Castro: Housing Driving Recovery

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The housing market continues to improve, providing momentum to the larger economy, said HUD Secretary Julian Castro.

Castro told the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Advocacy Conference that the U.S. economy has added jobs for 73 consecutive months, the longest employment improvement streak on record.

“We gather today at a time of tremendous momentum,” Castro said. “Unemployment has cut in half since 2009. And the housing market has served as a key part of this. American families built $7 trillion of housing wealth over the last seven years. Home values continue to rise and sales of single-family homes reached the highest levels in almost a decade.”

Castro said each mortgage application approved and every loan extended helps another American family build its future.

“I want to look ahead at the steps HUD is taking toward a stronger America,” Castro said, noting that housing can serve as a tool to address wealth inequality. “Homeownership can play a big part of bridging the [wealth] disparity. For many families homes are still the biggest part of passing on their wealth. For decades, HUD has made homeownership possible for underserved borrowers. Nearly half of black and Latino families that have purchased or refinanced their homes since 2008 have received support from the Federal Housing Administration.”

Castro noted that HUD lowered FHA mortgage insurance premiums in 2015 with MBA member support. “Now we’re seeing that pay off,” he said. “Over 100,000 families with credit scores under 680 benefited because of the MIP reduction. And we’ve achieved these results while continuing to build a stronger FHA. We’ve rebuilt our capital reserves and gained $40 billion of value in the last year alone.”

Housing policy can help address climate change as well, Castro said. “We spend $40 billion on housing energy costs each year,” he said. “Incentives can empower homeowners to build more energy-efficient housing, improve indoor air quality, reduce water usage and save $8 billion per year. And we can cut greenhouse gasses by 430 million tons. It makes perfect sense for our pocketbooks and for our planet.”

All of HUD’s initiatives advance one goal, Castro said: advancing opportunity for Americans. “We live in a time of challenges,” he said. “But we also know that this is not the first time the U.S. has faced uncertainty. We’ve fought wars, endured the Great Depression and several recessions. Every single time we rose to overcome the adversity at hand. We all want the same things for our families: security, stability, opportunity and a shot at success. And for every generation homeownership has served as a fundamental pillar of the American dream. No matter how much things change around us this pillar will stand.”