Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
National Low Income Housing Coalition Policy Forum
Washington Court Hotel
Monday, April 4, 2016
As prepared for delivery
Good afternoon, everyone! It's great to be with y'all today.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition is hands down one of my favorite organizations. In fact, I think it's fair to say that I've cited your "Out of Reach" study more than any other study in my entire life.
Thank you so much, Sheila (Crowley), for that warm introduction. And, more importantly, thank you for your leadership of this great coalition.
Under Sheila's guidance, the NLIHC has become more than a respected housing advocacy group - you've become one of our nation's preeminent forces for good.
Her remarkable 17 years at the helm caps off more than three decades of public service fighting for the folks who most need someone in their corner.
Sheila, we wish you all the best on the next chapter in your life. Your creativity, integrity, and courage will truly be missed.
Please join me in giving Sheila a big hand.
I also want to salute Sheila's successor, Diane Yentel.
Now, I do know this: Diane is a Tweeter - I see her on Twitter all the time.
But more importantly, she's also a veteran housing rights champion, and I'm pleased to join the affordable housing community in celebrating her leadership.
This is an important time for those of us who believe that a decent, affordable home should be available to all Americans.
That was President Lyndon Johnson's vision when he created HUD more than 50 years ago.
It's what President Franklin Roosevelt sought when he made housing a centerpiece of the New Deal.
Affordable housing was even part of President Teddy Roosevelt's Square Deal. In 1908, President Roosevelt formed a national Housing Commission that, for the first time, recommended federal investment to create housing for low-income Americans.
Those great leaders recognized a fundamental truth that's at the heart of this Coalition's work:
Our nation can't fulfill any of our major goals - from tackling inequality and improving folks' health to keeping neighborhoods safe and making sure every child gets a good education - unless we also focus on housing.
That's because housing is one of the most basic needs we have - a need that's as much about how we live as about where we live.
Now, you know as well as I do that we have a lot of work to do to realize that shared vision of a secure home for every citizen.
According to a report this Coalition released just two weeks ago, there's a shortage of 7.2 million affordable housing units for the nation's more than 10 million extremely low-income families.
That means that for every family that can secure a home, two families have to double up in a friend's apartment, or stay in a shelter, or sleep in their car.
We also know that many Americans are busting their budgets just to keep a roof over their heads.
Three-quarters of extremely low income families pay more than half of their income just for housing, leaving less money for food, child care, transportation, and so many other basic necessities.
And it's not just the very poor who are struggling to make ends meet.
Even Americans earning between $30,000 and $45,000 a year are finding it harder to secure an affordable home.
Every day, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and its partners look at these alarming statistics. But you don't see only numbers and data points on a chart - you see human stories.
You see a mother breaking prescription pills in half just so she can put food on the table.
You see a father working three jobs to make sure his children have school supplies and that, just maybe, he can afford to let them go on their class field trip.
You see folks like Karisha Bailey, who I met in Miami just last month. Karisha's a self-employed chef and a single mom of four working hard every day to build a better life for herself and her kids.
That's why you fought so hard to help the Obama Administration finally stand up the National Housing Trust Fund - a fight this Coalition helped lead for 16 years.
The Housing Trust Fund is the first new affordable housing production program in almost a generation, and it's the first to focus almost exclusively on extremely low-income families.
I'm proud to say that we'll begin rolling out the Fund's first grants this summer. More than $170 million - and that's just the start.
It'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 clothes for their children and make sure their kids have enough to eat.
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.
And I want you to know that our entire nation is tremendously grateful for all you do.
The National Housing Trust Fund is going provide a big boost to another effort my team has been focused on: making the promise of fair housing a reality for every American.
That's exactly what the new guidelines we released last year are designed to do.
More than simply protecting the housing rights of all citizens, HUD's new AFFH effort will also help local governments strike a strong balance between, on the one hand, providing low-income families with greater mobility, and re-investing in older, distressed neighborhoods on the other.
Where a family lives matters. Groundbreaking research by Stanford professor Raj Chetty found that children under 13 who moved out of extreme poverty into a stronger community went on to earn 31 percent more than the children who remained. So we want to get families to higher opportunity neighborhoods.
And today, more than 40 percent of HUD's budget is dedicated to vouchers.
At the same time, we want to make sure that the residents who've long been the backbone of working class neighborhoods aren't just priced out as new development comes in.
So while HUD is investing more than $4 billion this year to lift up distressed neighborhoods throughout the United States, we'll also work with local governments to develop fair housing plans that prioritize affordable housing, so that low-income families aren't left out or left behind.
But to do that, we're going to need the ongoing partnership of this Coalition's members.
You've known the challenges for decades. You've seen them, you've studied them, and you've worked to overcome them.
So we're gonna need your help to make sure we're making investments where they're needed the most - and that we always do so in a way that protects our most vulnerable Americans.
Last year, the Supreme Court affirmed what many of us have always believed: that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discriminatory policies, whether they're intentional or not.
The "disparate impact" standard is one of the most powerful tools we have to stamp out discrimination. And I want you to know that HUD will not be shy about using it to tear down the unfair barriers that have undermined the dreams of far too many Americans.
Today, I'm proud to announce new guidance that makes it clear HUD will use the full force of the law to protect the fair housing rights of folks who've been arrested or who're returning to their communities after serving time in jail or prison.
No American should ever be discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity, even if that discrimination results from a policy that appears neutral on its face.
Black and Latino Americans are unfairly arrested at significantly higher rates than white Americans.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, even though rates of drug use are comparable across racial lines, black and brown Americans are far more likely to be stopped, searched, and arrested for drug law violations than are whites.
So when landlords summarily refuse to rent to anyone who has an arrest record, they may effectively and disproportionately bar the door to millions of folks of color for no good reason at all.
It is wrong - and it has to end.
From my time as a mayor especially, I know that many law enforcement professionals make their best judgment when they arrest someone.
But an arrest only means that a person was suspected of a crime. And in the United States, suspicion alone just isn't a sufficient reason to bar someone from a community.
The fact that you were arrested shouldn't keep you from getting a job, and it shouldn't keep you from renting a home. And thanks to our actions today, it won't.
Now convictions, of course, are different. And HUD is fully committed to making sure that local housing providers can still set fair, non-discriminatory screening policies for returning citizens looking for housing.
But right now, many landlords use the fact of a conviction - any conviction, regardless of what it was for or how long ago it happened - to indefinitely bar folks from housing opportunities.
When someone has been convicted of a crime and has paid their debt to society, then they ought to have an effective second chance in life.
The ability to find housing is an indispensable part of that second chance.
Past mistakes shouldn't determine future opportunity, and HUD is doing everything in our power to make sure of that.
HUD's focus on ensuring that anyone who's had contact with the criminal justice system is treated fairly when they look for a home builds on our efforts to help more returning citizens move into public housing communities.
To do that, we're working with a number of local governments to re-unite folks with their families and connect them to case management and other re-entry services like job training.
We've also made it clear that arbitrary "One Strike" policies that bar anyone with a prior arrest cannot be used in public or private housing.
It used to be that if someone was arrested for a drug offense their entire family would be kicked out of public housing. It was a harsh policy that likely did more harm than good.
Today HUD is taking a new approach to these cases.
Local officials will still have the ability to evict tenants when their actions warrant it, but we're working to make sure that families who pose no risk to community safety aren't unduly punished.
And, finally, because we know that housing alone isn't enough, HUD is doing its part to help connect more returning citizens to jobs.
We're partnering with the Justice Department to invest nearly $2 million to help young public housing residents clear their criminal records, find work, and have a better shot at succeeding once they rejoin their communities.
We want to make these same opportunities available to everyone we serve.
So we're committed to strengthening HUD's Section 3 effort.
Section 3 can seem complicated but it's really quite simple: Every year we invest billions of dollars in economic development for communities.
And those jobs, those paychecks, and those opportunities shouldn't be outsourced to others. The people in these communities should be on the frontlines of revitalizing and rebuilding the places where they've long lived.
In just three years, more than 95,000 low-income folks have gotten jobs or training because of this effort.
These are young people getting that first job and building their resume. They're parents getting a fresh start. And they're hardworking Americans who're only looking for a chance to make their neighborhoods places of promise.
That quintessential American determination, a resolve that continues to drive folks to build a better future for themselves and for their communities, has been part of our nation's fabric since its founding.
It's what spurred Mercy Otis Warren and Phillis Wheatley to reimagine what was possible for women in Revolutionary America.
It's what pushed leaders like President Roosevelt and President Johnson to forge bold new visions for government's role in protecting the Americans who need help the most.
It's what inspired incredible public servants like Cushing Dolbeare, the "dean of housing advocates" and this Coalition's courageous founder, to make battling poverty and homelessness her life's work.
And it's that same spirit that's at the heart of the NLIHC's service.
HUD is proud to be your partner. And we're committed to standing with you and fighting with you until the dream of "overcoming housing poverty, and achieving housing justice" is realized for every single American in this 21st Century and beyond.
Thank you so much, and I'll be happy to take a few questions.