Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
National Council of State Housing Agencies Remarks
Washington, D.C., Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, March 11, 2019


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

Thank you to all of the directors and staff at the National Council of State Housing Agencies who make this conference possible.

It's a privilege to speak with so many members of the state Housing Finance Agency community. At HUD, we recognize state Housing Finance Agencies as indispensable partners in addressing a broad spectrum of shared issues, from increasing homeownership to ending homelessness.

Together, we are building the foundation of an affordably housed nation.

Today, Americans are facing a future with record levels of financial optimism. According to a Gallup poll last month, 69 percent of Americans expect to be better off this time next year than today. That's not only a 16-year high, it's within two percentage points of an all-time record.

One source of optimism revealed by recent reports is the record $6 trillion dollars in "tappable" home equity that Americans now collectively own. To put that achievement in perspective, the previous equity peak was $4.9 trillion [dollars], set all the way back in 2005.

For families with affordable homes, this is an American Dream come true.

But on the other side of the affordability divide, those "dreams" are replaced by a sleepless search for shelter. Whenever our nation's teachers, nurses, firefighters, and police struggle to live in the very communities they serve, HUD and our partners are called to do more.

HUD's mission is to ensure safe, fair, and affordable housing for all Americans. Through our programs, we strive to empower state H-F-As, so you can pass that power on to your own communities - especially those most in need.

It's a focus here at HUD to better equip state H-F-As with the tools necessary to advance our shared affordable housing mission.

Opportunity Zones

Opportunity Zones are a powerful new program to preserve and expand affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods. Created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Opportunity Zones are designed to stimulate economic development and job creation by incentivizing long-term capital investments in low-income communities. These Zones are structured to serve local communities for the long-term. Investors who commit capital for five, seven, and ten years receive rewards. That means new growth becomes consistent growth and new jobs become steady jobs. Approximately 35 million Americans now live in the more than 8,700 designated Opportunity Zones across the country. That's roughly 10 percent of America.

Just last month, your group, N-C-S-H-A, announced that its Opportunity Zone Fund Directory had expanded to 89 funds, comprising $19 billion [dollars] in anticipated investments.

And these are still just the early days. The Department of Treasury estimates Opportunity Zones will attract more than $100 billion [dollars] in private investment in the years to come.

This much-needed medicine goes straight to the heart of affordable housing: of the $19 billion [dollars] in Opportunity Funds tracked by N-C-S-H-A, 91 percent of funds are planning to invest in multifamily residential, student housing, mixed-use, hospitality, or other commercial development. Fifty-five percent of funds are planning to invest in community revitalization, affordable housing, or workforce housing.

HUD is glad to have N-C-S-H-A as a willing Opportunity Zone partner. Recently, your Executive Director, Mr. Williams, championed Opportunity Zones while testifying at an I-R-S hearing.

In his testimony, Mr. Williams noted that much of the $450 billion [dollars] H-F-As have delivered in affordable housing funds to more than seven million households are in areas now designated as Opportunity Zones. H-F-As also administer programs in Opportunity Zones that finance economic development, infrastructure, and small business creation.

At HUD, we are encouraged that so many state H-F-As helped advise governors on Opportunity Zone designation decisions--with many allocating their own resources to help expand Opportunity Zone initiatives throughout their local communities.

To ensure Opportunity Zones reach their potential, President Trump established the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, which I am honored to chair. The Revitalization Council consists of members across 13 agencies and will prioritize Opportunity Zones in a variety of federal efforts, including deregulation, grant funding, loan guarantees, infrastructure spending and crime prevention.

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Pilot Program

Another powerful tool that state H-F-As will benefit from is HUD's expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit - or LITHC ["lie-tech"] - Pilot Program.

Last month, HUD announced our Office of Multifamily Housing Programs will soon publish a notice to extend the LITHC Pilot Program into "new construction" and "substantial rehabilitation" loan products for multifamily home development.

The expanded Pilot Program will streamline the processing of FHA insurance applications for projects with equity from the LIHTC program, and it is part of our commitment to further align our policies and underwriting towards supporting affordable housing production and preservation.

This expansion will encourage affordable multifamily home development - especially in Opportunity Zones - by making it easier for builders to use FHA-insured loans on LITHC properties. By reducing the average processing time for LITHC deals from the current 90 days to as little as 30 days, more deals can get done.

More deals means more loan volume, and that means more affordable housing.

Section 8; Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Trump Administration is committed to helping HUD-assisted families achieve self-sufficiency. As part of those efforts, we just announced an expansion of our Moving to Work demonstration program. HUD's Moving to Work demonstration encourages P-H-As to develop unique self-sufficiency strategies, tailored to the needs of their local communities. These locally designed strategies will improve upon the one-size-fits-all approach.

Additionally, at HUD we have several other initiatives designed to help those we serve chart their own futures.

The Family Self-Sufficiency - or "FSS" - program is an employment and savings incentive program for low-income families that have Section 8 vouchers or live in public housing. Last year, HUD awarded $75 million dollars to public housing authorities through the FSS program, to continue helping public housing residents increase their earned income, save for the future, and reduce their dependency on government assistance.

RAD Program

HUD's Rental Assistance Demonstration - or "RAD" - program was created to give public housing authorities a potent way to preserve and improve public housing properties.

RAD transforms the way the federal government funds public housing authorities by giving them access to debt and equity markets for the first time. Through RAD, public housing authorities can perform essential repairs and rehabilitation without depending on additional money from Congress.

To date, RAD has preserved more than 100,000 affordable housing units, generating more than $6 billion dollars in private capital for critical repairs and needed improvements. In some cases, RAD is supporting the construction of affordable properties from the ground up while producing an estimated 108,000 jobs - often employing low-income residents through HUD's Section 3 hiring initiatives.

Without RAD, it would have taken 46 years for housing authorities to complete the same level of unit repairs and renewals.

The RAD program is extremely successful and continues to grow. Last year, Congress more than doubled RAD's authorization from 225,000 public housing units to 455,000, while extending program authorization for public housing conversions to 2020. This big increase caused many public housing agencies, developers and other housing industry players to consider RAD for the first time.

We are eager to build on such accomplishments in the months ahead.

Conclusion

At HUD, we are proud of our progress, but know these successes would not be possible without the constant cooperation of both the private sector and state H-F-As.

As President Truman once said, "It's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit."

I began today's remarks by discussing the role of American optimism, so I'll conclude by bringing it full circle. The mission we share - to ensure affordable housing for all Americans - may be a material challenge, but it is also a spiritual one.

As a doctor, I've seen firsthand how a patient's tangible health outcomes and intangible inner beliefs can become interlinked. Sometimes, a patient's mere belief in the hope for a better tomorrow can be the very thing that pulls him or her through a difficult time.

It's been said that: "The human body experiences a powerful gravitational pull in the direction of hope. That is why the patient's hopes are the physician's secret weapon. They are the hidden ingredients in any prescription."

For Americans caught in the cycle of the affordable housing crisis, self-sufficiency is the only long-term cure. And self-sufficiency is founded on faith in a stronger future.

Thank you for your continued partnership as we face that future together.

I look forward to your questions in the Q&A.

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