What Is the Role of Department of Housing and Urban Development
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What Is the Role of Department of Housing and Urban Development

10 Min.

HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, operates as a cabinet-level government agency responsible for ensuring adequate housing and development assistance within communities. The agency is headed by a secretary appointed by the president and approved by the Senate, typically serving until a new administration takes office. Its primary objective is to promote homeownership, rentals, homelessness reduction, and the elimination of housing discrimination through various programs. Additionally, HUD oversees the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), established by Congress in 1934.

Basics

In pursuit of its mission to ensure equitable access to housing and promote community development, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plays a vital role. HUD actively engages in a variety of programs aimed at fostering homeownership, expanding the availability of secure and affordable rental housing, combatting homelessness, and combating discriminatory practices in housing.

At the helm of HUD is the HUD secretary, a prominent cabinet-level position filled through nomination by the president and subsequent confirmation by the Senate. Currently, the position is held by Marcia Fudge, who assumed office on March 10, 2021. As the secretary, Fudge spearheads HUD's efforts to address housing-related challenges and ensure fair housing opportunities for all individuals and communities across the United States.

Understanding the Department of Housing and Urban Development 

The establishment of the Department of Housing and Urban Development can be traced back to 1965 during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. As a cabinet-level government agency, HUD's leadership, known as the secretary, is appointed by the president and confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate. The secretary serves until they resign or a new president assumes office. Prior to HUD, the Housing and Home Finance Agency, which originated in 1947, held similar responsibilities.

In the presidential line of succession, the HUD secretary holds the 13th position, following senior cabinet officials like the secretary of state and secretary of the treasury. Ultimately, the president of the United States (POTUS) serves as the superior of the HUD secretary.

It is worth noting that the federal government's involvement in housing extends well beyond the creation of these agencies. As early as 1918, the government played a role in financing the construction of homes for workers involved in industries supporting World War I efforts.

Mission

HUD's primary responsibility is to supervise federal housing programs with the objective of promoting equitable and unbiased housing opportunities. In line with its strategic plan for fiscal years 2022–2026, HUD is committed to the mission of establishing resilient, inclusive communities and ensuring the availability of high-quality affordable homes for all individuals.

The agency's overarching objective is to deliver secure, livable, and affordable housing options to the American population while responsibly managing taxpayer funds. A core focus of HUD is to enhance economic prospects for residents benefiting from HUD assistance by fostering an environment that facilitates access to affordable housing and empowers them to achieve self-sufficiency and financial stability.

HUD's Initiatives

HUD spearheads a range of initiatives focused on addressing housing requirements nationwide in the United States. These initiatives encompass the following key objectives:

  1. Enhancing the stability and robustness of the U.S. housing market.
  2. Ensuring the availability of an adequate supply of quality rental housing that is affordable for individuals and families.
  3. Elevating individuals' quality of life by enhancing the condition and standards of their housing.
  4. Bolstering community resilience and fostering their overall development.
  5. Vigorously enforcing fair housing laws to combat discrimination and ensure equal housing opportunities for all.

Through these multifaceted initiatives, HUD actively contributes to the advancement of housing policies and programs, safeguarding the interests and well-being of individuals and communities across the nation.

HUD's Oversight and Programs

Within its purview, HUD also assumes the responsibility of overseeing the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), established by Congress in 1934. Renowned for its mortgage insurance program, the FHA enables individuals with lower credit scores, minimal down payments, or a history of bankruptcy or foreclosure to obtain an FHA home loan, broadening access to homeownership opportunities.

Furthermore, HUD exercises regulatory authority over numerous programs and regulations that might ring familiar to you. One such notable legislation is the Fair Housing Act, enacted in 1968. This comprehensive law governs a significant portion of the housing market, explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Its reach extends to rental and sale transactions, as well as mortgage applications, ensuring equal housing opportunities for all individuals.

Empowering Communities: HUD Programs

In pursuit of community revitalization and improved living conditions, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program extends financial assistance to cities and counties. Through these grants, localities can undertake various activities aimed at neighborhood revitalization, fostering economic development, and enhancing facilities and services.

To ensure equitable distribution, grantees are required to allocate funds in ways that primarily benefit individuals with low to moderate incomes, while simultaneously addressing challenges such as slums, blight, and urgent community issues, including post-disaster recovery efforts that threaten residents' well-being.

Additionally, the Housing Choice Voucher Program, widely known as Section 8, plays a vital role in providing affordable rental housing that meets or surpasses minimum health and safety standards. This program supports very low-income families, older adults, and individuals with disabilities by assisting them in covering rental costs. Notably, eligible rentals are not limited to subsidized housing projects, as the local public housing agencies take charge of voucher distribution, ensuring accessibility throughout various housing options.

Progress and Achievements: HUD's Impact

Significant strides have been made in combating veteran homelessness, as demonstrated by HUD's joint effort with the VA in 2018. During this collaboration, a remarkable 5.4% reduction was achieved, effectively halving the number of veterans experiencing homelessness compared to the count recorded in 2010.

In the realm of mortgage programs, HUD's unwavering commitment has resulted in serving over 7.8 million households in 2021 alone. This commendable feat was made possible through FHA-insured mortgage programs, totaling an impressive $1.2 trillion in outstanding loans.

Moreover, HUD's oversight has played a pivotal role in facilitating the creation or preservation of more than 2.6 million multifamily rental units. To further bolster the healthcare sector, it has also extended insurance coverage worth over $4.3 billion to hospitals and residential care facilities, ensuring the well-being of countless individuals.

Recognizing the importance of showcasing successful initiatives, HUD has curated an array of compelling case studies that highlight programs worthy of emulation. The following selection presents a glimpse into their accomplishments.

Anchorage, Alaska

Revitalizing neighborhoods and breathing new life into communities is at the core of HUD's efforts. One such triumph took place in Anchorage, Alaska, where HUD played a pivotal role in financing a revitalization program initiated in 2004. This ambitious endeavor targeted Mountain View, an older neighborhood in need of rejuvenation.

El Paso, Texas

Another noteworthy accomplishment unfolded in El Paso, Texas. In support of affordable housing for low-income older individuals, HUD contributed a remarkable $11 million out of the $14 million required to establish a remarkable 73-unit housing development. The Paisano Green Community not only provides comfortable homes but also stands as a testament to sustainable design practices. Despite the challenges posed by El Paso's desert climate, with scorching summer highs in the mid-90s and winter lows in the 30s, the community boasts LEED Platinum certification and remarkable energy efficiency. The average monthly energy costs are a mere $18.30 per apartment unit and $21.11 per townhouse unit.

Portland, Oregon

HUD's commitment to addressing homelessness shines in its support for the Bud Clark Commons in Portland, Oregon. Through a contribution of $3.3 million, this eight-story development has become a beacon of hope for individuals struggling with homelessness. The LEED Platinum-certified complex offers both transitional and permanent housing options while also providing vital case-management services. Since its inception in 2011, the Commons has been instrumental in positively impacting the lives of over 7,000 individuals. By connecting 3,600 people with essential social services and securing permanent housing for 350 individuals, the project has made a profound difference. The financing provided by HUD proved instrumental in bridging critical gaps, complementing the funding obtained through tax-increment financing and low-income tax credits from the city of Portland.

These success stories exemplify the transformative power of HUD's contributions, revitalizing communities and fostering a brighter future for those in need.

HUD's Impact and Ongoing Challenges

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has made significant strides in its mission to provide secure housing and alleviate poverty. However, the organization has faced its fair share of criticism, primarily from proponents of limited government who argue that local governments and the private sector are better suited to handle HUD's activities.

In certain areas, the demand for Section 8 vouchers is so high that extensive waiting lists exist, and in some cases, they are even closed due to overwhelming demand. Although the program technically allows participants to rent from any available housing, the reality is that their choices are often severely limited, leaving them with undesirable options.

Detractors contend that Section 8 vouchers tend to cluster low-income families in impoverished neighborhoods. Furthermore, due to HUD's practice of setting voucher values too low for local housing-market conditions, few landlords are willing to accept them, exacerbating the problem. Unfortunately, some landlords who do participate in the program exploit its loopholes.

Another criticism lies in the annual housing safety inspections imposed on landlords renting to Section 8 tenants, which can be burdensome. Additionally, HUD has garnered a reputation for delayed payments to landlords, causing further strain on the system.

According to the Cato Institute, HUD's grant funds have been misused, resulting in unnecessary subsidies to developers at the expense of taxpayers. Moreover, instances of mismanagement, political manipulation, corruption, and fraud have tarnished the organization's reputation.

While HUD has made significant strides in fulfilling its mission, the criticisms raised by advocates of limited government highlight the ongoing challenges it faces in delivering effective and efficient housing assistance programs.

Extension of Eviction Moratorium: A Commitment to Prevent Homelessness

In a move to provide further relief to struggling renters, the Biden administration announced an extension of the nationwide ban on evictions from June 30 to July 31, 2021.

Originally implemented to aid individuals facing financial hardships during the pandemic, the eviction moratorium has been extended multiple times. However, the Biden administration emphasized that this extension would mark the final prolongation of the moratorium.

The urgency of this measure is underscored by the staggering number of households behind on rent. According to the Census Household Pulse Survey, by the end of March 2021, approximately 6.4 million American households were struggling to meet their rental payments.

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, determined to prevent a surge in homelessness, expressed the administration's unwavering commitment to addressing this pressing issue. In an interview with NPR, Secretary Fudge highlighted the administration's dedication to making homelessness eradication a top priority. She emphasized the goal of ensuring that every individual, regardless of their circumstances, has the opportunity to not only find shelter but to transition out of homelessness entirely.

By extending the eviction moratorium, the Biden administration aims to alleviate the immediate hardships faced by renters and pave the way for long-term solutions that will help individuals regain stability and prevent the exacerbation of the homelessness crisis.

Conclusion

HUD, like any government agency, has both supporters and detractors. They have contrasting views on its effectiveness and resource allocation. Examples of positive and negative outcomes within HUD's programs highlight the complexity of housing in the US. It is difficult to attribute singular responsibility or accolades to any one entity.

Supporters of HUD argue that its resources are wisely invested, leading to effective programs that uplift communities and provide necessary assistance. Critics, on the other hand, claim that the agency misallocates resources, making some programs unnecessary or even harmful. Housing is a multifaceted issue influenced by numerous factors, affecting individuals and communities differently. Thus, assigning praise or blame to a single entity is challenging within the vast US housing sector.

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