HUD Secretary Castro Releases Cabinet Exit Memo
Outgoing HUD Secretary Julian Castro recently issued his cabinet exit memo titled “Housing as a Platform for Opportunity.” The memo highlights initiatives, issues, and accomplishments from his tenure in the Obama administration. The memo also points out upcoming challenges for HUD such as a severely aging public housing stock and an affordable housing crisis in many areas of the country.
With regard to the affordable housing market, Secretary Castro says, “With only 65 affordable units available per 100 very low-income renters, availability of affordable housing is extremely limited and, in many cases, where they are available, they are unsafe. HUD’s most recent Worst Case Housing Needs Report found that nearly eight million very low-income unassisted renter households were either paying more than half their income for rent or living in substandard housing. We can do better.”
He also cites the importance of encouraging greater mobility to safe neighborhoods with decent schools with rental assistance. “Numerous research studies show that life outcomes are profoundly impacted by where a person lives. Mothers who moved to safer, lower poverty neighborhoods experienced a 50 percent lower rate of diabetes, a 42 percent reduction in severe obesity, and even reported being happier. Nearly 20 years after moving, their youngest children enjoyed higher earnings as adults, higher college attendance rates, and were less likely to become single parents,” states Castro. He says, in most locations, housing vouchers are the most effective form of housing assistance to give families access to safer, lower-poverty neighborhoods and that HUD has expanded housing choice for low-income families by providing additional rental assistance that allows them to move to areas of greater opportunity under his tenure.
Castro also highlighted the implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. To date, 15 communities across the country have completed comprehensive fair housing assessments and are working locally to set and start working on fair housing goals that are priorities for their communities. HUD is providing these communities with data and technical assistance. In the years to come, he expects additional cities and towns will do the same. He hopes assessments locally crafted with robust community input will help communities plan to use resources and take actions to reduce disparities, level the playing field, and combat patterns of segregation.
In the memo, Castro highlighted many more initiatives that gained traction under his tenure, but he finished the memo by saying that HUD’s work is far from finished. “Last year, during a visit to Ferguson, Missouri, I learned that a child growing up in the upscale Clayton area of St. Louis can expect to live 18 years longer than a child living just eight miles away in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood. We must not accept that. Where a child grows up should never determine where she ends up,” noted Castro. He urges the next administration to build upon what HUD has achieved and “continue fulfilling the vision of making a decent, affordable home available to every citizen.”