americans homeownership - it's to do it right.

Since 2009, the Obama Administration has put historic safeguards in place. We've also worked with local State leaders to hold banks accountable with a settlement that's provided 600,000 homeowners with more than $50 billion in committed relief.

Now our responsibility is to ensure that everyone who is ready and willing can buy a home. Our Federal Housing Administration has taken steps to make credit more accessible and affordable for responsible families.

In January we made a 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.


With all of our efforts we're focused on one guiding principle: that everyone deserves opportunity. 

Opportunity is the fuel that drives progress and prosperity. It allows American genius and ingenuity to thrive. 

It creates an economy that works for everyone and communities that welcome anyone.

Making this guiding principle real in our nation is what drove Dr. King to dream. 

It's what compelled so many Americans to put themselves in harm's way 50 years ago on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

And it's what brings us together today. We all know there are significant issues that our nation needs to tackle, and National Action Network - I look out at y'all and know that we're going to rise and meet these challenges. 

We're going to come together with a common purpose that advances the common good. We're going to provide every American with the affordable housing and strong community they need to prosper. 

And we're going to shape a future where opportunity reaches all. I thank you for your commitment to this work and for your efforts on the frontlines.  

Now-as Ms. Boynton Robinson would say- it's time for me to move away from this podium and get off this stage because I havemore work to do.

Thank you very much.


Content Archived: March 17, 2017