Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Marcia Fudge described her agency’s priorities in addressing housing inequality during the current economic climate, as well as how her past experiences in different levels of government have shaped her current role in the Biden administration during an interview with the PBS NewsHour this past weekend.
When asked specifically about shortcomings in the American housing system and the general lack of affordability for housing, Secretary Fudge described a scenario in which many of those problems existed prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“It didn’t start with the pandemic, it just became more clear and a brighter light was shined on it,” she said. “We have not kept up with housing in this country for decades. The biggest problem is that there’s a supply problem, [and that] there is much more demand than there is supply. And so we know that today, we need at least 1.5 million new units of housing just for the population we have right now.”
Supply is not the only ongoing issue, since rising costs affect home purchases and rentals alike, as well as the beginning of new construction that is needed to address current supply concerns.
“We have seen fewer housing starts for single-family houses than we have in years, we have seen fewer multifamily units built than we have seen in years,” she said. “And purchases are going down as well, because of the economy and other things. There’s no one solution, but what I do believe that we need to do is find ways to incentivize or encourage developers to build more multifamily housing.”
Fudge described that the Biden administration is making additional investments into the housing trust fund and housing finance agencies to try and address these issues. When asked if her prior experience as a mayor and as a congressional representative has informed how she views her duties at HUD, Fudge described them as essential in shaping her leadership at the department.
“What I know as a [former] mayor is that cities can’t do it alone,” she said. “Yes, cities do control zoning and yes, the cities need to look at zoning. But there is no way — with the gravity of the problem — that any community can do it by themselves. It just doesn’t happen that way. They cannot deal with the homelessness crisis. They cannot deal with all of the issues that go along with trying to get people into their first homes.”
The federal government, on the other hand, can provide downpayment assistance, forbearance options, and the enforcement of fair lending practices.
“Those are things that the federal government can and should do,” she said. “Those things come under us whether it be being insured by FHA, or whether it be loans that are secured by Ginnie Mae, we have the wherewithal federally to make an impact on all the lenders in the country. Normal communities can’t do that, [but] we can.”
Watch the segment on the PBS NewsHour YouTube channel.