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Statement of Carolyn Y. Peoples
Assistant Secretary Designate
Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity
before the Committee on Banking, Housing
and Urban Affairs
U.S. Senate

October 3, 2002

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.

Content Archived: June 25, 2010

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