Fudge Says HUD Will Focus On Housing Discrimination

As lawmakers adopt housing-related bills in Congress, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge laid out her priorities during a speech at the Mortgage Bankers AssociationSpring virtual conference.

Fudge hailed the passage of the American Rescue Plan as a “landmark law” and highlighted its $ 10 billion in mortgage assistance and another $ 4.5 billion to help households pay utility bills. Fudge also emphasized the strong position of the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund. The fund, he said, is “well positioned to continue serving those who have fallen behind on mortgage payments.”

Fudge also drew attention to the home ownership gap between black and white households, which he said is “wider today than it was in 1968, when banks could still legally discriminate against borrowers based on the color of their skin.”

“What unites us all is a belief in the power of homeownership, an aspiration that speaks to a basic negotiation that is at the heart of the American dream,” said Fudge. “If you work hard and follow the rules, you deserve a place to call yours.”

The former Cleveland congresswoman said enforcement of the fair housing law would be a “top priority.” HUD, at the urging of President Joe Biden, is exploring options to further that mission, such as having an effective disparate impact rule.

In 2013, HUD issued a disparate impact rule that made it clear that there would be liability for housing discrimination regardless of intent. But the Trump administration moved to gut that rule in 2019, and then-HUD Secretary Ben Carson issued updated guidelines that require regulators to prove intentional discrimination on behalf of the lender.

As Fudge addresses housing discrimination at HUD, lawmakers on the Financial Services Committee are considering steps to revise a debt collection rule and increase diversity in the housing industry.

One of the invoices in Congress would potentially block a 2019 Supreme Court decision, in which justices ruled that a company involved in non-judicial foreclosure proceedings is not a “debt collector” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The MBA, in a statement, said it supported the court’s unanimous ruling and would oppose any legislation to overturn it.

Legislators will also develop a measure to review federal underwriting standards and guidance, and will promote diversity in the appraisal profession. The MBA highlighted, in support of the initiative, the shortage of appraisers in rural, low-income and predominantly minority areas.

Another bill would establish an advisory group to increase the diversity of boards of directors of publicly traded companies, which the trade association supports.

And while the MBA supports another measure to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce in the financial services sector, it warned lawmakers against “imposing additional punitive regulatory burdens.”

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