U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge discussed solving the current housing crisis for vulnerable communities at an event with the Sine Institute on March 2.
The event was the second of a five-part seminar series moderated by former HUD secretary Julián Castro, featuring various guest speakers discussing how different levels of government can improve policy to benefit the country’s middle-class and impoverished communities.
Fudge spoke about increasing access to affordable housing and how she has been working alongside President Joe Biden’s administration to improve the nation’s housing crisis.
“Housing is the most expensive driver of inflation in the country today… because we’ve not invested in housing for more than 50 years in this country, really invested in it, it has finally caught up with us,” Fudge said.
Fudge’s responsibilities as the HUD secretary fall into four categories: Looking at housing through a lens of equity, finding a way to put more low and middle-income housing into the market, ensuring that people who don’t qualify for a mortgage have a level playing field and access to housing and maintaining and improving public housing.
Homelessness has also recently been a major area of focus for HUD, Fudge said Fudge discussed plans and efforts to solve homelessness, mentioning the bipartisan American Rescue Plan that set aside $10 billion to address homelessness and House America, which asks political leaders across the country to commit to providing housing to a number of unhoused individuals.
“We’ve got people all over the country who are making commitments, some cities as many as thousands,” Fudge said. “So we’ve got about 70 communities and cities that are involved in this right now. We just want to continue to grow it.”
Fudge emphasized the need to expand upon and improve access to affordable housing for low to middle-income communities. She discussed the harms of zoning laws and the restrictions placed upon qualifying for mortgage loans as some of the main drivers of inaccessibility.
Access to affordable housing is much more likely to affect Black people, Fudge said and one way that this happens is through redlining. Redlining happens when a bank denies someone a mortgage loan based on which area within a community they live in, often defined by the racial make-up of the neighborhood.
Although the Fair Housing Act in 1968 sought to solve these discriminatory practices, Fudge said that the gap between Black and white homeownership is larger today than it was in 1968. Fudge says that HUD is combating this problem through the Fair Housing Act by rolling out a new rule later this spring.
“What we are doing when we don’t allow people to move to communities of choice, communities of opportunity, we are segregating poverty in this country. And as long as we segregate poverty, we are never going to be the kind of society we want to be,” Fudge said.
Fudge also discussed gentrification during the event. Taxation, zoning laws and urban planning are all factors that lead to community displacement, Fudge said. She explained how in southwest D.C., where she lives, the taxation has been driving people, particularly the elderly, out of her neighborhood due to increasingly higher costs of living.
“We have to talk about how we keep core communities not just diverse, but fair because people with money will just come in and destroy a community,” Fudge said.
Fudge concluded with advice to future public servants.
“If you take care of the people, the people will take care of you,” Fudge said, referring to advice that had been given to her by Louis Stokes, the former representative who held her seat in Congress.