The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has released its first Equity Action Plan, with the goal of narrowing the racial homeownership gap. Specifically, this includes a budget increase for the staff of HUD’s civil rights unit, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
Released last week, the plan was written in response to an executive order from the Office of Management and Budget on advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities. In late March, the Biden-Harris administration proposed funding HUD with $71.9 billion, an approximate $11.6 billion year-over-year increase. And while that spending request awaits congressional approval, HUD’s Equity Action Plan already envisions specific initiatives to advance equity.
With non-white homeownership rates at historic lows — 40.6% and 46.6% for Black and Latino households, respectively, during Q2 of 2019 — HUD cites record-high rates of housing discrimination complaints. In turn, the department voices the need for more technical assistance, reiterating President Joe Biden’s previous request to increase the FHEO salaries and expenses budget by 16.7%.
Further targeting racial disparities, the HUD plan turns its attention to the housing market directly. In a section of the report focused on increasing housing supply, the department suggests lengthening the exclusive listing period for HUD Real Estate Owned (REO) homes from 15 to 30 days. This would expand the time that owner-occupants, approved nonprofits and government entities could bid on property without competition. Similarly, HUD plans to provide an exclusive period for those same groups to bid on properties — prior to conveyance to HUD. The department also suggests prioritizing certain nonprofits in the note sales of vacant properties to drive rehabilitation efforts with the goal of community revitalization.
Widening affordable housing opportunities will also come down to improving the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), overall, according to the plan. By working to remove bias and updating technology in the FHA, the administration can better aid creditworthy first-time homebuyers alongside existing homeowners.
Other proposed measures include further engagement with community-based lenders, increased residential mortgage lending on tribal trust lands and the ensured safety of manufactured housing. The report also mentions that a 40-Year Term for Loan Modifications Rule — which could help borrowers reduce monthly mortgage payments — is now under review by Office of Management and Budget.
And in its concluding section, the Equity Action Plan centers the reduction of homelessness as a key aspect of fighting racial inequity. Referencing the 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, it’s noted that those identifying as Black or African-American accounted for 39% of the homeless population: an immense racial disparity considering those community members make up just 12% of the total U.S. population.
Highlighting that demographic, it’s stated that improving housing stability outcomes for all people of color is the priority. To accomplish that goal, the department wants to advance its current homelessness assistance programs, adding a second cohort of Continuums of Care and expanding culturally sensitive data collection. HUD will also support the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness in implementing the federal strategic plan to end homelessness.
“Equity is central to HUD’s founding principles and the daily work we do as a department,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge in a statement accompanying the new equity agenda. “We are excited to take this opportunity to join the rest of the federal government in emphasizing our commitment to making equity a leading compass within this administration.”