HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge:
“Don’t Let Them Take Our Neighborhoods”
Key member of the Biden-Harris administration met HomeSight stakeholders and Black Homeownership Initiative Network members this week to give support to Black homeownership efforts.
HomeSight Executive Director Darryl Smith moderated a roundtable discussion with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, Representative Adam Smith and members of the Black Home Initiative Network (BHIN) to discuss hurdles to homeownership in the Black community.
Several representatives from the BHIN—a coalition of 72 housing leaders dedicated to improving homeownership access in the Black community—attended the event, including Darryl Smith and Nicole Bascomb-Green, a HomeSight board member and the new chair of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
Secretary Fudge acknowledged the racial gap in homeownership is a pressing and longstanding issue. “It’s been 55 years since the Fair Housing Act was passed,” she said. “We know we have to do better.”
Noting the Biden-Harris administration had increased tax credits available for housing construction, Secretary Fudge said the problem only began with the affordable housing shortage. “We know we need to build houses. We are woefully short. But we can’t just build our way out of the problem,” she said. “We have to preserve the housing we have, and we have to preserve our communities.”
To do that, Mayor Harrell said more robust assistance was needed for down payments in this region that generally ranged from $100k-$150k. “We live in a very wealthy city,” Mayor Harrell said. “This creates a sub-class. You don’t become worth more than $180 billion and don’t recognize the wake you just left.” Mayor Harrell praised HomeSight for its “amazing” work directly tackling the challenges posed by increasingly unreachable starter home prices, saying: “That’s the kind of work we have to do.”
Darryl Smith said HomeSight’s programs addressed a critical gap in Seattle’s housing market. “The reality is that down payment assistance for low-income people is capped at 80 percent of the area median income. House prices have risen so far, and so rapidly, that even people making up to 120 percent of the area median income can’t bridge the gap, and don’t qualify for any assistance.”
At the roundtable, local teacher James Dixon shared his experience purchasing a home with the assistance of HomeSight’s Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund, a loan product created in partnership with Windermere Real Estate designed to increase purchasing power of Black homebuyers earning between 80-120 percent of Washington state’s median income. After years of struggling with rising rent in Seattle, his hometown, Dixon was able to bridge the affordability gap to purchase his home last year with this program.
Bascomb-Green said: “That’s what we see every day as brokers. We have clients who are income rich, but asset poor. They can afford a mortgage, but don’t have the down payment, because they make too much money.”
Darryl Smith said the work must continue on every front. “When we talk about the issues surrounding creating generational wealth, the answer is ‘yes, and …’ It’s supply. It’s homebuyer education. It’s down payment assistance. It’s all of these.”
Secretary Fudge’s message was clear in response: “We want to work with you.”