Statement of Carolyn Y. Peoples
October 3, 2002
Assistant Secretary Designate
Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity
before the Committee on Banking, Housing
and Urban Affairs
Chairman Sarbanes, Ranking Member Gramm and distinguished Members
of the Committee. Thank you for giving me the privilege to address
this committee in consideration of my confirmation as Assistant
Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity.
I am here today with some very special and important people in
my life. They are my husband and my three children. My sisters and
brothers. I also want to acknowledge my friends from MANPHA, The
Beacon Institute, the Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity,
and the American Association of Homes & Services for the Aging.
First I'd like to share a little of my background. I am one of
seven children born to the late Julius & Cornelia Jacobs. I was
born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. My father served in the
US Army and worked most of his life as a laborer; my mother was
a housewife. For several years we lived in public housing and I
attended local schools. From an economic standpoint, we were considered
poor. But as a family, we were rich�rich in faith, character, values,
and humor with a closeness that endures even today. My mother without
doubt was instrumental in forming my character and strong work ethic.
Throughout my public education, she always encouraged me to "do
my best." It is that drive for excellence that both inspires
and motivates me in all my endeavors.
Prior to my nomination by President Bush, I was founder and executive
director of Jeremiah Housing, Inc., a faith-based, nonprofit housing
services organization. Preceding this, my professional experience
for the past 25 years has been exclusively in the operation, coordination
and management of HUD-assisted and sponsored housing. Beginning
in 1976 as manager of a section 202/8 housing facility for the Presbytery
of Baltimore, I left there in 1980 and joined the housing services
division of Catholic Charities. Over a 19-year period, I progressed
from property manager (1980-1985) to administrator of housing (1985-1990)
to director of operations (1990-1999). I attended the University
of Baltimore and earned a B.S. degree in finance and a Masters degree
in Business Administration.
As I was preparing for this testimony and thinking about fair housing,
I began to reflect upon discrimination and how it impacts lives.
I liken discrimination to an inflicted wound. The wound eventually
heals, but invariably leaves a scar. As a woman of color, I have
experienced discrimination. One such experience when I was 8 years
old left an indelible imprint on me. My mother took me to a department
store in downtown Baltimore. After choosing several items of clothing
she took them to the counter to pay for them. For several minutes
I watched as the sales lady waited on other people, but would not
wait on my mother. After all the customers standing next to my mother
had been waited on and exited the store, my mother remained at the
counter until the sales lady finally waited on her. When we left
the store, I asked my mother why the lady would not wait on her.
Her reply to me was, "because we are colored".
Discrimination in any form is demeaning. Whether it comes as a
result of being denied housing because you have children, or if
a real estate agent steers you to a "certain" community or a lender
charges you extra fees not charged to other people --- discrimination
is wrong and is against the law.
Moreover, discrimination has a social impact. Just as my mother
and I had to wait in that department store until all others were
served, discrimination in America has denied many the opportunity
to share in the prosperity of this nation. Since the passage of
the 1968 Fair Housing Act, significant progress has been made in
reducing barriers to fair housing and expanding homeownership opportunities
for the historical victims of discrimination. Despite all that has
been accomplished, much more needs to be done. No one should be
denied the home of their dreams because of their race, color, religion,
national origin, sex, familial status or disability.
While the nation's homeownership has reached a record high, a large
gap still remains between the percentage of minorities and whites
who own their own homes (48% African American and 47.6% Hispanic
are homeowners; compared to 74.3% for whites ). We must do all we
can to ensure that discrimination is removed as a barrier to the
achievement of the American dream.
The extent to which discrimination against persons with disabilities
exists today is also problematic. Currently, HUD receives nearly
as many complaints of disability discrimination as it does race
complaints. There is a significant lack of accessible housing units
for persons with disabilities, both in private and subsidized housing.
Noncompliance with the accessibility requirements combined with
the failure of landlords to provide necessary accommodations and
modifications has contributed to a shortage of housing for persons
with disabilities in housing developments.
I have a strong interest in helping improve the quality of life
for underserved and unserved persons. If I am confirmed by the Senate
to this most important post, I pledge my full commitment to aggressively
enforce civil rights and fair housing laws; to be diligent in conducting
timely investigations; to continue to reduce impediments to housing
choice; to support new initiatives to build public awareness and
understanding of federal fair housing laws; to develop close working
partnerships with faith-based and grassroots organizations, local
government and other agencies; to enforce departmental equal employment
opportunity laws; to ensure effective program monitoring and compliance
and develop performance-based measures to ensure quality.
With my extensive experience in HUD programs and policies, combined
with 25 years of proven management, organizational and policy development
skills, I am eager to join the fine staff of the Office of Fair
Housing & Equal Opportunity in the implementation of our strategic
goals and objectives.
In closing, I want to again thank the Honorable Senator from my
home state of Maryland -- Senator Sarbanes and the members of the
Committee for your courtesy; I want to thank President Bush for
honoring me with the opportunity to serve in his Administration
and to Secretary Mel Martinez for his strong support in the several
months since my nomination. Special thanks to Floyd May for his
wise advice and counsel. Finally, I want to thank God for bestowing
His grace and this special honor upon me.
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