Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The new HUD Secretary puts broadband connectivity among his policy priorities



by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

Last week at the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Summit, the new HUD Secretary, Julián Castro, delivered the closing keynote. His policy speech outlined his priorities for the coming years and included predictable and valuable items like housing finance reform, expanding homeownership lending and rental housing preservation. He also highlighted his goal of increasing opportunity through broadband access and jobs training as well as the Obama Administration’s Promise Zones.  

NHC was pleased to hear his emphasis on broadband access, which can help struggling renters access educational programs, job searches, training and social services. Reliable and affordable broadband can also help seniors reduce social isolation and access medical help more efficiently. Our just-starting Connectivity Working Group will bring NHC’s members’ expertise to HUD’s assistance in this effort (to get involved, contact me at rking@nhc.org).

For those who missed the speech, here are some highlights (you can also read the full text) on three topics: homeownership, rental housing and expanding opportunity.

Homeownership:

  • Remove stigma from promoting homeownership; it is the cornerstone of the American Dream.
  • Too difficult for creditworthy borrowers to get a home loan.
  • Need for housing finance reform; a government-dominated market is unsustainable.
  • Establish certainty for lenders and protect taxpayers.
  • Reduce cost for homebuyers through the Homeowners Armed with Knowledge (HAWK) program.
  • Clear up quality assurance policies through efforts like overhauling the single family mortgage handbook.

Rental Housing:

  • The affordable housing crisis is only growing; in 88 of the 100 largest metro areas, renting is more expensive than it’s ever been.
  • Importance of funding for the National Housing Trust Fund.
  • Emphasized the vital need to preserve existing affordable housing and existing public housing, citing the capital backlog of $26 billion in public housing alone.
  • The Rental Assistance Demonstration offers a cost neutral way to address some of these capital needs. The unit cap needs to be increased so that more units can be preserved.

Expand Opportunity:
  • New Jobs Plus Initiative for PHA residents.
  • Find ways to address the digital divide: 
    • Four in 10 families earning less than $25,000 annually have broadband access.
    • Nine in 10 families making $100,000 or more annually have broadband access.
  • Place-based initiatives like the Promise Zone focus on specific high poverty areas for revitalization.
  • Need for smart government and evidence-based practices.

No comments: