United States Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Nani A. Coloretti addressed the annual conference Sunday to describe the federal government’s multi-pronged effort to support American communities and how HUD has developed new strategies in meeting the challenges of today’s population.
It would be natural to assume that HUD would be focused on the “Place” aspect of our conference’s trio of themes -- “Identity, Purpose, Place” -- but Deputy Secretary Coloretti stressed the interconnectivity of all aspects of people’s domestic life and HUD’s role in it.
“HUD is just more than housing,” she said. “It’s about education and health and transportation. It’s about economic development and the environment. And it’s about giving folks the tools they need to build a brighter future.
“Secretary Julian Castro and I refer to the department of HUD as the ‘department of opportunity.’ And we know that because we know that ‘home’ is more than four walls and a roof. A good home is enriched by institutions that surround it. That’s why we’re building more affordable housing, we’re surrounding it with thriving businesses that boost the local economy. Quality schools that allow our children to reach their potential… Reliable transportation that helps residents access good jobs.”
With issues like rising inequality and a wealth gap between higher and lower income families that stands at its highest level in 30 years (according to Pew Research), President Obama called it the defining issue of our time and a central issue for HUD to tackle.
The department’s approach “provides low income families with greater mobility the option through housing choice vouchers, giving families the means to move to higher opportunity neighborhoods and on the other hand we’re also reinvesting in older, distressed neighborhoods.”
Deputy Secretary Coloretti said that HUD has dedicated over 40 percent of its budget to vouchers and that they do make a difference, citing studies that found children under the age of 18 who moved out of highly distressed neighborhoods went on to earn 31 percent more in wages than children that remained.
She maintained that this does not mean that all is lost in distressed areas. Four billion dollars have gone to distressed neighborhoods and initiatives like community development block grants, “HOME funds” and neighborhood revitalization efforts and are important elements of HUD’s strategy.
But Deputy Secretary Coloretti reiterated that the government needs to work in conjunction with the leaders who live in those communities to develop properly targeted support.
The Sustainable Communities Initiative and “Promise Zones” where the department partners with local leaders and places them in “the driver’s seat” to help develop visions for their own neighborhoods, strategies where philanthropies have played key roles.
“Over the past 7 years, philanthropies have been instrumental in working with the Obama Administration to address the most pressing challenges of our communities. Whether we’re tackling homelessness, fighting for fair housing or planning for inclusive community development, foundations are central to the fight to provide Americans with more opportunity.”