Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
NAHRO Conference
Crystal Gateway Marriott, 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA
April 11, 2016
15 minutes

As prepared for delivery

Good morning, everyone! 

It's great to be back with the nation's oldest housing and community development association. In fact, for a group as old as FDR's New Deal, y'all are a good looking bunch.

Thank you, Steve, for that kind introduction. And congratulations on your election as NAHRO's president last fall.

Steve has the experience, the expertise, and the integrity that you need in a leader. 

I know NAHRO's members are glad he accepted the call to serve as president and I look forward to working with him to ensure we continue building a solid foundation for the future of housing in our nation.

I also want to salute your CEO, someone I'm proud to call a friend: Saul Ramirez, Jr. 

Saul is a fellow Texan and he's been a real inspiration to me since I moved to DC.

As any Texan living in this area knows, it's almost impossible to find good barbecue and good iced tea.

Well, Saul worked in the Clinton Administration - and if he can make it here this long without Texas cuisine, then maybe I can make it here, too.

I'm really grateful for the opportunity to join NAHRO and share a little about HUD's Opportunity Agenda - our blueprint for building an America where everyone gets a seat at the table and everyone's voice is heard. 

It's a strategy that forms the focus of our work together, and I couldn't have asked for a better day to join y'all for this year's conference. 

As much as any other group in our nation, NAHRO has stayed on the frontlines fighting to make the goal of a decent, affordable home for all Americans a reality.

And this morning, we can celebrate a major victory.

The Fair Housing Act turns 48 today. It's one of the most important pieces of legislation that Congress has ever passed. 

We all know that when a person chooses a home, they're also choosing so much more:

The job opportunities available to them. Their access to healthy food. The schools their children attend.

And when folks are discriminated against when they look for a home, they're denied a fair chance to succeed in life.

I saw that firsthand when I visited Ferguson. And I learned a sobering statistic - that a child growing up in the upscale Clayton area of St. Louis can expect to live 18 years longer than a child living just eight miles away in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood. Think about that.

In these United States, a nation founded on the principle of equal opportunity, that's unacceptable.

That's why I've worked so hard as HUD Secretary to continue the progress we've made together - to move us closer to the day when the promise of fair housing in our nation becomes a guarantee.

And HUD's new AFFH guidelines are an essential part of that effort.

They're going to hold local governments that ignore the commitment to promote fair housing accountable.

And they're also going to provide a host of tools for neighborhoods that've long looked for greater resources and support to tear down fair housing barriers and invest in shared growth.

One of the most important is HUD's cutting-edge new mapping tool, which is already helping communities to collaborate regionally and improve how they use existing federal dollars. 

And let me give you just two stats why that's so important.

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 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 elected leaders and local housing officials on designing plans that use federal resources in a more focused way. And AFFH is supporting that work.

We also have to make sure that as we invest in greater housing opportunity that folks who've made mistakes along the way aren't left out or left behind. 

I want to salute my friend, Governor Terry McAuliffe, who's been a real champion for ensuring folks who've been involved in the justice system get a second chance and that their rights are protected.

That work got a big boost last year when 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 HUD is not going to be shy about using it.

Just last week, I announced 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 practice that appears neutral on its face.

And using an arrest to bar someone from housing is such a practice.

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 recent actions, it won't.

Now convictions, of course, are different. And HUD is fully committed to making sure that landlords 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. 

That's been the approach we've taken to promote greater fairness in public housing communities, and I want to thank NAHRO's members for their partnership.

As you know, we've stepped up our efforts in recent months to help re-unite returning citizens with their families, and connect them to case management services. 

We're also working with public housing authorities to end arbitrary “One Strike” policies that unfairly bar folks who've been arrested. 

And because we know that housing alone isn't enough, HUD is doing its part to help connect more returning citizens to jobs.

We're joining forces with the Justice Department this year 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.

I want you to know we're working every day to make similar opportunities available to everyone we serve, which is why strengthening public housing neighborhoods has been a central part of HUD's Opportunity Agenda.

That includes a renewed focus on connecting more public housing residents to jobs.

I want to thank the housing authorities and agencies here that are helping to make sure the Jobs-Plus Pilot we launched last year is a success.

Jobs-Plus provides a boost to other job training efforts, like the Family Self Sufficiency Program. And here in the Commonwealth, it's helping Virginians turn their lives around.

Folks like Theo Boardley, a formerly homeless public housing resident who took advantage of the Family Self Sufficiency Program and now studies culinary arts at Virginia Western Community College.

Thanks to the support he received from the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Theo now works as a cook at the Richfield Retirement Community and he'll soon graduate from culinary school.

When we announced the expansion of Jobs-Plus, Theo said, “I took the first step, and they met me more than half of the way.”

We want to help more Americans write success stories like Theo's. 

And over the next three years, we'll invest $24 million with nine public housing authorities across the nation so that more residents have the skills to achieve their dreams in this 21st century economy.

While we're preparing more folks for jobs today, we want to make sure residents, and especially youth, have the tools to succeed tomorrow.

That's what our Connect Home effort is all about. 

Launched last year in 28 communities Connect Home is already helping to bridge the digital divide for families in low-income neighborhoods.

In Kansas City, Google Fiber is providing free gigabit speed internet to 250 public housing families. That's a connection about 100 times faster than the average speed most people use in the United States.

Another company, Comcast, is helping us connect public housing residents in Nashville, Seattle, and Philadelphia to high-speed internet.

Comcast also committed to taking the Connect Home model to the first city beyond our original pilot - soon more public housing residents in Miami will be able to get online in their homes thanks to this effort.

But we're not just connecting people to the internet. Thanks to groups like Git Hub, Best Buy, and the Boys and Girls Club, Connect Home is also providing digital literacy classes and making computers and mobile devices available for folks who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford them.

So far, we have commitments to reach up to 200,000 children.

And my goal is that by the end of this Administration, we'll have a commitment to connect every single public housing resident to the internet.
It's all part of our broader effort to shape a future where every person has the chance to succeed and every child can fulfill their God-given potential.

Forty-eight years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law he said, “We have come some of the way, not near all of it. There is much yet to do.”

President Johnson's words still ring true today.

But NAHRO and its members - people who've dedicated their careers to building a future where every American lives in a safe, healthy, vibrant neighborhood - give me hope that we'll fulfill President Johnson's vision.

You give me hope that we'll finally reach the day when a Zip Code doesn't determine how far a child goes in life because every Zip Code will be a neighborhood of opportunity.

And you give me hope that one day every American, no matter where they grow up, will have a fair chance to get ahead and stay ahead.

You've been fighting to make those goals a reality for more than 80 years. 

And I hope you know how grateful the nation is for the passion and expertise you bring to your work every day.

Your communities are lucky to have you. You make them stronger, more resilient, and more prosperous. Most of all, you make a difference.

HUD is proud to be your partner. And we're committed to standing with you and fighting with you until our nation's promise of a decent, affordable home becomes a reality for every single American in this 21st Century and beyond.

Thank you so much, and have a great conference.


Content Archived: February 9, 2018