DR. BEN CARSON
SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
AT THE FHL BANKS ANNUAL DIRECTORS CONFERENCE
WASHINGTON, D.C.
MAY 24th, 2017

 

As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to thank Mike Horn, chair of the Council, Cindy Konich, chair of the Bank Presidents, your fine staff in Washington, and John von Seggern and David Jeffers, who we had over at HUD just the other day. It’s a pleasure to be here.

The greatest hero in American film isn’t Superman, Rambo, or Dirty Harry. He never flew on a spaceship and he couldn’t use “the force.”

In fact, he had a regular job at a Building & Loan company, and never left his hometown much.

His name was George Bailey, and in Frank Capra’s Christmas classic, he devoted hislife to making others’wonderful.

An entire town grew around his generosity and conviction that everyone deserved a place to call their own—even if they needed some help along the way. 

Of course, he is just a character. And life is not always as rosy as in the movies.

But sometimes, we can turn the inspiration on the silver screen into a golden reality. And our current reality could use some changing.

Last year, half a million Americans experienced homelessness. Over 5 million people rely on public housing or some form of rental assistance.

And for too many Americans, the dream of homeownership might as well be “lassoing the moon.”

This affects the way these Americans think about themselves, their country, and their opportunities in life. The inability to save up and buy a home is a new type of glass-ceiling that holds back millions from fully realizing their potential.

But I think that the “George Baileys” gathered in this room today are helping to change that. Your Affordable Housing Program is possibly the greatest source of private funding for housing assistance in this nation. It is an amazing example of what the private sector can accomplish when supported, but not controlled, by our government.   

Last week, I announced that HUD is ushering in a new era of homeownership.

This new era is forged out of the turbulence in the housing market a decade ago—and it will be stronger for it.

Our nation learned, through hard experience, that it is not enough to push people to buy homes—we must encourage Americans to buy homes they can afford and sustain.

June is National Home Ownership Month, where we will reaffirm the abiding value of owning a home and rededicate ourselves to the idea that every hardworking and responsible American should have a fair shot at becoming a homeowner.

Great progress has already been made.  Last year, one and a quarter million families closed on homes with help from Federal Housing Administration. That’s more than a 60 percent increase since 2014. 

Additionally, we’re looking at rules to broaden FHA approval to different types of properties like condominiums.

The FHA is also experiencing the lowest delinquency rate on mortgage payments since before the housing crisis. 

That last fact especially gives me hope: if our job is to guide Americans to permanent housing solutions, we cannot talk them into buying homes they cannot afford. Historic lows in delinquencies means we’re accomplishing our task responsibly.

In my trips around the country I’ve heard from stakeholders in low-income housing—renters, site managers, developers, and local leaders. I want to see what’s working and what’s not, so we can be more effective in serving the most vulnerable Americans.

So far, I’ve seen that our efforts are most successful when they address the “whole person.”

Education, work, stable families, and economic opportunities not only serve to pull folks out of housing uncertainty, but can prevent men and women from falling into it.

This means that our efforts in housing must be holistic; we cannot just place someone in an apartment and declare our job finished.

Our efforts will only have permanent results if there is an economy for people to rejoin, a community to embrace them, and a culture that supports the institution of the family.

In cities like Detroit, Dallas, Miami, and Columbus, I have seen firsthand the success of public/private partnerships in holistic treatment of housing issues.

It is always important that local ventures be led by local expertise—not just some bureaucrat far away in Washington.

This means enlisting churches and other faith-based organizations, charities, fraternal societies, and clubs. Each one grew as a “little platoon” of society to address a need: we cannot pretend our mission will be accomplished without their leadership and cooperation.

But this doesn’t stop at community organizations. Private businesses and financial institutions have a very practical reason to join our cause: families with stable homes, good jobs, education, and other opportunities are more likely to participate in our economy.

This is a message I’ve brought to other groups in the last few weeks: The American Land Title Association. The National Association of Realtors. And now you.

And something we all have in common is the health, welfare, and prosperity of our fellow citizens.  The more we can help Americans through the institutions closest to them—through familiar banks, realtors, and mortgage brokers, the more effective and permanent our help will be.

The Federal Home Loan Banks may be a national network—and your stakeholders may be over 7000 institutions strong—but your success lies in the smallest and most personal arena: the loan that one family gets to finally attain their share of the American dream.

Our President has said that the “forgotten men and women of this country will be forgotten no longer.”

This is a message and a mission that I carry with me every day to my job, and I hope that together we can build a country with fair, safe, and affordable housing for every American.

Thank you.