#MBASPRING21 HUD Secretary Fudge Talks COVID, Infrastructure, Enforcement

A little more than a month ago, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, voted “yes” to approve the American Rescue Plan, a nearly $2 trillion initiative by the Biden Administration to support the economy. Now, as HUD Secretary, it’s her job to put key provisions of the legislation into action.

In her first appearance at a Mortgage Bankers Association event since her confirmation, Fudge touched on themes she expects to dominate the next several years in Washington: recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic; infrastructure; housing opportunities; and fair housing enforcement.

“The mortgage banking industry plays a vital role in making homeownership a possibility for millions of Americans, and HUD is proud to serve as your partner,” Fudge said this week at the MBA Spring Conference & Expo. “I’m especially grateful for the remarkable resilience you’ve displayed during the pandemic over the past 13 months. We know that in many communities , COVID-19 has brought with it a boom in the housing market. For many others, however, the pandemic has created profound challenges. Millions of households have fallen behind on their mortgages in recent months.”

Fudge said the American Rescue Plan announced by the Biden Administration will deliver $10 billion to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and nearly $4.5 billion to help struggling households afford electricity, heat and other utilities.

“This support builds on action taken by the President during his first month in office to expand forbearance options and to extend the federal foreclosure moratorium until June 30,” Fudge said. “I’m proud to say I cast my final vote as a member of Congress to help pass the American Rescue Plan. Now, as the 18th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development I have the honor of helping this Administration enact the provisions of this landmark law. In the weeks and months ahead, HUD will continue to serve a trusted partner and advisor for our stakeholders. We will work together with state and local officials, leaders in housing counseling and leaders in real estate finance, including MBA, to ensure that our support reaches those with greatest need.”

Fudge said going forward, she has the added responsibility of expanding housing opportunities in our nation, and taking bold steps to help more people realize their dream of homeownership.

“For most Americans, owning a home is still the best way to build wealth,” Fudge said. “Yet the reality is that for too many people, the dream of buying a home is becoming more and more difficult to attain. This is especially true for African-Americans. In fact, the homeownership gap between black and white families is wider today than it was in 1968, when banks could still legally discriminate against borrowers based on the color of their skin.”

Fudge noted the Administration’s proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan calls for major new investments in the nation’s housing sector. The bill would provide nearly $20 billion in new tax credits through the Neighborhood Homes Investment Initiative.

“During the next five years these credits could help build and rehabilitate more than 500,000 homes for buyers of more modest means,” Fudge said. “The President’s bill affirms a fundamental truth—that housing represents a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure. Secure and stable homes serve as bedrock institution for our society, just like our roads, our bridges and our public utilities.”

Fudge said HUD is well-positioned to improve homeownership opportunities. “FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund has been resilient despite the challenges posed by the pandemic,” she said. “It now stands at more than $80 billion and remains well above the minimum capital reserve required. This means we are well-suited to support homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgages, and to expand access to credit for first-time home buyers, households with lower incomes and people of color. Furthermore, we will ensure the availability of small-dollar mortgages for people living in every region, from cities and suburbs to rural communities.”

Fudge also said she intends to make fair housing enforcement a “central priority.”

“It is long past the time for our country to fully realize the promise of the Fair Housing Act,” Fudge said. “During his first week in office, President Biden directed HUD to explore solutions to accomplish this mission and our Department is committed to enacting and agenda committed to fairness and equity. That means we must have an effective disparate impact rule to combat housing discrimination.”

Fudge thanked MBA for “recognizing the importance of advancing fair housing.”

“I look forward to working with your members to help stamp out systemic racism from our housing market,” Fudge said. “I know the members of MBA are located throughout our country, in diverse communities with their own unique challenges and opportunities. What binds all of our communities together is our shared conviction in the power of homeownership. It is an aspiration that speaks to a basic bargain—a bargain that lies at the heart of the American dream: that if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve a place you can call your home; a place that you can pass down to future generations; to help give your children and grandchildren a brighter future than yours. HUD is proud to join with each of you to make that dream a reality.”