Brown Opening Statement at Banking Committee Hearing on Nominations to HUD

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – released the following opening statement at today’s hearing on the nominations to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow.

 

I want to join Chairman Crapo in welcoming all our nominees and their families, and thanking you for your willingness to serve in these key public service roles.

The Committee has gathered today to consider the nominations of three individuals to serve at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD plays an important role in addressing housing needs of families in Ohio and all around the country. 

We’re considering these nominees at a time when the nation faces a number of housing challenges.

The gap between housing costs and wages has grown wider over the past decade.  Now, over half a million Americans face homelessness on a given night, and a quarter of all renters pay more than half of their incomes towards rent.   

At the same time, we are losing existing affordable housing due to physical deterioration, expiring affordability contracts, and increasing rents for previously-inexpensive homes.

Access to mortgages for creditworthy borrowers remains tight, making it hard for families to purchase a home and build wealth.

The Federal Housing Administration, or F-H-A, provides mortgage insurance to help creditworthy borrowers access affordable and stable mortgage credit. F-H-A plays an important counter-cyclical role in ensuring credit remains available in all markets and in all market conditions.  To assist in that role, FHA has taken steps to expand its quality assurance program and upgrade its technology. 

If confirmed, Mr. Montgomery would oversee over 1.2 million units of privately-owned, HUD-assisted affordable housing for low income families.  As the F-H-A Commissioner, he would be entrusted to guide the F-H-A into the future, ensuring both broad access to mortgage credit and adequate oversight of participating lenders to avoid the mistakes of the past.  I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Montgomery about how he will continue those efforts while protecting taxpayers from lenders who do not play by the rules.  

If confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, Mr. Kurtz will oversee the public housing and Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher programs, which help 3.3 million households in urban, suburban, and rural communities find affordable housing. Mr. Kurtz would also administer programs to address the deep housing needs of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities. 

If confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Administration, Ms. Tufts would oversee human resources at the Department.  This work will become even more critical in the coming years, as many in HUD’s workforce near retirement age.

If confirmed, the nominees before us today would oversee rental assistance for over 4.5 million low-income seniors, individuals with disabilities, and families; manage the federal government’s primary mortgage insurance programs; and ensure that HUD has the workforce necessary to deliver on this important mission.

In addition, they are likely to have a hand in helping families and communities from Texas to Puerto Rico recover from some of the worst natural disasters the nation has ever seen.  HUD will have a large role to play in ensuring that the recovery is equitable, effective, and leaves our communities more resilient to future disasters.  

Given the importance of HUD’s programs and mission, it is disappointing that the Administration has chosen to undermine it with $7.4 billion (15 percent) in proposed cuts to HUD’s programs.  

This budget would eliminate funding for an estimated 250,000 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers at a time when federal housing assistance reaches just 1 out of every 4 eligible households.

Despite an estimated $26 billion backlog of public housing repair needs, the Administration proposed cutting the Public Housing Capital Fund by nearly 70 percent. 

And while Secretary Carson has committed to advocate for housing funds as part of an Administration infrastructure proposal, we have yet to see any detailed infrastructure plan from the Administration, and no mention of housing in even the loose outlines it has released.        

I look forward to hearing from each of the nominees about how they would approach the important roles for which they have been nominated. 

Congratulations again to all our witnesses.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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