Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Section 3 National Training Conference, Dallas Texas
June 19, 2018

Introduction

Thank you, Beth, [Beth Van Duyne, Regional Administrator for Dallas/Fort Worth] for the kind introduction.

This is one training conference I knew I had to come to, as it involves an issue close to my heart and a central mission of HUD --- helping families reach self-sufficiency, self-confidence, and a path out of poverty.

I know that it is a long three days of comprehensive lectures, discussions and meetings, but I am sure -- that at the end of the conference -- it will have been worth the effort.

As many of you are aware, we are working hard to lift many of the employment, education, health, and other barriers that block the advancement of people living in public housing. That’s why our Section 3 programs are so important.  And why we are celebrating 50 years of its importance in promoting economic opportunity.   

The Necessity of this Conference 

I can’t answer why this national conference on Section 3 is the first of its kind since the statute was established. But I can definitely say that we are working on plans to launch several regional and national Section 3 training opportunities in the future. It’s a win-win situation for all of us – from HUD and public housing authorities and state and local governments, to contractors and small businesses, resident organizations, and most importantly, to the vulnerable families we serve.

You may be surprised to learn, that when I talk to home builders, they often bring up Section 3 requirements. Just last month, when I was at one of the home builder’s national association meetings, they discussed the experience their members had with Section 3 requirements. To be frank, they said there were a lot of challenges involved with the requirements – for example, that they were a compliance burden in both paperwork and cost. I told them that we would address these and other problems in order to help turn this situation around and make Section 3 far more “user friendly.”

That’s why this conference is more than just an opportunity for all of us, it is an imperative. We must restart or kickstart the program and set it into higher gear.

I can understand why builders, as well as government officials, community groups and others are perplexed by the Section 3 program.

When I first came to HUD, I was surprised at how under-utilized it was. But once I started looking closely into the details I could definitely understand why. We didn’t have real-time data on how well they were being run, who the grant recipients specifically were, and the number of people successfully transitioning the program.

Now that we understand the problems, we’re finally becoming proactive in seeking solutions.

Solutions and Challenges

This conference actually comes at a most opportune time. Month after month businesses are adding new employment opportunities as the economy goes into overdrive. As a result, we’re witnessing some of the lowest unemployment rates in decades. Even the New York Times recently reported that, to quote, “we ran out of words to describe just how good the job numbers are.”

Of course, not everyone is benefiting. There are plenty of able body people out there who have a number of challenges to overcome – like job training and education – before they can successfully join the ranks of the workforce.

Section 3 is one way out of this dilemma. As we know, the law requires that recipients of certain HUD grants -- to the greatest extent possible -- provide job training, employment and contract opportunities for low-income residents with projects and activities in their neighborhoods. And this basically translates into matching able people in public housing with jobs in construction and in similar areas of employment.

Overall, what is there not to like about the goal of Section 3?

It’s how we actually implement it is the challenge and why we’re spending three days together.

Progress Being Made

I am optimistic that we can bring the promise of Section 3 to tens of thousands of our housing assisted tenants -- and in the process better improve our communities and local economies in the long run.

I have seen first-hand in New Orleans and other places what a successful program looks like. I remember hearing one story of how lawnmowers were provided to tenants, and how they created a thriving business, employing people and keeping their surroundings in top shape.

There are many other indicators of progress. We have found a number of public housing authorities who have been extremely dedicated and proactive in helping HUD assisted tenants locate jobs. Others are increasingly leveraging technology to create cutting-edge reporting of openings and to provide accountability as required under the law.  

We still have much to do. That’s what you are doing here – learning about best practices, understanding our reporting, compliance, and other requirements, and ultimately coming together in a unified effort to support Section 3.

You have already, no doubt, heard about some of our new initiatives and activities:

  • Enhancements to the Section 3 Performance Evaluation and Reporting System (SPEARS).
  • Expansion of the Section 3 Business Registry and Jobs Portal.
  • Request in the 2019 budget for 15 additional staff to improve administrative oversight—which would represent a 3-fold increase in our current Section 3 staffing.
  • And the Section 3 task force to evaluate, modernize, and publish our review of the rules – as we’re now operating under an interim rule which is decades old.

I think it is critically important after all is said and done, that we have accurate metrics to gage our accomplishments. Too often we’re looking at how many are enrolled, and not how many are able to find long-term employment to reach self-sufficiency and a life outside of government assistance. 

That’s why at HUD we are no longer measuring success, for example, by the number of people enrolled in federal housing. But by how many people we have actually moved from poverty into financial independence. As I like to add, you wouldn’t gage success by the number of patients entering a hospital, but by the number of people who are successfully treated and healed.

EnVision Centers

Our commitment to the families we serve, and to empower them to lead self-sufficient lives, goes far beyond Section 3. That’s why we have just announced the launch of 17 EnVision Center Demonstration Sites throughout the country -- from Detroit to Kansas, to right here in Texas in Fort Worth – in fact, this afternoon, I will be touring the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

I believe this is an important step forward for Forth Worth families trapped in dependency and lack of economic opportunity.

It has been said, that “where there is no vision, there is no hope.” EnVision Centers are specifically designed to help HUD-assisted households get the tools and services they need to plan for a future outside of public assistance.

So, what is an EnVision Center? 

It is a centralized hub, on or near public housing developments, that are especially designed to provide one-stop-shopping for all our tenants and their family’s needs – whether it be GED classes, pre-natal wellness visits from healthcare professionals, youth mentoring, or connection to Section 3 opportunities.

These Centers are by no means in competition to what you are doing, it only complements what we all hope to achieve. It’s a holistic approach to mitigating poverty and helping people not only gain economic independence, but confidence and self-respect as well.      

Helping people grow out of poverty is not just the responsibility of the government. That’s why the Centers will partner with a wide range of federal agencies, non-profits, private companies, community and faith-based groups -- all to provide the full range of necessary services and outreach beyond just employment training.    

Conclusion

Let me conclude on this note.

I have often mentioned how government should be a means of empowerment, not dependency, as well as a safety net -- especially for the sick and disabled. 

Those able body folks who receive housing assistance must be allowed to have a clear path toward wealth creation and self-respect. No one really wants to be a ward of the state and live a life totally dependent on federal and local assistance.  

With our companies literally begging for qualified workers, and our taxpayers constantly looking for tax relief, I believe now is the time for the Section 3 program to take center stage in meeting these challenges.

With Section 3, everyone benefits – from those living in public housing, local employers and neighbors, taxpayers, and the nation as a whole.

That’s why I am so very grateful for everyone here who came to this conference. I believe in Section 3. And I believe we can finally make it a cornerstone of our efforts to bring financial independent and a path out of poverty for the vulnerable families we serve.

Thank you again for the invitation to join you here in Dallas.