HUD Secretary Addresses Department Challenges, Housing Market in White House Press Briefing

Newly-confirmed Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Marcia Fudge was welcomed into the briefing room at the White House on Thursday by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, describing what she hopes to accomplish with newly-directed funds coming from the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act while also describing the mission of HUD in the context of the ongoing pandemic and the additional resources that HUD now has access to.

While the subject of reverse mortgages did not specifically come up during her time in the briefing room on Thursday, other recent topics of interest to the reverse mortgage industry were asked by reporters in the press pool including whether or not existing foreclosure and eviction moratoria could be extended beyond their current expiry dates of June 30, as well as the status of the Department itself in the wake of recent details that have emerged about staffing and morale inside HUD.

“HUD staff in every region of the country have worked tirelessly to assist grantees and recipients of HUD assistance in their response to the pandemic,” Secretary Fudge told reporters. “We’ve helped housing owners, housing authorities and communities provide additional rental assistance and support new efforts to eradicate homelessness. We’ve extended the Federal Housing Administration’s foreclosure and eviction moratoriums until June 30 to support the immediate and ongoing needs of homeowners.”

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When asked about whether or not the moratoriums would be extended beyond the end of this month by another reporter, Secretary Fudge was quick to point out that FHA moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions do not expire until the end of June. However, a general federal eviction moratorium slated to end on March 31.

“Well, what I would say first is that the HUD moratorium expires on June 30. The CDC is in the process of trying to determine what is the appropriate way forward, and I would hope that you would ask them that question,” Fudge responded.

Fudge was also asked about recent reports of reduced morale and increased staffing complications at HUD, detailed in a recent report by Politico and cited in a commentary this week by RMD. Fudge did not deny that there are difficulties faced by the Department, and she also said that she voiced those concerns in an audience with President Biden.

“I actually had the opportunity to talk to the president about this since I’ve been here,” Fudge began. “We are thousands of people short of where we ought to be. Our staff is outstanding: they are under-resourced, understaffed and overworked. But, we are going to make some major changes, and very quickly. The [American] Rescue Plan is allowing us to do things that we may not have been able to do without it. So, I’m especially pleased that the president had the foresight and the vision to give us a historic, maybe one-time opportunity to change what is going on in housing in this country.”

Fudge was also asked about issues of homelessness in major American cities, describing homelessness issues at “the top of the list” of things to tackle in the realm of housing that stems from the impacts of COVID-19. In terms of actions HUD can take to curb homelessness, Fudge cited housing vouchers and expanding and constructing new affordable housing properties.

“With the $40 billion that has come that we have now, we have $5 billion set aside to do nothing but address homeless issues,” Fudge said. “So, with those resources over the next probably 12 to 18 months, we know for a fact that we can get as many as 130,000 people off the streets.”

Secretary Fudge was also asked whether or not she believed there is a housing bubble present in the market currently. While she chose not to weigh in on that particular question, she did say that issues in the market need to be addressed, describing that additional data from her agency as well as the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) is necessary before making a more solid determination on the presence of a bubble.

Watch the White House press briefing at the administration’s YouTube channel.

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