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Response to GOP proposal to dismantle HUD
Washington, D.C.
June 29, 1995
Secretary Henry G. Cisneros

There are various ways a Cabinet Secretary can react at a time like this.

One way would be to react in anger at the wrong that will be done to the communities and the people with whom we work by this damaging proposal.

Another way would be to react defensively to the allegations about years of work, or for that matter about the Republicans' 12-year tenure here. We will not be defensive.

Another way would be to counter-attack with invective; attack motives, politics and personalities.

But those are not the way to do the people's business.

The appropriate response is a sense of determination not to allow the pain that would be inflicted on millions of people by the disregard for the truth of the conditions in our communities, and disregard for HUD's record that is inherent in this latest proposal to dismantle HUD.

Today, I am determined to answer this proposal. I'm determined to explain to the American people -- the majority of whom, 203 million people, now live in cities and metropolitan areas -- why we need a department like HUD and what HUD does. And I am more determined than ever to continue the work we have begun to improve this department so that it works better for people.

First: Why we need a Department of Housing and Urban Development. The plan to dismantle HUD would leave cities and the people who live in cities without an advocate at the President's Cabinet table, at a time when it makes sense to pull programs together in the physical places that are America's cities and communities. The communities -- that's where it all comes together. HUD has been their voice in the Cabinet.

Second: Housing and community development programs must be kept under one roof, because when these programs are coordinated, a synergy develops between them. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Two plus two equals five. Our proposal to reinvent HUD preserves and deepens this synergy; their proposal to dismantle HUD destroys it.

We have proposed Empowerment Zones and consolidated funding and planning -- CDBG, HOME, homeless assistance. They have proposed to divide HUD's functions among eight separate agencies. The housing sector in America deserves better.

Third: If HUD is eliminated, the United States would become the only country in the industrialized world without a top national executive agency devoted exclusively to housing and community development concerns. Every other modern, industrial nation has an agency like HUD. There is a reason for this. Every modern, industrialized nation in the world recognizes that the problems facing their urban areas must be addressed at the highest levels of government, because if they go unaddressed, they will grow like a cancer on the body of the nation.

Now they may say, "So What? HUD's programs have not made a difference." But the record says otherwise. HUD has made a difference.

In 1960, America's national homeownership rate was 61.9 percent. In 1994, it was 64 percent. In 1960, 16 percent of all Americans lived in substandard housing. In 1994, only 2 percent of all Americans lived in substandard housing. Since 1965, FHA has insured 16 million single-family mortgages. In 1960 the poverty rate in this country was 22.2 percent. In 1992, it was 14.5 percent.

Fourth: Dismantling HUD will not save taxpayers money. The 4.7 million poor and elderly households now helped by HUD's assisted-housing programs are not suddenly going to find housing, unaided, on the private market. The burden of assisting them will fall on state and local governments that are already fiscally hard-pressed. If states and localities can't help them, many more people -- potentially hundreds of thousands of people, including children -- could become homeless. Somewhere down the line, there will be a cost. We will pay it in higher state and local taxes or we will pay it in increased disarray in the communities where we live -- but there will most definitely be a cost.

Fifth: We have offered a better way. Our reinvention plan corrects the problems in current HUD programs, saves taxpayers money, and makes HUD a stronger supporter of local efforts to expand affordable housing and strengthen the economies of America's communities.

HUD provides critical support for America's cities and people who live in our cities -- support which is too often overlooked.

    Approximately 4.7 million households in America who currently receive HUD housing assistance. Approximately 35 percent of these households are elderly and another 10 percent are people with disabilities. About 45 percent of these households are families with children.

    Last year, 453,674 families achieved the American dream of homeownership for the first time last year because the Federal Housing Administration was there to insure their loans.

    Cities like Boston, where HUD support was instrumental in the revitalization of the Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market area, and Baltimore, where HUD support was critical to the revitalization of the Inner Harbor area, are stronger today because there was a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to advocate for them in Washington.

The truth of HUD's 30-year record is that the Department is part of the same proud tradition of national commitment which landed astronauts on the moon, ended hunger in America, cleaned up our polluted lakes and rivers, and made it possible for women and minorities to advance in achievement and earning power in every sector of our economy.

Today we should be moving ahead with the same sense of confidence and optimism that propelled these great achievements. We can revitalize distressed communities and create jobs; we can expand affordable rental housing; we can make it possible for more people to become homeowners in America than ever before -- if we just hold on to this vision.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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