Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) Legislative Conference
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
March 2, 2016

As prepared for delivery

Good morning, everyone! 

Thank you so much, Tom, for that warm welcome and, more importantly, thank you for your great leadership of this organization and for your service to the families of Massachusetts.

As you all know, Tom will be stepping down as the Executive Director of Mass Housing at the end of the year. 

Tom has devoted nearly four decades of his life to public service and to strengthening our communities. And while we wish him well on this new chapter of his life, I have to say that his intelligence, energy, and integrity will certainly be missed.

Thank you, Tom, and best wishes on the next four decades. 

Please join me in giving Tom a big hand.

I also want to salute your outstanding Executive Director, Barbara Thompson.

If there's one thing I can say about Barbara, it's that she is truly a champion for the people who need someone in their corner the most:

Folks who work hard but don't have a lot of money,

Seniors who've devoted a lifetime to their communities and now need their communities to look out for them,

Americans with disabilities who're only looking for a solid foundation and a fair chance to live out their dreams.

They're the people Barbara looks out for, and they're the folks this great organization fights for. 

For decades, State Housing Finance Agencies have helped sustain and lift communities by fulfilling one simple yet vital goal - making homes more affordable for more Americans.

You were there in the late 1970s after Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act to spur lending to black and brown households who'd been cut off from opportunity by the disgusting practice of redlining.

You were there after the Savings and Loan Crisis in the 1980s - a time when new housing construction had dropped to its lowest level since World War II.

You were there, again, in the 1990s to help make President Clinton's goal of providing affordable housing to nearly 30 million low- and moderate-income families a reality.

You've been there standing with President Obama's Administration to invest in our nation's housing market recovery and to help everyday Americans get back on their feet.

And you're still here fighting on the frontlines for a housing market that's more fair and more affordable for every American - no matter what they look like, where they come from, or how much money they earn.

We saw the fruits of your commitment in the last Congressional Budget when - thanks to the NCSHA, the HOME Coalition, Enterprise, and the Affordable Housing Campaign - a major victory was won on behalf of the American people.

Last year, you mobilized the affordable housing community to prevent the Congress from enacting a 93 percent cut to the HOME program.

I don't have to tell y'all how devastating that would have been. It's not an overstatement to say that a cut of that magnitude would have virtually eliminated a program that's produced more than 1.2 million units of affordable homeownership and rental housing all across our great nation.

But you didn't let it happen. And because of you - because you mobilized, because you organized, and because you galvanized an army of housing advocates - we not only prevented a 93 percent cut to HOME, but Congress increased funding for the program by $50 million.

So many people helped make this victory possible - too many to name, in fact. But I do want to say a special word of thanks to the leaders of the National Council, including Barbara Thompson and Garth Ree-man. 

Both did yeoman's work to win this fight and they deserve a big hand.

If all you'd done was save the HOME program, it would have been an incredible win for low- and moderate-income Americans. 

But this is the NCSHA. You don't settle for a big win when you know there are more people who can be helped if you carry the fight on. 

So after you'd saved HOME, you also blocked an attempt to eliminate the National Housing Trust Fund.

The Housing Trust Fund is the first new affordable housing production program in years, and it's the first to focus almost exclusively on extremely low-income families.

I'm proud to say that, after much planning, we'll begin rolling out the Fund's first grants this summer.

That's going to mean fewer families will have to decide between paying the light bill and paying the rent. 

It's going to mean more working families can buy school supplies for their children and put food on the table. 

And it's going to mean more families will be able to keep a roof over their heads rather than being forced onto the streets or into a shelter.

That's the power of your work. 

It's not what passes for breaking news on the cable networks, unfortunately. And it doesn't make the headlines of the major papers. I'm sad to say I haven't heard it come up much in the presidential debates. 

But you're heroes - each and every one of you - and our nation is tremendously grateful for all you do.

I mentioned earlier that Tom will be taking down his shingle at the end of the year. Well, I don't have to tell y'all that there's someone else who'll soon be taking his shingle down, as well.

It almost doesn't seem real, but President Obama is in the final stretch of his transformative presidency.

That means an awful lot of folks, including yours truly, will be looking for a new job in, oh, about 324 days and 2 hours. (But who's counting?)

What it doesn't mean, though, is that the President's Administration is slowing down as we approach the finish line. 

If anything, we're accelerating our pace so that we maximize each day we have left to make as much progress as possible on behalf of the American people.

The folks who count on us deserve nothing less:

Families, including more and more middle-income folks, who are being squeezed by rising housing costs.

And far too many Americans who are cut off from opportunity because they live in neighborhoods that are desperate for investment - places like Ferguson in Missouri, and Baltimore's Seton Hill.

We have to do everything in our power to make sure our housing market works as well for those Americans as it does for someone buying a second or third home.

And I'd like to highlight three areas in which HUD is working to spur investment and strengthen affordable housing in the coming months.

First, we're partnering with local governments to improve how they use existing federal housing dollars, and let me give you just two stats that highlight why that's so important.

As you all know, more and more Americans are finding it harder to find a home that fits within their budget.

According to a 2015 report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, there's not a single state in the U.S. where a minimum wage employee working full time can afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.

And in 13 states and Washington, DC, the housing wage - what it would take to afford a one-bedroom apartment - is more than $20 per hour.

But as I travel the nation, I often find that local governments use most of the funding they receive from initiatives like Community Development Block Grants on non-housing projects, like infrastructure.

Nationally, only about 25 percent of CDBG funding is used directly for housing.

Now, as a former Mayor, I know how important infrastructure is. But I also know that many communities are missing opportunities to spur affordable housing creation simply because they haven't focused on comprehensive development.

So we've begun working with mayors, county executives, and city council leaders on designing plans that use federal resources in a more focused way.

In addition to our CDBG efforts, we're also modernizing the HOME program and improving our training for HOME grantees.

That's going to be critical in helping local leaders continue to invest in affordable rental housing, as well as homeownership.

And it's going to help us advance another important goal - ending homelessness.  

The more than 850 governors, mayors, and county officials who're part of the Mayors Challenge to End Homelessness have found that the most successful approaches to addressing chronic homelessness include putting individuals and families directly into affordable units - units that HOME funding helps create.

And our progress has been incredible. Since 2014, 21 communities and two states have effectively ended veteran homelessness.

There's nothing that can take the place of having a secure roof over your head, and thanks to the leaders in this room, HUD is helping bring that security to more Americans.

Second, HUD is renewing its commitment to help reduce borrowing costs for state housing agencies.

That's why last month we announced that we're cutting multifamily mortgage insurance premiums by half for our HFA partners. Because when your capital costs go down, community investment goes up.

We've also worked closely with you to update our requirements for efforts like the Risk Sharing Program.

So far, we've partnered with 35 HFAs on more than 1,000 loans. That partnership has meant nearly $6 billion in capital and 110,000 new units of affordable housing.

It's great progress, but we can do more.

So we'll continue to work with you to update the program so that you have additional flexibility.

We'll also be expanding our Low-Income Housing Tax Credit pilot later this year.

Over the last 30 years, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit has been one of the largest drivers for the creation of new, affordable rental opportunities.

In the last year alone, it's helped spur new housing from Harford County in Northern Maryland to San Bernardino in Los Angeles.

And expanding the pilot is going to boost another successful partnership effort - the RAD program.

RAD has already leveraged nearly $1.9 billion for rehabilitation and new construction in public housing communities across the nation.

We want to see the program grow. And we're looking at ways to take RAD's successes and put them to work for other HUD-assisted housing.

Third and finally, while we're working to provide greater tools and flexibility to HFAs, we also want to ensure everyday Americans are armed with the tools they need to successfully navigate the market.

One of the most important ways we're doing that is by strengthening our network of housing counselors.

I'm grateful to the 22 HFAs who've already signed on as Housing Counseling Intermediaries - and if you haven't joined us in this effort, I hope you will.

Your knowledge, your experience, your leadership offers tremendous value to borrowers, especially folks looking to buy a home for the first time.

As my colleague Ed Golding mentioned earlier this week, we've just announced the next round of funding for our comprehensive Housing Counseling initiative. And I want to encourage all of you to apply.

Together, we can help more hardworking families secure their piece of the American dream by fostering a housing market that works for everyone.

President Franklin Roosevelt, who made affordable housing a cornerstone of the New Deal, famously outlined four fundamental freedoms that people "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy: 

  • Freedom of speech,
  • Freedom of worship,
  • Freedom from want,
  • Freedom from fear.

It's the third of those freedoms, "freedom from want," that is at the core of HUD's mission - and at the heart of the NCSHA's work.

Safe, secure housing is central to achieving that freedom for every American.

That's because so many other necessities - education, work, food - are connected to where and how we live.

Your cause of expanding the opportunity of a secure home to more families is also HUD's cause.

And our cause will not be complete until every person knows the freedom from want that was President Roosevelt's dream.

Thank you so much.


Content Archived: February 9, 2018