Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Region IV Emerging Strategies in Affordable Housing Expo Remarks
Atlanta, Georgia, Marriot Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center, July 23, 2019
As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.
Thank you, Denise [Cleveland-Legett, Region IV Administrator], for that warm introduction. And thank you to each of the representatives from public housing authorities, the nonprofit leaders, developers, and financial partners of HUD for being here today to help shape our affordable housing future.
With the help of the bold fiscal policies passed by this Administration, our country is experiencing a new Economic Renaissance. Across the nation, we are seeing historic highs in employment, job creation, and GDP growth. Millions of Americans have been lifted off food stamps; there are more job openings than jobless people for the first time on record; and financial optimism is verging on an all-time record.
In short, both Wall Street and Main Street are thriving. And we are only getting started with what our nation can achieve when we work together to harness the power of American innovation and American ingenuity – especially in the housing sector.
At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, our mission is to help millions of Americans pursue their potential – by ensuring access to safe, quality, and affordable homes.
Homes are not simply physical structures – they are social, cultural, and economic engines. They are where families are raised, where memories are made, and where communities become interconnected.
But a challenge that has long been chronic, has reached crisis levels: there is a nationwide shortage of affordable homes.
As a result, we have reached the point where many of our nation's teachers, nurses, auto mechanics, construction workers, police officers, and firefighters struggle to live in or around the communities they serve.
Fortunately, HUD has a prescription to lift our nation's forgotten men and women onto a path of self-sufficiency —where they can forge their own destinies and set a higher standard for American families.
HUD's prescription has three key ingredients: revitalization, innovation, and deregulation.
Revitalization; Opportunity Zones
Across the country and even here in Atlanta, many communities have faced serious challenges over the years due to a persistent lack of financial investment. These are places with the will to succeed, but opportunity has been lacking.
The first several chapters of my life were spent as a witness to the kinds of pressure that come from opportunities being scarce in a community – and the power that comes when opportunities emerge. My mother was one of 24 children, and married my father at the age of 13. When they divorced, it fell to this woman with a third-grade education and very little money to raise two young boys in a rough neighborhood on her own.
With our mother's firm hand guiding us, my brother Curtis and I punched our ticket to opportunity through reading and education. He became a rocket scientist and I became a neurosurgeon – and, now, the Secretary of HUD.
But we can't rely on "Super-Moms" to be the saving grace of families residing in struggling communities. We have to create structural opportunities within the heart of every community – which is why HUD has championed a tremendous nationwide initiative called Opportunity Zones.
Few programs in modern memory have the potential to change so many lives 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, targeted for revitalization.
The purpose of Opportunity Zones is to spur private investments into economically distressed communities through powerful tax incentives. But only investors who commit capital for five, seven and ten years receive the benefits of this tax incentive. So for neighborhoods in need, 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. Scott Turner is the Executive Director and he has been doing great work for us as well.
As of now, the Council has identified more than 160 federal programs that could increase investments into Opportunity Zones through grant preference points, loan qualifications, reduced fees, and eligibility criteria modifications. And we have already implemented a tremendous number of these actions across agencies.
Innovation; Affordable Housing
Innovation is another area that is essential for us to embrace to overcome our affordable housing challenges.
If "necessity is the mother of invention," America's affordable housing challenges have created the impetus for a powerful wave of American ingenuity – in the form an amazing array of new home building technologies, techniques and materials.
One such innovation is the dramatic rise of manufactured housing as a builder of more affordable and resilient homes.
Today, more than 20 million Americans live in manufactured housing, which makes up approximately 10 percent of single-family residences. As a result, manufactured housing has become the largest source of unsubsidized affordable homes in the nation – which saves taxpayer dollars.
With manufactured housing, construction can be done at half the cost, while appreciating in value at a rate similar to site-built homes, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency Housing Price Index. These dramatic cost savings enable responsible citizens to secure housing that may be considerably less expensive than renting or purchasing a site-built home.
By harnessing these new technologies, we can increase production of new homes nationwide, while preserving homeownership's extraordinary potential to be a wealth creation tool for families from every socioeconomic background.
To champion these new solutions, last month, HUD held our inaugural Innovative Housing Showcase on the National Mall in Washington, DC, which featured state-of-the-art building technologies and housing solutions that make homeownership more affordable for American families. We helped educate policymakers — and tens of thousands of Americans — through a wide array of exhibitions, prototype homes, panel discussions and policy conversations with leaders across the housing industry.
One of the key takeaways from the Showcase was that technology is a fantastic tool for building unity. Technology has no color, no creed, no picket line, and no party line. It's not Democrat, and it's not Republican — it's just plain American.
Finally, I'd like to share our efforts help local cities and towns live up to their potential through deregulation.
If there's one thing a surgeon is good at, it's cutting things. And deregulation isn't just about cutting bad laws — it's cutting costs, so we can improve Americans' lives.
That's why, at HUD, we are working with local community leaders and public officials across the country to break down burdensome regulatory barriers to new home construction and development, which can account for 25 to 40 percent of costs.
To advance this mission, last month, President Trump established the White House Council on Eliminating Barriers to Affordable Housing, which I have the great honor to chair. The Council engage with State, local, and tribal leaders across the country to examine the obstacles impeding production of more affordable homes – namely, the enormous price tag of burdensome government regulations—and work together on solutions.
The President has given us a mission to break down barriers — and to clear the path — for millions of Americans to pursue their American Dream. It is a mission we proudly and enthusiastically accept.
While HUD is leading the fight to ensure decent, safe, and affordable housing for all Americans, we are grateful for the continued feedback and thought leadership on housing policy and partnerships made possible by leaders like those in the audience today.
Solving today's affordable housing challenges requires a team effort. It's said that, "the bigger the dream, the more important the team" – and few ambitions are more compelling, or more necessary, than that of the American Dream.
On behalf of HUD, I look forward to serving alongside you, so our common vision is a lived reality for all who call this great nation home.
Thank you, and God Bless.