Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge at the Second Annual Freedman’s Bank Forum
Madam Vice President and Secretary Yellen, it is my pleasure to join you today.
Your commitment to closing the racial wealth gap is clear and we are grateful for your leadership.
My thanks to Treasury’s Counselor for Racial Equity Janis Bowdler, and your entire staff for the work you put into organizing this event.
And of course, it is always nice to join my HUD colleague Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman.
It is an honor to serve alongside all of you in this historic Administration.
And it is great to be here with all of the distinguished leaders in the audience.
I am a student of history.
As a student of history, I know that the Freedman’s Bank records offer a rare and detailed glimpse into the lives of Black families in the period immediately following the Civil War.
These records tell a story of people who were eager to become a part of the American experiment.
After generations of enslavement, they were ready to reap the benefits of the promise of freedom.
Yet, as we also know, this is a story of promises not kept.
A story of an institution that led people to believe they were protected, only to betray their trust.
People of color in this country know this story all-too-well.
What I love most about history is the lessons it provides.
Lessons that as citizens, and especially as leaders, we have a duty to learn and prevent history repeating itself.
It is our duty to turn the lessons of our past into a syllabus for a future where we can achieve true freedom and true equity.
Since day one, members of the Biden-Harris Administration have been students of history.
We have sought guidance from our past in order to inform our policies and decision making.
That is one of the reasons why I am so proud to serve in this Administration. And why I am so proud of the work we are doing at HUD to make things better.
Work we are doing to build an America where we invest in the economic potential of communities that have long been burdened by structural racism and underinvestment.
That work begins with expanding access to homeownership and opportunity.
As Secretary of HUD, that is one of my main priorities. To help people, especially those from marginalized communities, to invest in themselves and their families.
That is why we are expanding access to asset and credit building services for low-income people.
Our vision is for low-income families to have a fair chance to build wealth and buy a home of their own, if that is their choice.
We also know that student loan debt can have a profound impact on people’s ability to qualify for a mortgage.
That is why we have neutralized that debt so that it does not prevent hardworking people who can afford a mortgage from obtaining one through the Federal Housing Administration.
Advancing your education should not prevent you from becoming a homeowner.
Neither should your status as a renter. Many of our first-time home buyers are renters.
If someone can regularly pay their rent, there is a good chance they would be able to pay a mortgage.
So, the Federal Housing Administration now allows a person’s positive rental history to factor into its assessment of creditworthiness.
I am proud of our work to bridge the gap between renting and homeownership. To further our economic justice agenda.
For too many people, homeownership is merely a dream.
At HUD we are doing everything in our power to connect those who have been historically disadvantaged with more resources and services.
We can do even more with the help of all you in this room: our nation’s banks, Community Development Financial Institutions, and Minority Depository Institutions.
When I addressed this forum last year, I told you we were looking into how Special Purpose Credit Programs can be utilized to expand homeownership opportunities.
We know how useful these programs have been for lenders looking to extend mortgage credit to borrowers who otherwise may not get the best deal.
Borrowers who often include women, people of color, and persons with disabilities.
Well, we have made it clear that these Programs for real estate loans or credit assistance are not prohibited under the Fair Housing Act.
And over the past two years, JP Morgan Chase, TD Bank, Bank of America, and Legacy Home Loans, have each implemented Programs to help bring more homeownership opportunities to communities of color.
I applaud that work. And I look forward to seeing what you will do to create even more opportunities.
Further, HUD is soliciting specific and actionable feedback on the availability of small balance mortgages.
We want to know what barriers prevent you from originating these loans.
And we want your recommendations for how we can increase the volume of small mortgage loans in FHA programs.
We know that people who live in less expensive or rural areas often find it hard to get a mortgage for a lower-priced home.
In fact, today we released a report assessing the limited supply of small mortgages and how that impacts affordable homeownership.
I hope this report, and your feedback, will help us identify the steps we can take to make change in the small-dollar market.
We value and need your partnership.
Our agency and the entire Biden-Harris Administration strives to close the racial wealth gap through investments in communities and in people.
We cannot do this work without partnership and strategic engagement.
But, most importantly, we cannot let the failures of our past foretell our future.
We must recognize that, as James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
There are some dark chapters in the story of America. There is no question about that.
But there are plenty of stories of grit and grace. Of perseverance and power.
Of people, communities, and government working together to make a difference.
The Biden Harris Administration is writing a new chapter in our nation’s story.
It is on all of us in this room to ensure that this is that chapter that we rise, as Maya Angelou wrote,
“Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear....Bringing the gifts that our ancestors gave.”
Let us fulfill “the dream and the hope of the slave.”
And allow this nation to rise to its full potential.