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Video: Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, U.S. Housing and Urban Development

A conversation from the 2022 AARP Livable Communities Housing Workshop

Keynote Interview

  • Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) (Click here to read her full biography.)

  • Moderator: Rosanna Márquez is a member of the AARP Board of Directors. She was formerly the Midwest regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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The presentation transcript was created by an automated transcription tool. Anyone looking to quote or use information from the event is advised to compare the text to the video recording. 

Rodney Harrell, AARP: Now it's time to begin our first keynote, an interview with Secretary Marcia L. Fudge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. During the keynote, please ask your questions in Slido, and we'll address as many as we can after the presentation. With that, let me introduce our moderator for this discussion, Rosanna Márquez.

Rosanna is a member of the AARP Board of Directors, and was formerly the Midwest Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. So let's welcome Rosanna and Secretary Fudge.

Rosanna Márquez: Thank you, Rodney. Good afternoon, everyone. And welcome Secretary Fudge. Secretary Marcia L. Fudge is the 18th Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. I believe you can see her bio to the side of your screen, so I will only say here that Secretary Fudge has an extensive and very effective history of fighting around issues of housing, community development, equity, and financial security in both the local and federal levels, and now is the HUD Secretary. Welcome Secretary Fudge.

Secretary Fudge: Thank you for having me. Thank you for having me, I appreciate it.

Rosanna Márquez: Yeah, so let's get into it.

Secretary Fudge: Okay.

Rosanna Márquez: So as you know, the 2022 AARP Livable Communities Workshop is focused on housing for all ages addressing core issues of housing choice, housing design, housing stability, and housing equity in communities. With those things in mind, what is your vision for how HUD is advancing housing for all ages alongside state and local partners and stakeholders?

Secretary Fudge: Let me just first, again, say thank you so much for having me, and thank you for the great work that AARP has done for some 64 years. I very much appreciate it. I think that it is important for all to understand the time in which we find ourselves, and that is, in a place where we realize that for decades, we have not built enough housing, we have not paid attention to our housing stock, and so we are at a place now where we are short some 1½ million affordable homes. So my real goal and where we are trying to make sure that we can get at HUD is to ensure that every single person has an opportunity to live in a safe, decent, affordable home in a neighborhood of their choice. And it's just kind of really that simple, because we know that the environment today, which has created more and more homelessness people, which has created ghettos that we cannot quite frankly start to eradicate, and public housing that is in decay. And so we want to make sure that we can address those issues as quickly and as efficiently as we possibly can.

Rosanna Márquez: Thank you, thank you. So, as you know, many communities across this nation are facing a housing affordability crisis for homeowners and renters alike. Can you share with us your vision for creating more affordable housing for all?

Secretary Fudge: There are a number of things that we can do, but there are some things that we really do not fall to the federal government at all, they fall to local and state communities. The President in his 2023 and '24 budget has requested enough resources to build, preserve, and/or sell 100,000 homes over the next three years. We are looking at how we preserve communities, so that is a big issues with us, not only do we need new housing, we need to preserve the housing we have. We need to allow seniors to age in place, and we need to put people in environments which are safe. And so we are looking at a myriad of things, of course.

We're looking at how our zoning affects where we build new housing. We are looking at communities that have very restrictive regulations as to what types of housing you can build. We are looking at how we can start to build more multifamily housing to accommodate the need, and we are looking at how we can create an environment in which we can do some things that we haven't pushed in the past. Maybe more manufactured housing, maybe more accessory dwelling units, maybe more intergenerational housing kinds of institutions. And so we're looking at a number of things, and it's going to take every single thing we've got. There's no one solution to this problem. Certainly, resources help, so we want to expand the low-income housing tax credit so that we can get more developers interested in building moderate, affordable, low-income housing.

We also want to look at what is on the market today, and just not be stuck in the past and build the houses that our grandparents and our parents lived in.

Rosanna Márquez: And so HUD, AARP is very pleased to be a partner with HUD and others in all of these efforts. AARP has been working nationwide with local leaders and partners to help support new housing in communities from amending zoning as you alluded to, to helping build more so-called missing middle housing and making it easier for people to build accessory dwelling units, make room for small and mid-sized housing that's affordable.

So to dig in a little deeper here, Secretary Fudge, how is HUD working to support all of these efforts in communities to build more affordable and varying housing types such as...

Secretary Fudge: Well, I mean I think it's, I mean I started the conversation, and let me just say that before I get any further, to say to your CEO, Jo Ann Jenkins, to who we are very much aligned on where we're heading, to say thank you for the work that you all are doing to be our partner. But we have, as well in our budget, looked at how we can deal with housing supply. So we are requesting more home dollars which are fairly easy to use to build new housing. We're looking at more CDBG [Community Development Block Grant] resources because of the flexibility. We are requesting more resources into the housing trust fund which is set aside primarily to build houses for the most in need. We are working with our housing finance agencies to provide resources so that they too can lend to developers and those who would help us build affordable housing at a rate that is, in my opinion, something that they can't beat anyplace. As well as we are working with state and local communities to determine how together we can provide technical assistance, counseling, not just to those who would build, but to those who would buy or those who would rent.

Rosanna Márquez: All very good. So to focus on older adults, many of them depend on a fixed income. The rising cost of homeownership and rent has led to an increase in foreclosures, evictions, and homelessness among older adults. While today's housing challenges are widespread, the racial disparities are evident when we examine who is especially impacted by housing instability. So Secretary Fudge, can you share with us your vision for addressing the racial disparities we're seeing and rental eviction and declining homeownership rates for communities of color?

Secretary Fudge: Well let me just say that there's really nothing in my vision that can truly change it. The only way we can change it is as a nation we decide to deal with systemic racism, racial discrimination, and bias that has existed in this country for generations. And I think it is finally time that we face it, and the President, with his very, very first executive order, said, "We are going to look at everything through a lens of equity." We know that one of the fastest growing groups of homeless people in this country are elderly Black women. We also know that in communities of color, it is more difficult to find places where seniors can not only age in place, but find a place at their age where they can live with the kind of services that they need. So we have been, as an Administration, the President has said let's put more resources into things like our Tool to Senior program. Let's look at how we can really address the issue of aging in place.

I am just back from a trip with the G7 ministers to talk about some of these very same issues, homeless being a big one. I am headed to another meeting to talk about how we deal with aging in place because it is a problem across the world, not just here, because we've never really given the kind of thought, the strategic thought, to what we do with seniors after they have given everything they have to their job and to this country and to their families. What happens to them in the sunset of their lives?

So it is a major problem, so we're looking at things like accessory dwelling units. I happen to have a yard that I could easily build a small home or a small apartment and put it on my property. We're looking at things like manufactured housing which has become so efficient and so affordable and so nice, quite frankly, that it is another alternative to things that we are looking at for seniors in particular. And we are looking at communities. We've been working with Habitat and others to find ways where we can allow people to remain in their homes just with some small upgrades or retrofits. We have a program we call an Older Adult Home Modification Program where we can help with just some simple things. Let's say it's grab bars around your tub. Maybe it's new appliances, a way to get around your kitchen. Maybe it is just some assistance with your lighting, your plumbing, your electrical. Those are things that HUD is doing now to try to be helpful, but there's not enough. We just need more resources to do our work.

And I don't think it really relies solely with HUD. I mean we can only do so much, but we don't build housing. We don't set aside zoning rules, we don't make land available in our communities. That is what happens at the local and the state level. So we have to be partners. We have to work together. It's not just us or them, it's us together.

Rosanna Márquez: Totally agree. It will take all of us on this livability community workshop and more to make that all happen. So thank you, Secretary Fudge. Let's give a chance to hear from our audience. I'll now turn it over to our emcee Mike Watson for some Q&A.

Mike Watson, AARP: Well thank you, Rosanna, and Secretary Fudge. That was a fantastic conversation, and I've been looking at the questions that have come in, and they're right along line with the points that you were making, Secretary Fudge. On that note, it's now time to turn to your questions. So remember, please use Slido to ask your questions. As I mentioned, we already have some great ones rolling in, so let's go ahead and get started with the first one which is directed obviously to you, Secretary Fudge. "Can you share with us how HUD continues to work alongside state and local governments to end homelessness?"

Secretary Fudge: That's a perfect question because I have said many times, probably too many times, that in what I believe to be the greatest nation in the world that we would have people sleeping on our streets. Those numbers sometimes are as high as $400,000 in any given night. But what the Administration has done, and at the President’s request, is they have put $10 billion in homeless resources into our states. And so I have been traveling all over this country meeting with mayors, county officials, to talk about how we can use those resources, whether it be purchasing things like small hotels and motels. In California, they're doing things like building container villages. We are looking at, as I said, tiny homes. We're looking at a lot of things that we can do as well as providing as many as 70,000 vouchers for persons who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, because we know that we need to get people off the streets.

Additionally, we are showing communities, in particular, mayors, how they can use the resources from the American Rescue Plan, and those amount to more than $350 billion for our cities. They can use those resources to assist with homelessness as well. So we are doing some technical and counseling work, as well as just one-on-one, meeting with community leaders, meeting with developers, meeting with tenants and those who would be in a position to take advantage of some of these resources.

Mike Watson: Thank you, Secretary Fudge. It sounds like a lot of big investments and a lot of partnerships and collaboration are what's going to kind of make this happen on the ground. On that point, I think that kind of leads us to the next question that we're seeing which is around kind of partnerships. And the question is, "What strategies are working to bring cross sector partners together to think holistically about housing systems and implement mutually reinforcing strategies for change?"

Secretary Fudge: That must be somebody who works for the government and realizes that for so long, for so very long. We all work in these individual little silos, nobody talk to anybody, right. So what we are doing today though, to the credit of the President, is he has really said to us that we all need to work together on these things. So I work every day with people say in transportation to be sure that while we are building new units of housing, we are putting them in a place where people can get to the things they need, the services they need, but as well as maybe to a job, maybe to schools.

So we're looking at how we can leverage the resources together. We're looking at things like climate. We are looking at all kinds of things that we believe are going to make us successful at what we are doing, but government does have to work together. And I'm not so sure quite frankly that it was ever designed to do that, but we are cutting across all of those boundaries and barriers, and we are working together. So I think that you'll see some significant change in the way and the responses that you receive from the federal government. We're just trying to make sure we can pass that down to the states so that we can get our governors and our county officials and our rural officials and our urban officials to sit down together and come up with plans that are going to serve the most people in the best way that we know how.

Mike Watson: Very well said, Secretary, and I think you mentioned earlier the rescue plan and the role that that's playing in that funding directly to states and directly to locals, and how they're able to put that into practice working with community organizations. That's certainly been impactful from what we've seen.

Secretary Fudge: Let me, can I just say one more thing about that.

Mike Watson: Yes, of course.

Secretary Fudge: This is our best opportunity to make change. There will not come another time when states and cities and rural communities have the kind of resources they have today. The original COVID packages, the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act — we've got all of these things that have created billions of dollars for states and cities. If we cannot do it with the resources we have today, I don't know when we can get it done. We have the tools. We need the will. Forty-six billion dollars just in resources for eviction prevention. We have the resources; we just need people to step up and show the will to do it.

Mike Watson: Very well said, and I think that was a great call to action for everybody tuning in today from across the country working on housing. And on that, I think one of the things you mentioned in your remarks was accessory dwelling units, and as you know, it's a priority for AARP, AARP state offices are working across the country to advance state and local policy change encouraging accessory dwelling units. Accordingly, we've seen a lot of questions here in the chat about different ways to encourage development. Can you talk a little bit about how the Administration and some solutions that you're seeing locally that are focused on how to improve financing or how to improve permitting or development of accessory dwelling units in communities.

Secretary Fudge: Well fortunately, FHA [Federal Housing Administration] and Fannie Mae both are parts of HUD. And so we know that FHA is already looking at how we can provide the kind of financing for things like accessory dwelling units as well as a manufactured homes. As it FHFA [Federal Housing Finance Agency] which is over Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And so we're all looking at ways to try to provide and put more housing in the pipeline, especially for senior citizens and for those who have low incomes. And so we know that these are part of the solution. They are resilient, they are energy-efficient, they don't take an awful lot to build, you can put them up fairly quickly, so it's not like building a new home that's going to take you 6 to 8 months to a year, we can put these up in a matter of months, or in a matter of weeks in some instances. And so we know that it is a perfect alternative, and so we are trying to find ways now, not only to finance them, but to encourage their use.

Mike Watson: Very well said, and I think again, it's something that we're pleased to be seeing and pleased to be a part of across the country in AARP's advocacy and outreach efforts. One of the other questions that we're seeing, you kind of mentioned earlier some programs to help older adults age in place and retrofit their homes, we know that in a lot of communities older housing stock can be a challenge for folks who are aging in place. So the question that we have that came in is, "What resources are available for existing older communities with older buildings, to get retrofits and resets to allow seniors to age in place?"

Secretary Fudge: I mentioned to you the older adult modification program. That's a total right now of $45 million. We started out with a $30 million package, we just, in the last month or so, added another $15 million, because it's so successful. So we are granting these resources to local, like Habitat. When I was in Minneapolis, it's Habitat, the Twin Cities Habitat, that used those resources to assist people in their homes. We have continuums of care that are dealing with homelessness in every community, as well as we are working with our municipalities to say to senior citizens, if you have a problem, this is the number you call. But HUD, on our own website, has resources that you can access, at least you can get the information as to who to call, make sure that we can get to you because we do technical assistance, we have housing counseling, and we really pride ourselves on being able to give people solutions to some of the problems they're having. And that may even be a voucher. I don't know if that's an issue as well. But we do have the wherewithal to get people to the right place. So if you don't know anyplace else to go, call HUD; we'll make sure that you get to the right place.

Mike Watson: Very good. So for those of you listening, you have a call to action, you know where to go if you need resources. And on that, I think, Secretary Fudge, you have a unique kind of view. You're a former local elected official, you're a former member of Congress, and now you're a secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and you probably have some great advice for folks. We're getting a lot of questions here about overcoming opposition or overcoming local challenges when we're trying to kind of build new development. Do you have any advice for folks who are tuning into today who are running into those kind of challenges when they're trying to build new types of housing, permitting new accessory dwelling units, new Missing Middle Housing, or other types of housing that's going to help older adults?

Secretary Fudge: Well there are three things I think that we need to do. One is realize the fact that most communities have probably not looked at the zoning in 100 years. Most people don't do it because we just are so accustomed to doing things the way we've always done them. So I would suggest, first, that you engage your councilperson or your mayor and talk about what you would like to see happen. Secondly, you need to take a good look at your zoning laws as well so you know which ones of those are exclusionary and how you can create inclusionary laws. But I want to tell you the biggest thing is to talk to your neighbors. Nine times out of 10, it's your neighbor that doesn't want you to build a two-story or four-story or four-unit building next to them. It's normally not the city, it's your neighbor.

So I think that we have to start to have community conversations with people about the need, because there is not a community in this country that is not having a housing crisis, not one. Rentals have gone up to an average of at least $2,000 a month across the country. There is nowhere where a person making minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment in this country. We know that there is a shortage, no matter whether you live on tribal lands or a rural community or an urban; there is a crisis and every single person know is. This is the time to start to engage in the conversations, but the biggest problem we face, no matter how kind you think people are, they don't want it in their backyard.

So it's the matter of talking with people, it's a matter of making sure that those people who are trusted by the community start to engage in those conversations, but it's always, it's also a matter of holding accountable the people that you, that represent you, the people you elect. Talk to your mayors, your council people, go to a planning meeting, go to your civic groups and have a conversations. But no matter what, talk to somebody about it. I think it's important to start the conversation.

Mike Watson: I love that, the power of connection, the power of conversation, and the importance of engagement. I think local officials know it, community organizations know it. When you ask people and talk to them, it's going to have a little bit more impact and help you build the case. With that, Secretary Fudge, we have time for one final question from our audience. So we're seeing a lot of questions here around Section 202 Housing and Affordable Housing. I just want to give you the opportunity to kind of answer some of the questions around how is the Administration thinking about Section 202 Housing and Affordable Housing options for seniors and what the future is there?

Secretary Fudge: Well, the one thing that we have done is increase the request for 202 funding, we know that especially throughout the pandemic, we lost things like assisted-living facilities. We lost rural hospitals. We lost rural housing, and we will building no senior housing. So we know, once again, 202 programs and senior programs, and we know that they are necessary, and so we have increased the funding request, and we are doing everything we can to partner with people who are building them. You know, for a long, long time, especially in communities of color, churches were building senior housing. So we've been meeting with pastors and with the ministerial alliances to talk about how we can improve, but we also know that we need all kinds of housing. 202 Housing is very, very important, so we're saying to, again, our partners, these resources are available to you. How can we help you prepare your communities for those who are getting ready to move into the group that we call the aging population, which, by the way, I'm one of, so I'm hoping that we can get it straightened out before I get to that point.

Mike Watson: Very well said, Secretary Fudge, and I think we like to say we're all part of that aging population, so we're glad you’re here with us.

Secretary Fudge: Thank you.

Mike Watson: And with that, as I mentioned, that was our last question. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Rosanna, I'm now going to kick it back to you for our closing with Secretary Fudge.

Rosanna Márquez: All right, thank you, Mike. First, I want to thank all of you out there for all those excellent questions that you asked. And Secretary Fudge, it is great to hear a reinvigorated HUD under your leadership reclaim a leading role in addressing housing issues around the country. Please, let me give you a chance to offer us all some closing remarks.

Secretary Fudge: Well, I will again say thank you for having me. And I would say this to all of your listeners and to your members, we understand, and we know the situation we find ourselves in. I will make you one promise, it's not that I will change all of it overnight, because I cannot. But the promise I will make you is that HUD will do more than has been done just to start to turn this big ocean liner that we run here. We will make a difference; we will make it better. We may not make it perfect, and we cannot change it all, but we're going to do everything in our power to change it so that people will know that government can and will work for the people we serve.

Rosanna Márquez: Secretary Fudge, we will hold you to that, so thank you for joining us today.

Secretary Fudge: Thank you.

Mike Watson: Thank you, again, just echoing Rosanna, Secretary Fudge, thank you so much, and Rosanna, thank you. This has been a fantastic conversation, and I think has set us up well for the rest of our conversation today and this next video feature that we're going into. So now, as I mentioned, we're going to share a few videos highlighting how two communities, Louisville, Kentucky, using an AARP Community Challenge grant, and Durham, North Carolina, using good old volunteer bootstrapping advocacy are working to provide more choices in housing. These videos are going to last for about 10 minutes, and when we come back, we'll kick off our panel discussion focused on our theme of housing choice. 

Page published October 2022

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