Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
DC Housing Authority Homeownership Celebration Remarks
Washington, D.C., DC Housing Finance Agency, June 7, 2019


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

Thank you, Tyrone [Garrett, Executive Director]. And thank you to the wonderful staff at the DC Housing Authority for inviting me to join you today. On behalf of HUD, it is a privilege to share my vision for how we can help our fellow Americans achieve higher levels of homeownership, self-sufficiency, and their own versions of the American Dream.

During this month of June - which is designated as "National Homeownership Month" - we are reminded that homes are not simply physical structures - they are what binds strong families, strong communities, and ultimately, a strong nation, together.

Time and again, it has been shown that homeownership is the most powerful tool for wealth creation in our country. According to the National Association of Realtors, the average net worth of a renter is $5,000 dollars. The average net worth of a homeowner is $200,000 dollars. That's a 40-fold difference.

Although our nation's economy is booming - and has opened countless doors for American families under President Trump's leadership - many Americans still feel like there are few inroads into the Land of Opportunity, because they feel "walled off" from homeownership.

But any wall can be converted into a door once you find the slot for the key. And at HUD, we believe the name of that key is self-sufficiency.

Self-sufficiency provides our fellow Americans with the power to forge their own destinies, rather than pre-determining people's fate or resources from the top down.

Since self-sufficiency is the key, it is a great pleasure today to be presenting seven special families with keys to their new homes. These families are graduates of the DC Housing Authority's Homeownership Assistance Programs, and they serve as role models for countless others in their communities.

Abraham Lincoln once observed, "You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer." The wisdom in Honest Abe's remark is that providing a pathway to self-sufficiency is the only equitable - and indeed, the only effective - way to address the lack of economic opportunities for our nation's most vulnerable communities.

One of the operating principles of both HUD and this Administration is that no individual should be abandoned, and no family should be forgotten. All people in need have the ability to succeed, if given the proper incentives and proper opportunity.

But we cannot simply wait for opportunities - we have to create them.

For this reason, HUD has championed a tremendous new nationwide initiative: Opportunity Zones.

Few programs in modern American history have the potential to touch the lives of so many people as powerfully as Opportunity Zones, which are now home to nearly 35 million Americans - including 2.4 million HUD-assisted individuals - in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and five U.S. territories. That's roughly 10 percent of the country, deliberately targeted for revitalization.

The purpose of Opportunity Zones is to spur private investments into economically distressed communities through powerful tax incentives. But Opportunity Zones are also designed to serve local communities for the long-term. Only investors who commit capital for five, seven and ten years receive the benefits of this tax incentive. So for neighborhoods, new growth becomes consistent growth, and new jobs become steady jobs.

To ensure Opportunity Zones reach their full potential, last December, President Trump established the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, which I have the privilege to chair. The Revitalization Council consists of members across 16 federal agencies, where we have the mission to make better use of public funds in the revitalization of economically distressed communities.

As of now, the Council has identified more than 160 programs that could increase targeting to Opportunity Zones through grant preference points, loan qualifications, reduced fees, and eligibility criteria modifications. We have already implemented 50 of these actions across agencies.

I also understand that six out of the seven families receiving keys today have homes in or near Opportunity Zones.

FSS Programs; Section 3

HUD is also advancing a wide range of programs that promote self-sufficiency, strong families and job training - which are essential building blocks for sustainable homeownership.

For example, many here today are also graduates of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program. Recently, HUD granted $74 million [dollars] to hundreds of public housing authorities across the country, so residents can increase their earned income, save for the future, and reduce their dependency on government assistance.

The Family Self-Sufficiency Program helps local public housing authorities hire Service Coordinators who work directly with residents, to connect them with programs and services within their local community. We encourage innovative strategies that link housing assistance with a broad spectrum of services that will help families find jobs, gain economic independence, and climb the ladder of success.

Unlike the perverse incentives that are sadly still a feature of our current rental assistance structure, the Family Self-Sufficiency Program does not increase rent for participating families whose incomes rise. This means residents can pursue the path of self-determination without fear of losing rental assistance.

At the same time, HUD is doing more to ensure that low-income individuals have an opportunity to move toward self-sufficiency and achieve economic upward mobility. These efforts include putting renewed energy behind Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 - the program that increases access to jobs for low- and very low-income individuals, and contracting opportunities for the businesses that hire them. This program has become even more critical in recent years, and we've made it a top priority to help residents of HUD-subsidized housing become more self-sufficient.

In just the last year, expenditures of covered HUD funding generated more than 29,000 jobs, almost 12,000 of which were Section 3 hires. Also, of the more than $5 billion [dollars] in construction contracts that were awarded during that period, almost half a billion dollars in contracts were awarded to just over 2,500 Section 3 businesses.

Conclusion

All of these stories and programs are aligned with one incentive in mind: providing people with the tools to carve a better future for themselves and their families.

America is the "can-do" country - not "what-can-you-do-for-me." And empowering, inspiring, and enabling the great men and women of our nation to become financially self-sufficient is one thing we can and will do, together.

There is much work yet to be done, and the work isn't easy - but nothing worth doing ever is. I am grateful for the support and hard work of the DC Housing Authority, and look forward to continuing to work for you, and alongside you, in the exciting months ahead.

Thank you, and God Bless.

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