Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
"Managing Community Change: A Dialogue on Gentrification"
Robert C. Weaver Federal Building
Monday, April 11, 2016
Washington, DC

As prepared for delivery

Good afternoon everyone! It's great to join you.

Thank you Kathy (O'Regan) for that kind introduction, and for your tremendous leadership. I also want to thank the distinguished panelists who will share their insights later today. Thank you as well to everyone in the audience and watching online. Experts, advocates, and activists working to build stronger neighborhoods for all.

As Kevin (Kane) told us a few minutes ago, the housing market in American cities is strong and on the rise. All across the nation, young professionals, growing families, and retired couples are returning to our urban centers in search of greater opportunity and a better life. Now, it's our responsibility to ensure that all Americans have a chance to take part in this resurgence. 

Here's why we're here: throughout our nation's cities, neighborhoods are confronting a significant and challenging dynamic.

A distressed, underserved, low-to-moderate income neighborhood starts to get attention. The affordability crunch in other neighborhoods drives higher income residents to start buying and renting there. 

Soon, the neighborhood gets investment. Amenities that neighbors who've lived there for a while have been waiting for. A new supermarket, restaurants, some nightlife.

The neighborhood gets more popular. And soon more new folks are moving in. Eventually, home values in the neighborhood shoot up. And so do property taxes.

Little by little, the folks who used to call the neighborhood home can't afford to live there anymore. They can't afford to rent or pay property taxes. Others sell because they can make a handsome return.

A tipping point is reached in the neighborhood. Its culture, its economics, its essence has changed completely. And it's no longer a place that the folks who built their lives and raised their families there belong to anymore.

We're here not because we believe that neighborhoods shouldn't grow or change, but because we believe that when they do, it should be inclusive and affordable to folks of modest means. We're here because we believe in dynamic and diverse neighborhoods.

And the importance of this mission isn't just about policies and practices. It's about the people being priced out of places that they've called home for generations. 

Folks like Helen and Nelson Murray, a husband and wife from Portland, Oregon. 

The Murrays have spent more than 60 years in the neighborhood of Northeast Portland. Their children graduated from the local school system, they shopped for groceries at the Safeway near Lloyd Center, and their family attended the Emmanuel Temple Church on North Sumner Street.

When they moved into their house on Northeast 11th Avenue, the neighborhood was split fairly evenly between black and white families. But its demographics began to change as time passed. And pretty soon, the Murrays were one of the last families of color still left. 

After an accident forced Nelson to retire from his job at an iron factory, the family began falling into debt. And as prices around them grew, they found it harder and harder just to get by. At one point, they faced the prospect of leaving the home they loved so dearly. 

It's something Helen could barely think about. She said that if she ever had to move, she couldn't bear returning to the street, even for a visit. It would simply hurt too much.

Sadly, their story is typical for many African-American households in Portland, folks who have been forced to leave the places they've always called home. 

Over the course of a single decade, the black population east of Interstate 205, a section seen as the outskirts of town, increased by 166 percent.  And over that same period of time, it declined by 13 percent across the rest of the city.

Now I've met Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, and I know that he's voiced his commitment to addressing gentrification for residents there. And the changes happening in Portland aren't unique to that city. They're also taking place in communities from the Bernal Heights section of San Francisco, to East Austin, Texas, to many neighborhoods right here in Washington, DC.

As a former Mayor, I know that the issues facing local leaders are sensitive and complex. That's why events like today are so important. I hope you'll use this afternoon to share your strategies and experiences for promoting inclusive growth for all the residents of your cities.

And I want you to know that HUD is focused on taking this discussion to a national scale. Just last week, I visited San Francisco in the last stop of a five-city effort for a new initiative called the Prosperity Playbook. This Playbook will provide leaders and stakeholders around the nation with a toolkit to develop regional plans that create shared opportunity for everyone within their communities.

Before my trip to the West Coast, I also had the chance to sit down with folks on the ground in Kansas City, Denver, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. At each stop, I heard how they're dealing with the challenges posed by gentrification, and how they're working to support upward mobility for all.

These conversations produced some great ideas, ideas that I look forward to sharing in our final Playbook. And I promise that HUD will continue to fight for the resources our partners need to transform them into concrete action.

Our Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 requests $2.8 billion for our Community Development Block Grant program, which improves infrastructure, rehabilitates housing, and creates jobs for local residents. It also includes $950 million for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which helps state and local governments build affordable housing, and promote homeownership among families of modest means.  

And I'm proud to report that we've just announced the initial grants for the National Housing Trust Fund. This Fund is the first new affordable housing production program in nearly a generation, and the first to concentrate almost exclusively on extremely low-income families. We'll start rolling out our opening round of funding this summer. More than $170 million, and that's just the start.

But HUD also understands that our work to revitalize underserved communities shouldn't reshape their entire identities.

We can't lose track of the folks who live there now. Families that've lived on the same street for generations, who've helped build proud traditions and cultures within their neighborhoods, and who deserve to share in the promise of tomorrow. 

We need to dispense opportunity across the board, not displace those who get lost in the shuffle. 

And finally, we need to keep in mind that gentrification isn't a simple black and white issue. Throughout the United States, successful young professionals and families of color are also coming to cities in pursuit of their dreams. 

It might be tempting to paint a picture of the typical "gentrifier" with a singular, broad brush stroke. But doing so dramatically oversimplifies the challenges we face, and it further divides our nation at a time when we must come together to tackle the problems which confront all of us.

And if we need any proof on the power of working together, we can just look at the story of the Murrays, the elderly couple from Northeast Portland. 

Their situation came to the attention of Liz Getty, a single mom who lives across the street from them. When Liz found out what was happening to her neighbors, she decided to take action. She used an online crowdfunding campaign to raise more than $6,000 in construction materials for badly needed repairs at the Murrays' house. 

And when Helen Murray saw the first of these materials arrive in her driveway, she began to cry. Thanks to Liz, a team of volunteers built the Murrays a new roof so they could pass a city inspection and avoid foreclosure on their home. 

But the real challenge isn't just making sure that Helen and Nelson get to keep their house. It's about pursuing smart policies so that the Murrays' children and grandchildren - and families like theirs in changing neighborhoods everywhere - can continue to call the place of their roots home.

So thank you for being here, and for leading us with expertise, exchanging ideas, and helping to ensure the American Dream is within reach for everyone living in our cities. 

Thank you very much, and enjoy the rest of the day! 


Content Archived: February 9, 2018