Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
North Carolina Opportunity Now Summit Remarks (Morning Keynote)
Charlotte, North Carolina, February 7, 2020

 

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

Introduction; Compassion

Thank you. I’m delighted to be back in Charlotte for the second time since the New Year. It is always a privilege to connect with the hard-working people and leaders who make the Queen City so unique.

We’re talking today about revitalization, which means to imbue our communities with new life and vitality. Everyone here cares about this critical mission, and shares a deep commitment to delivering success. But there are several different schools of thought about the best way to make it happen. Each one agrees that true solutions must minimize division and maximize compassion.

So I’d like to frame the conversation we are having today by first saying a word or two about what real compassion is. When we watch a fellow citizen suffering, or stuck in a bad cycle, it is certainly compassionate to help that man or woman endure, and persist, through his or her difficulties. But there’s a higher form of compassion – which is not simply to help someone endure a dire circumstance, but to help overcome it.

For example, at HUD, our role in providing public housing assistance is an essential part of what to do, to help our struggling neighbors find their footing and stabilize their lives so they can become self-sufficient. I have long said that HUD’s highest measure of achievement is not how many people we can get into public assistance, but how many people we can lift up and out of public assistance – to a life of independence and to full civic engagement.

That means our mission at HUD to promote revitalization is best achieved when we can foster the conditions for upward mobility, so more Americans can forge their own destinies.

Opportunity Zones

These principles are proudly on display with this Administration’s groundbreaking nationwide initiative called Opportunity Zones. Opportunity Zones were created to spur greater private sector investment into economically distressed communities through powerful tax incentives.

Taxes are like gravity: an invisible, inescapable force that tacks on weight to every little thing you do. Sometimes that’s fine, but other times, these added burdens are the only thing stopping you achieving lift-off.

Ultimately, Opportunity Zones are about the American people and the communities we want to help achieve lift-off.

Earlier this morning, you heard about Opportunity Zones from Scott Turner. Scott is truly a force of nature and has been indispensable in his role as Executive Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, which President Trump established last summer and which I have the privilege to chair.

Today, I am happy to announce the Revitalization Council is releasing our formal “Report to the President,” which details the 180 separate actions we have taken over the past year to maximize the impact of Opportunity Zones at virtually every level of the federal government. This includes the participation of HUD, the Department of Agriculture, the Treasury Department, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Justice Department, and the Small Business Administration, among other agencies and partnerships.

The actions we have taken in the past year span a wide range of new grant preference points, updated loan qualifications, reduced application fees, and improved eligibility criteria for funding and incentives.

Through this initiative, we are fostering partnerships between people who have never sat at the same table before—community leaders, business leaders, faith-based leaders, public housing advocates, investors, builders, state officials, and federal officials. The conversations I’ve been a part of have been groundbreaking, and the progress in these communities is just getting started.

This dialogue is also a springboard for discussing how to reduce regulations that serve as a barrier to investment.

Affordable Housing

Hand-in-hand with the issue of opportunity is the issue of affordability – and specifically affordable housing. The health of a community starts in the home of every family who lives there. When housing is no longer affordable, the American Dream drifts farther and farther out of reach.

The challenge before us is to resolve a paradox: On the one hand, our nation is witnessing historic highs in employment, job creation, economic growth, and financial optimism. For folks and families who already have access to affordable housing, the future looks as bright as a new dawn.

On the other hand, far too many Americans who seek reasonably priced rental units or sustainable homeownership still face a strong headwind. Even in the midst of an economic renaissance, many of our nation’s teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters struggle – or in some cases simply cannot afford – to live in or around the communities they serve.

This is a trend we must bring to an end.

Expert research confirms: our country’s current lack of affordable housing is caused in large part by burdensome regulations on new construction and development. Those costs can account for up to 42 percent of multifamily development costs – and as a result, the largest portion of most Americans’ paychecks go to housing.

To encourage the growth of new homes, last summer, President Trump established the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing. This Council, which I also have the privilege to chair, is working with local and state leaders to identify and remove regulatory barriers that artificially limit housing supply. I recently kicked off a nationwide bus tour in the Great American South, meeting with local officials and stakeholders on a wide range of related concerns.

On our Driving Affordable Housing Across America Bus  Tour, HUD announced a new proposed set of updates to the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards – adopting many of the recommendations made to HUD by the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee. When finalized, these proposed changes will be the first major update to the Standards in over a decade.

Our new proposed regulations are also aimed at increasing the ease adoption of manufactured homes in urban settings, such as right here in Charlotte.

Innovation in Housing Policy

Revitalizing our communities also means innovating on national housing policy to improve our regulatory ecosystem for public housing authorities, private enterprise and local residents alike.

To that end, HUD recently unveiled our improved proposed rule on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing – or “AFFH” – which is aimed at increasing affordable housing choices for families and empowering localities to pursue policies that meet each community’s unique housing needs. This updated rule simplifies compliance, promotes local solutions, and focuses on encouraging what everyone needs more of: lower cost, better housing choices.

Conclusion

At HUD, we have a mission that has never wavered: To make safe, quality, affordable housing available to everyone in this country. But everything we do takes a team effort. We are all in the same boat. If there’s a hole in one part of the boat, no matter how big that boat is, it’s only a matter of time until the whole thing goes down. We will never let that happen.

Each of us has a common commitment to this great nation, to our shared principles, and to our fellow American. So, in that spirit and on behalf of HUD, I appreciate you inviting me here today, and look forward to a vital conversation.

Thank you.

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