NCRC#2: “The Final Test of Everything,” HUD Secretary Speaks on…

GallowayCollensTOPsunsetREVISEDNCRC#2: “The Final Test of Everything,” HUD Secretary Speaks on Fair Housing Mission (video)

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 2, 2015)CFSEM-123-OaklandCounty115-digital-ad_v2

This is part of our series of stories from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Conference in Washington DC from March 25-28, 2015. Learn more at www.ncrc.org.

As Julian Castro grows into his role as the Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, he is careful to remember his roots – from his civic-minded mother who took him to meetings of La Grassa Unica as a child, to his years as a leader in local-level politics in San Antonio, TX, where he served on City Council and became Mayor at age 34. When he spoke to a crowd of about 700 at the annual conference for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition on March 25 he connected his roots to the work of HUD, which ultimately also serves communities right at their roots.

“To paraphrase HUD’s first Secretary Robert Weaver, one cannot have physical renewal without human renewal. Housing and communities represent people. And the final test of everything we do is whether it meets human needs, secures human dignity, and adds to the general quality of life,” Castro said.

HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes Judy_Palmer30yearsfor all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business.

Castro has only been on the job eight months, but he is already looking for ways to improve the system. One is to build on the Section 3 program, which encourages local hiring when HUD funded jobs occur in neighborhoods. “17,000 jobs have been created by HUD for low-income workers through this Section 3 initiative between 2009-2014 alone,” Castro said. The jobs are in areas like construction, service, and office jobs like payroll and bookkeeping, he said. “This represents half of all the new hires from HUD-funded seed94321Krzysiakcontracts during that time.”

Tying in with the growth of Section 3 jobs, Castro touted the value of data and accountability in this and other aspects of HUD programming. “As well intentioned as we are about this, we need to get a lot more precise about being able to measure the impact of our investments. For instance, I recently asked my staff ‘do we know how many people do not have a high school diploma who live in public housing or subsidized housing, how many of them got a GED last year because of the programs out there? Do we know how many of them got a community college degree or are working toward that? We are not adequately measuring right now the impact of our work. That’s important because we really want to know what’s working and what’s not working as well as it should,” he said. More data will allow them to improve programs as well as show the value of the programs when asking for allocations from the legislature. “I intend to focus on seeing where we go from tMBREW draft onehe investment to the outcome.”

As they being the 50 year anniversary of when President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation that brought HUD into being, Castro recognizes that his agency “really is about much more than housing,” he said. “It’s about jobs. It’s about good schools, about health, about the environment and sustainability. It’s about creating communities with the assets that families truly need to thrive.”

Another focus is not just on affordable rental properties, but on paths to home ownership and fair lending. HUD also works to stand up for the rights of people, including a groundbreaking settlement with Illinois-based Midland States Bancorp over discrimination against pregnant women, a settlement HUD reached with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage over disability discrimination and various other cases where discrimination was an issue.steele lindbloom ad

“Just because folks are of modest means does not mean they have modest dreams,” Castro said. “They have the same hopes and aspirations as everyone else, and we all benefit when every American has a fair chance to reach those dreams.”

Going back to the roots, Castro said “local communities are also where progress often begins.” He began his speech with a glimpse at the things that take place in community after community across the nation. “I loved every minute of my experience in local government,”nicholas-schrock-allstate Castro said. “I love the closeness to constituents, taking the phone calls, hearing about the barking dogs and the grass that was too high, going to neighborhood association meetings where folks gathered to talk about everything from code compliance issues, to street maintenance to housing needs to job needs. I loved working with diverse coalitions to advance shared goals like revitalizing older neighborhoods in the urban core and expanding access to early childhood education…The local level truly is where things get done.”

Learn more about HUD at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD.

Check out our other NCRC Conference stories:

http://oaklandcounty115.com/2015/03/29/ncrc1-diversity-and-prosperity-integrate-well-in-oak-park-illinois/

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