Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan Before the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
At the 2013 Annual Convention
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
As prepared for delivery
Thank you very much, Maiko (Winkler-Chin), for that kind introduction and for your outstanding work as Co-President.
Please allow me to also recognize your fellow Co-President, Seema Agnani; your tireless Executive Director, Lisa Hasegawa; and all of you: the leadership, members and supporters of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development.
For 14 years, CAPACD has been a relentless advocate for fairness and opportunity, especially in the areas of housing and community development. You have been a powerful voice for issues and people that have been relegated to the shadows for far too long.
And by helping strengthen the AAPI community, you have helped strengthen our nation. I thank all of you for your outstanding contributions and service over the years. And I appreciate your invitation to be a part of this 2013 Annual Convention.
Our History Together
As many of you know, this is not the first time I’ve had the pleasure of being with you.
In fact, it is a source of personal pride to me that in 2010, I was the first HUD Secretary to ever address this conference.
When you called, I answered because I deeply appreciate the work that you are doing, at all levels, to push for progress. My entire team at HUD values your work as well and has been proud to partner with you on a wide-variety of issues
And it’s an honor to be back again today, just a few short months into the President’s second term, to talk about ways we can continue to work together to advance the interests and values we all care about.
That’s why it’s so appropriate that the central theme of this conference is building. Today, I, too, want to talk about building: building on the great work that HUD and the AAPI community have done in recent years; and building new ladders of opportunity so that every person has a fair shot to reach the middle class.
The Road We’ve Traveled
We come together this morning under much different circumstances than we did in 2010. Back then, our economy was still twisting in the tailwinds of the Great Recession. Today is a much different story.
Under the President’s leadership, our economy has experienced 38 straight months of private sector growth. America’s businesses have created 6.8 million new jobs during that period.
Our unemployment rate—while still too high—is at its lowest point since 2008. And our housing market is healing.
Naturally, this last point is of particular interest to me. Like you, I remember the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty that were in the air during the crisis. I also vividly remember the pain it caused so many Americans, including my neighbors and friends.
That’s why the President, and all of us in his Administration, has made healing the housing market a significant priority. This is a cause that all of us at HUD dedicate ourselves to every day. And shortly after the President took office, we took three bold steps to address the crisis.
First, we worked to help struggling homeowners. We launched the Making Home Affordable Program to provide relief to those at risk of foreclosure. Since its launch in March 2009, nearly 1.1 million homeowners have received a permanent modification to their mortgages, with a median savings of roughly $550 every month.
Not only are their payments reduced, but they can use this extra money to save or go shopping for their children, which is stimulating our economy. And just recently, HUD joined with Treasury to announce we are extending the application deadline to December 2015 so that more homeowners can take part and stay in their homes.
Secondly, in addition to helping individuals in trouble, we worked to assist entire communities with our Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Through multiple rounds of funding we were able to lift up areas that had been neglected and distressed for far too long. As a result, in 75% of the communities, we’ve seen rising home prices, lower vacancy rates, and more private investment.
Lastly, we worked to keep the dream of homeownership alive by unlocking credit. As you remember, after the housing bubble burst, even creditworthy households had trouble getting loans.
That’s when the Federal Housing Administration stepped in and provided much needed liquidity to the nation’s mortgage finance markets. As all of you know, the FHA has a long history of opening doors of opportunity for low- and moderate-income families.
And during this time of crisis, it kept these doors open to so many Americans by stabilizing the market when it was on the brink of collapse In fact, economist Mark Zandi has said that if not for the FHA, “the housing market would have completely shut down.”
So the FHA kept the dream of homeownership alive for so many individuals. And in total, all these efforts are helping to fuel a housing comeback. 2012 was the strongest year of home sales since the economic crisis began.
During that same period, according to Case-Shiller, home prices increased more than 7 percent, the fastest growth in nearly seven years. And these rising home values lifted 1.7 million families back above water.
Clearly, a lot of progress is happening. But make no mistake, there is still a long way to go, especially in ensuring that people from all backgrounds can participate in this growth. That’s why the President has made it a priority to create ladders of opportunity for everyone who’s willing to lift themselves into the middle class.
CAPACD Poverty Report
He’s made this commitment for one simple reason: we as a nation will never reach our full potential if communities are being left behind. The sad truth is that even though the economic crisis impacted all Americans, communities of color were hit especially hard.
And as your recently released report indicates, the AAPI community faces significant
challenges. According to your findings, in the wake of the recession, AAPIs were the fastest growing poor population. And because a disproportionate percentage of the community lives in regions with the highest housing costs, AAPIs face steep barriers when trying to escape poverty.
These are important findings. I thank you for shining a light on this issue. It serves as a wakeup call to the nation that there is a lot of work to be done with the AAPI community. It also adds tremendous value to the conversations between policymakers and community advocates.
We would be happy to work with you to bring more federal agencies and members of the housing community into this important dialogue. And we’d also be glad to participate in any forum the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders organizes around this issue. You have sounded a call of action. And all of us at HUD are proud to stand with you, just as we have for years.
In fact, during my tenure, we have made it a priority to engage with the AAPI community like never before. All of you know our great, former Assistant Secretary, John Trasvina, who sadly left us last month to become Dean of the University of San Francisco Law School.
He’s been a great friend to your community for many years and made significant strides at HUD to address AAPI issues, including language barriers. Bryan Greene, our Acting Assistant Secretary, is committed to building upon this work.
So is Francey Youngberg, who is here today, and has been a key part of the Federal Interagency Working Group that’s part of the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders.
And of course, I am firmly committed as well. With these and other efforts, we want to work with you in continued partnership to restore hope and revitalize communities across the country.
The Progress We’ve Made
An important step in this goal is holding banks accountable for their actions and providing homeowners with much needed relief. The historic National Mortgage Settlement accomplishes both.
As all of you know, this groundbreaking agreement was announced over one year ago, the product of strong partnerships at all levels of government. Recently, the independent monitor announced a major update: that one year in, the nation’s largest mortgage servicers have distributed more than $50 billion dollars in direct relief to over 620,000 homeowners.
These results have far surpassed our expectations. While the numbers are staggering, I always remember we’re talking about people who, on average, are receiving $81,000 per homeowner.
This provides a lot of relief and relieves the burden that many homeowners have faced.
Another significant part of the settlement is the commitment from states to devote nearly $270 million to housing counseling programs. This is important because, whether it’s improving financial literacy, protecting families’ rights against discrimination or even preventing homelessness, housing counselors play a critical role in helping families make smart, informed decisions.
That’s why HUD’s vast network of 2500 housing counseling agencies is one of our greatest strengths. According to NeighborWorks, borrowers who received pre-purchase counseling were 33 percent less likely to become delinquent. And a HUD study showed that 7 out of every 10 at-risk homeowners who worked with a housing counselor got the help they needed to keep their home.
Indeed, over the last four years, HUD-approved housing counselors have assisted more than nine-million families – helping them avoid scams and recover from the financial crisis.
National CAPACD has played an important role in this success, serving as the only AAPI focused HUD housing counseling intermediary.
This is critically important because language and cultural differences are often huge barriers in preventing individuals from securing home loans with fair terms or from seeking assistance.
So the services you provide are critical to this community and our recovery. We are proud to work with you. And I’m especially pleased that you have done incredible things with the resources we’ve given you.
You’ve told us that your organization has leveraged HUD funding many times over, building the capacity of over 20 community-based organizations to become HUD approved housing counseling agencies – providing these services in over 30 Asian languages.
I’m thrilled by your participation. And I’m also thrilled that your organization is now a HUD One CPD TA provider, through the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders.
As you’ll recall, at my speech three years ago, I said this was a great possibility. I’m glad it’s become a reality. And I’m hopeful that unique and innovative public-private partnerships will form in the future as a result of this effort.
As we look to the future, another important step in furthering our shared goals will be getting better data. As many of you know, I’m known around town as a “data guy” – and I own it because I believe data is like a GPS in a car: it gives us the guidance we need to get to our goal.
That’s why I’ve long shared your frustration about the lack of data as it relates to the AAPI community.
So we continue to examine how we are collecting housing data – and break out AAPIs wherever possible. In fact, we will soon release the Housing Discrimination Study 2010, which we conducted with the Urban Institute.
This is only the second national fair housing audit study that measures discrimination against Asians when compared to whites. Once we release our findings, we look forward to working with you—and partners such as the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders—to right these wrongs for good.
We also look forward to working with you in urging those who are facing discrimination to reach out to us so we can pursue justice. As you know, fair housing is at the core of HUD’s mission.
Every person has a right to live in whatever community they choose to call home, which is why we take bold action every time this right is violated.
Earlier this year, we referred a case in Texas to the Department of Justice where, reportedly, people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent were only allowed to live in just two of the buildings in a large apartment complex.
In another case, we reached a settlement with a property company in Virginia that refused to rent to those with limited English proficiency. And all across the country—from New Jersey, to Florida, to Utah—we’ve reached settlements to ensure language access for HUD-funded programs and local governments.
So let me be clear: there are no stones we won’t turn – there are no places we won’t go – there are no complaints we won’t explore in order to ensure the right of every American to fair housing.
As these cases show, this work is paying off. And our work is paying off in other areas. To recap, we have helped spur a housing recovery, by:
helping struggling homeowners fight off foreclosure;
revitalizing the hardest hit communities; and
infusing liquidity into a frozen market.
To ensure that everybody, including AAPIs, could be a part of this recovery, we have:
helped ensure the National Mortgage Settlement provided relief to homeowners;
supported your counseling efforts, along with those of many other community leaders; and
fought vigorously against discrimination in all forms.
Together, we’ve done great work over the years, and we’ve got to keep the momentum going.
Ladders to Opportunity
As I said before, President Obama believes that a key to the future is building ladders of opportunity so that every person—who works hard and plays by the rules—has a fair chance at reaching the middle class.
Accordingly, he has put forth a number of proposals designed to rebuild whole communities and economies. Developed during the first term - our Choice Neighborhoods initiative allows communities to transform a neighborhood, using public-private partnerships and proven mixed-use, mixed-finance tools to revitalize not just public housing, but create a ripple effect that brings partners and capital back into our communities.
The Promise Zones proposed by the President build on those efforts and focuses on integrating and aligning existing programs in communities that were hardest hit by the recession by targeting resources not just at housing, but job creation, public safety, and education.
And we look forward to working with the White House—and you—to support your vision for the future. And as we look to the future, I ask you to raise your strong voices and call on Congress to take action on a number of issues that would help create ladders to opportunity.
To achieve housing-finance reform so that it’s fair for low-income and working class communities, I urge you to call on Congress to advance this cause in a bipartisan way. To help families take advantage of historically low rates, saving the average homeowner $3000 dollars – I urge you to call on Congress to act on the President’s refinancing plan.
To help millions of individuals come out of the shadows and achieve their dream of building a better America, I ask you to call on Congress to advance Comprehensive Immigration Reform. And in these tight fiscal times, I ask all of you to let Congress know that we must end sequestration because federal funding is so important to our work and our cause.
I am asking all of you to use your voices because when the CAPACD speaks – people listen. That’s been your history. And that’s why I’m honored to be here with you to speak up for fairness and opportunity. That’s why I’m honored to join you in standing up for the ideals of diversity and community.
Together, we can build ladders of opportunity. Together, we can lift people out of poverty and strengthen the middle class. And together, we can build a future that’s worthy of our greatest hopes and ideals.