The 16th Secretary of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the third Latino to hold the position. Castro was the headliner at the Annual NAHREP Keynote Luncheon for the 2016 Housing Policy & Hispanic Lending Conference. Read his address below:
Good afternoon, NAHREP! Welcome to the nation’s capital! It’s great to be with y’all today. Thank you, Glenda (Gabriel), for your really kind words of introduction.
To your CEO, Gary Acosta, your President, Joe Nery, your President-Elect, Leo Pareja, your Executive Director, Marisa Calderon, and your entire Board of Directors — thank you for your leadership in your industry and in your communities.
And my thanks to the members and supporters of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals for your outstanding efforts across the United States.
I know that y’all are experts in selling — but believe me, you don’t have to sell me on the importance of your work.
I see it every day in the families you’ve helped, the neighborhoods you’ve made stronger, and the housing market you’ve bolstered.
And I see it in an industry which has changed so much that folks of different backgrounds, including Latinos, now have much more than a seat at the table — they’re often calling the meeting.
So, more than anything else, I’m here today to say thank you. Thank you for opening new doors for families and for breaking down barriers in your industry. Thank you for serving the underserved. And thank you for your partnership with the Obama Administration.
We’ve come a long way since 2009. The President took office in the midst of the worst economic crisis in generations, and history will show that he stepped up, met the challenge, and laid the foundation for healthy economic growth that will benefit American families for generations to come.
Families that were getting pink slips in 2008 are now getting paychecks in an economy that’s created 14.3 million new private sector jobs over 72 straight months — the longest streak on record.
Folks who were in the unemployment line are now working the assembly line because the President saved the auto industry, and we’ve seen a surge of 900,000 new manufacturing jobs since 2010. And our housing market continues to re-emerge as an engine of economic prosperity.
I’m sure you see it every day in your own communities. More foot traffic at your open houses.
More inquiries about your loans and listings. More construction downtown, and uptown, and everywhere in between.
2015 was the best year for home sales since 2007. Real residential investment was up 9 percent last year. And homeowners have gained more than $6 trillion in housing wealth since 2009.
This has been a period of progress for our nation. And the Latino community is helping drive this growth. That’s what your latest “State of Hispanic Homeownership Report” shows.
Now, as most of you know, it’s being released later today. But, one of the perks of being a keynote speaker is that I had the chance to get an early look at it. But I don’t want to be like that friend who spoiled Star Wars before you got the chance to see it — so I’m not gonna talk in detail about it.
Let me just say that it reaffirms what we already know from our experience: that Latino homeownership is growing, it’s here to stay, and it’s only getting stronger. The Latino population has grown six-fold since 1970, and it continues to get bigger every single day.
This is a prime reason why communities of color will represent 36 percent of all U.S. households by 2025 — a 5 percent increase from 2013. It’s clear that Latinos will intimately shape the future of the housing market, and homeownership will play a large role in that growth.
That’s because, like everybody else, owning a home is part of this community’s American Dream. Go to Laredo, Texas, or Salinas, California, or Elizabeth, New Jersey, and ask the young people there what they would do if they made it big.
I guarantee you that the first thing most of them would say is that they’d want to buy a home — for themselves, for their parents. Responsible homeownership is about more than contracts, and closings, and deeds.
It’s the pride folks feel when holding that new key, and walking into their new home for the first time. It’s the stability that comes with putting down roots and having a place to build a life in.
It’s the security of knowing that every mortgage payment put in the mail is an investment in the future — a chance to build savings, put a child through college, start a business, or retire comfortably.
Homeownership is still a cornerstone of the American Dream, and we’ve gotta do everything we can to protect it for future generations.
The Obama Administration started by putting strong safeguards into place to prevent many of the abuses that hurt families in the past.
No more bonuses for lenders that put borrowers into expensive loans. New efforts to help homebuyers understand the terms of their mortgage so that they know before they owe. And new protections that require lenders to evaluate a borrower’s ability to repay a loan — a move that makes both common sense and business sense.
These actions are a big reason why we’re seeing economic progress across the board. And we’re going to keep working to build a housing market that works for everyone.
And today, I want to talk about three Obama Administration priorities to accomplish this goal.
The first: to help every American achieve the economic security they need to buy a home if they want to. The second: to give folks the financial knowledge they need to make the best possible decisions and investments. And the third: to give every American, who’s ready, the chance to buy a home by expanding access to credit, by making homeownership more affordable, and by doing everything we can to ensure the housing market is free from discrimination.
Let me start with helping every American achieve economic security. Let’s face it: the road to homeownership doesn’t begin with a loan application. It begins much earlier than that — with the skills you have and the job you hold. With the college debt you carry and the health costs you’ve endured.
All these things determine if a person is ready to buy a home or not. For too long, it’s been getting harder and harder for folks to reach and stay in the middle class. So the President has been working around the clock to give more Americans a chance to achieve their dreams.
He’s proposed raising the minimum wage, so that hard-working Americans can earn enough to start building some savings. He’s investing in growing industries like clean energy that increase economic opportunity and decrease the environmental hazards that make folks call-in sick to work.
He’s wants to provide students with two free years of community college so they don’t have to decide between a higher education and decades of debt — the kind of debt that is preventing so many millennials from buying a home. And he’s worked to give every American access to affordable health care.
So far, 18 million people have secured coverage thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act, and not only has it saved lives, it’s also saved folks from bankruptcies, and the sudden loss of their homes and retirement accounts.
All of us in the Administration are working day and night to help folks achieve economic prosperity and security for many years to come. And I guarantee you that we’ll be doing this work till we clean out our desks on January 20th, 2017. The American people deserve nothing less.
But we also recognize that in addition to the economic tools I just mentioned, folks need access to the educational tools required to navigate the housing market. Knowledge of the “dos and don’ts” of the home-buying process is just as important as any down payment or insurance.
That’s where housing counseling comes in. Since 2009, HUD-approved housing counselors have helped more than 12 million people to manage their money better, to bolster their credit scores, to do everything necessary before buying a home, and to adjust to life after the closing date.
And this work has made an impact for folks like Jessica from Chicago, who got help from the Spanish Coalition for Housing. She’d just gotten divorced and her credit was in ruins.
She wasn’t sure how to recover, so she asked for help, and a counselor named Anna Jimenez answered the call.
Together, they rebuilt Jessica’s credit. She learned the “ABCs” of being a responsible homeowner. And eventually she was able to sit at that closing table, sign those papers, and get the keys to her new home.
“Owning a home is a lifetime achievement,” Jessica says. “It may take longer than you expect, but the secret is staying committed and working through each step to becoming a proud homeowner.”
Now that kind of achievement won’t make headlines these days. It won’t be a breaking story on any of the networks. But, it’s the kind of progress that moves our nation forward.
A person who is down, but not out. Who is driven and resilient. Who, with just a little bit of help from her community, was able to build a brighter future for herself.
These kind of outcomes are happening across the nation, and this year, we’re going to help another 1.4 million Americans do the same. And we’re fighting for another $47 million in our latest budget to support housing counseling because this knowledge is a win for homebuyers, a win for real estate professionals, and a win for our economy as a whole.
Finally, once folks have the educational and economic tools to succeed in the housing market, they’ll need to get access to credit. But as I’ve often said, years ago it was too easy to get a loan — now it’s too hard.
The Urban Institute reports that the market is missing at least 1 million loans every year because of tight credit. And those being left out are the folks who should be leading the home buying market of the future: millennials and communities of color.
So our Federal Housing Administration is working to make sure the market serves everyone.
First, we’re giving lenders the certainty they need to expand their credit box and work with a wider-range of borrowers.
Folks may think it’s always going to be a challenge to deal with the government, but FHA is committed to being a good business partner, and to responsibly managing our programs.
So, over the last three years, we’ve worked closely with industry leaders to create more clarity for those doing business with us.
Now, our partners know exactly what we expect when they do business with us. They can make loans strictly based on a person’s qualifications — without worrying about interpreting our guidelines.
And we hope to see more responsible Americans with average credit get that email message saying “Congratulations, you’re mortgage application has been approved!”
We’re also making homeownership more affordable. Last year, FHA lowered our Mortgage Insurance Premiums because too many folks were being priced out of homeownership.
Why did we do this? Because we had raised premiums 145 percent in response to the crisis — a necessary step back then. But this meant that at the start of 2015, FHA was collecting an average of $17,000 in fees on a loan when the average risk was a loss of $4,700.
We didn’t want to charge hardworking Americans of the present for the mistakes others made in the past.
So we lowered our premiums to make homeownership more affordable for responsible families.
And today, the housing market is better off because of our actions.
106,000 additional, responsible American families with credit scores below 680 were able to become homeowners over the last 12 months — folks that the conventional lenders were shutting out like Paul and Tomeka Gueory.
Last year, they visited HUD to tell us how our MIP reduction helped them buy a house for their family
After years of Tomeka working in IT, and Paul in construction, they were able to reach this great milestone in their lives. And I’ll never forget it: they called HUD employees “superheroes.”
Now to be clear: you won’t see us flying around the district. You won’t see us swinging on webs. But you will see us helping folks make their tomorrow better than today. The Gueorys are proof that when you give people opportunity — our nation benefits.
And when families look to buy a home, we want to make sure they’re treated fairly in the marketplace. HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act of 1968. And though we’ve come a long way in the last five decades, the world is far from a perfect place.
Latinos, among others, are still too often unfairly denied home loans. And when they do find a willing lender, this community is 78 percent more likely to be given a high-cost mortgage, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
This is just wrong. So HUD is working with our federal partners to level the playing field for all Americans. For example, on February 1st, we announced a $1.9 million settlement with a Tennessee bank that allegedly discriminated against Latino and African American folks simply because of who they were and what they looked like.
Over the past year, we’ve helped more than 1,700 Latinos and African Americans win settlements of over $210 million dollars. And of course, that’s just part of our work to protect the rights of Americans of all races, genders, religions and more.
HUD wants to send a message to all those who seek to discriminate against others in the housing market: not on our watch. Not now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. And if you do wrong, we will work with our partners to hold you accountable.
Our Department is taking these actions because we recognize the same thing you do: that the United States is the greatest nation on earth. It’s the land of opportunity. But that opportunity has never been guaranteed. Each generation has had to improve upon the previous one.
This is our challenge today: how do we ensure that the United States remains the undisputed land of opportunity in this 21st century? The answer? By doing what you do.
By making an impact block-by-block, person-by-person. By recognizing that the Latino community is an asset to nurture and invest in.
Today, because of you, a family will eat dinner in the backyard of their new home. A young professional just starting out will call her mother with excitement because she qualified for a home loan.
A construction worker on the job will pause for a moment to give thanks for the job he now has after some rough years. A hardware store will hire a new employee because business is getting better.
That’s the value of your work. The value of opportunity. The value of a fair housing market.
The value the Hispanic community brings.
And I look forward to working closely with you to build on these values, and to ensure that every American has the chance to achieve their dreams — today and for years to come.
Thank you very much.