The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro spoke on a wide breadth of issues during his hearing with the Committee on Financial Services, going from talking about homeless veterans one second to disparate impact the next.

The hearing, entitled, “The Future of Housing in America: Oversight of the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” was to examine HUD and its programs.

“I truly see HUD as the “Department of Opportunity.” When I joined HUD nearly a year ago, I recognized HUD’s proud legacy of providing opportunities and support for struggling and working class Americans. From providing housing assistance to stabilizing communities, the work we do everyday empowers families and communities to realize their dreams,” Castro said.

Castro listed the following as accomplishments for HUD this year:

  1. Made homeownership more accessible by reducing FHA’s annual mortgage insurance premiums by 50 basis points.
  2. Continued to build on the success of President Obama’s “Opening Doors” plan to prevent and end homelessness, an effort started prior to my arrival, which has led to a 21 percent drop in chronic homelessness and a 33 percent drop in homelessness among veterans.
  3. Led efforts to reduce wasteful energy consumption.
  4. Converted 32,000 units from the Public Housing, Moderate Rehabilitation and Rent Supplement and Rental Assistance Payments programs to section 8 under the Rental Assistance Demonstration.

In the new President’s Budget, HUD’s funding level will increase to $49.3 billion, nearly $4 billion more than Fiscal Year 2015’s enacted level.

Castro explained that the additional $4 billion that the administration has requested for fiscal year 2016 seeks to reverse the impact of sequestration on critical HUD programs.

Besides comments like the following, several congressmen honed in on key, hot topics in Washington. 

“Today, we gather to discuss the “Future of Housing in America.” But frankly, if left to my Republican colleagues, that future looks very bleak for many of our most vulnerable populations,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee.

“But as we will see here today, my colleagues have no interest in strengthening our national housing system. Their priorities are clearly reflected in the recently passed HUD funding bill, which drives investment in this agency down to historic lows – undercutting programs which help families reach housing stability,” Waters continued.

A few Congressmen questioned Castro on disparate impact. Despite media reports, there was no decision on Monday from the Supreme Court of the United States on whether it is within the bounds of the Fair Housing Act to employ the legally questionable doctrine of “disparate impact.”

The case in question is Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.

A good look at an informed cross-section of opinions is hosted here by the Urban Institute.

One of the most outspoken Congressman, Al Green, D-Texas, said, “Disparate Impact is not a theory it is standard that 11 circuit courts have approved. It is proven to be the best way. If there is a better way I dare some to defy it. We cannot allow for that we have fought hard for over the decades to simple evaporate.”

“I am going to make a stand. We cannot allow for people to go without advocacy in the US of America,” he concluded. 

3d rendering of a row of luxury townhouses along a street

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