Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the HUD Fair Housing Month Event

Brooke-Mondale Auditorium
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Thank you, John - not only for that introduction, but for your unwavering commitment to HUD's mission. When it comes to communities of color and our most vulnerable populations, there is no more fearless advocate than John Trasviña - we're lucky to have him heading up our Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, so let's give him a hand.

And let me thank Bryan, Janet and the entire FHEO team.

Celebrating Fair Housing Month is always special - an opportunity to reflect on how far we've come, how far we still have to go and to reaffirm HUD's commitment to fair and decent housing in inclusive, sustainable communities for all.

That isn't just "part" of HUD's mission - but its very core. Let's not forget that this agency was founded at a moment when our country's cities were literally burning.

John mentioned that it was Martin Luther King's assassination that led President Johnson and Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act, which declared that no person in America shall be denied access to housing on the basis of race.

But that's not all it said or represented. Dr. King's assassination catalyzed a recognition on the part of our government that discrimination and segregation were not simply contributors to social unrest - but, in many cases and in many places, the cause.

With passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, we acknowledged that segregation didn't happen in spite of government policy - it happened in large part because of it.

And we affirmed that government has a role to play in creating integrated, inclusive, diverse communities with access to opportunity for all.

That is fair housing.

That is equal opportunity.

And that is what we are fighting for every day at HUD.

And not just at HUD. This commitment is something that starts at the top in this Administration. Indeed, long before he became our President, access to opportunity for all was what a young community organizer named Barack Obama was fighting for in Chicago's neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.

To be sure, one of our most important responsibilities is enforcing that historic law. This work is always important, but particularly so today, as we battle an economic crisis in which housing was ground zero for discrimination, fraud and predatory lending. At the same time, evidence shows that discrimination continues, particularly against people of color, families with children and the disabled.

This past year, HUD has filed 12 Secretary-initiated complaints and conducted an additional four Secretary-initiated investigations.

We're not waiting for individuals to come to us, but rather, monitoring, tracking and taking the initiative.

And while there isn't a federal law yet to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Department has taken a number of steps to ensure the inclusion of the LGBT community in a number of our core programs.

This new commitment to the strategic and aggressive enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and protecting against discrimination of all kinds starts at HUD - but it doesn't end here.

FHIPS and FHAPS play a critical role in defending fair housing rights in communities across the country - and we have close partners here in the Federal government who share that commitment in the wake of the housing crisis.

That's why we're working collaboratively through the DOJ with the Financial Fraud Task Force. Our budget this year includes $37 million to combat mortgage fraud and predatory practices, a third of which will go to curbing lending discrimination through increases in HUD's fair housing activities. The Task Force's non-discrimination working group, which HUD co-chairs, will build on our efforts, identifying opportunities for coordinated action, including joint investigations and enforcement actions.

Still, for all these efforts, you and I both know that Dr. King's dream won't be realized in our courtrooms alone - but rather in the neighborhoods each of us helps communities build.

Don't get me wrong. When it comes to enforcing the law, HUD will always stand tall and never back down.

But the measure of our success in advocating for fair housing isn't the number of lawsuits we bring or even win - but whether we are changing the lives of the people and communities we serve.

Our success is measured by whether HUD is increasing the number of low-poverty, racially-diverse communities in America.

That is what we call "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing."

It's measured by whether those touched by HUD programs have access to opportunity - good schools, safe streets, decent jobs.

That is Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.

It's measured by whether families live in opportunity-rich neighborhoods or have the choices they need to move to one.

That, too, is Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.

And the way we accomplish all this is by building the capacity of our program offices and grantees alike.

The truth is, no one has more expertise on these issues than FHEO. No one understands the barriers to opportunity better - or how some communities still use taxpayer dollars to create them.

But they aren't alone in this effort - to build communities that are truly inclusive and sustainable, they can't be.

Fair housing is a priority for all of us here at HUD.

That's why I believe the real size of our Fair Housing budget here at HUD isn't in the millions - but the billions, $44 billion to be precise. That's the size of HUD's overall budget, and we intend to use every dollar of it to make fair and inclusive housing not only a right in every neighborhood and community in America - but the standard.

Whether it is housing-specific resources like counseling and vouchers, new financing tools for transit-oriented development, or incentives that encourage the repurposing of polluted land for affordable housing development, we want to help communities across the country use every available resource to turn segregated neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into the integrated, healthy, sustainable communities Dr. King envisioned and the Fair Housing Act requires.

That is why we are bringing program offices together here at headquarters and in the field - to ensure compliance with fair housing program rules and, just as importantly, to provide better support and technical assistance to grantees.

Collectively, these efforts offer each of us at HUD the opportunity to demonstrate how we all benefit when communities uphold our nation's commitment to fair housing.

We know that diverse, inclusive communities offer the most educational, economic, and employment opportunities to their residents.

We know they cultivate the kind of social networks our communities and our country need to compete in today's increasingly diverse and competitive global economy.

And we know students of all races and backgrounds are better prepared for the workforce and engage in more complex and creative thinking when they learn in a diverse environment.

With each of us doing our part to ensure that tax dollars are invested in diverse, inclusive communities, to make clear what is expected of local governments and to work together to increase access to opportunity for all, we can ensure that our children's futures-and the choices available to them-are no longer determined by the zip code they grow up in.

That is what this celebration is about. That's what our work is about. And that's why I'm honored to join you all today. Thank you.


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