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Housing and Urban Development Department

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the principal federal agency responsible for programs concerned with housing needs, fair housing opportunities, and improving and developing U.S. communities.

HUD was established in 1965 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Act (42 U.S.C.A. § 3532–3537). Its major functions include insuring mortgages for single-family and multifamily dwellings and extending loans for home improvements and for the purchase of mobile homes; channeling funds from investors into the mortgage industry through the GOVERNMENT NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION; and making loans for the construction or rehabilitation of housing projects for older and handicapped persons. HUD also provides federal housing subsidies for low- and moderate-income families, makes grants to states and local communities for development activities related to housing, and promotes and enforces laws, policies, and regulations supporting fair housing and equal housing opportunities.

HUD is administered under the supervision and direction of a cabinet-level secretary appointed by the president. The secretary of HUD formulates recommendations for housing and community development policy and works with the Executive Office of the President and other federal agencies to ensure that housing policies are consistent with other economic and fiscal policies of the government. In addition, the secretary encourages private enterprise to serve the housing and community development needs of the nation whenever possible and promotes the use of initiatives within the state, local, and private sectors to spur the growth of housing and community development resources. Equally important, the secretary ensures equal access to housing and promotes nondiscrimination. The secretary also oversees the FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION (FNMA). FNMA, also known as Fannie Mae, was chartered by Congress in the late 1960s as a stockholder-owned, privately managed corporation to provide a secondary market for home mortgages. Fannie Mae purchases home mortgages and then issues SECURITIES funded by the monthly principal and interest payments of homeowners.

Several program areas within HUD carry out the department's goals and functions. The assistant secretary for housing, who also acts as the federal housing commissioner, underwrites property improvement loans and loans for manufactured homes and administers programs that help provide housing for special groups, including the elderly, the disabled, and the chronically mentally ill. The assistant secretary also administers housing programs to assist low-income families who are having difficulties affording housing and to protect consumers against fraudulent practices of land developers and promoters.

The assistant secretary for community planning and development implements a number of programs, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program for local communities. The CDBG Program was established in 1974 to meet a wide variety of community development needs, including the need to expand economic opportunities for persons of low and moderate income by helping to provide them with decent and affordable housing. Block grants can be used to revitalize neighborhoods in blighted areas as well as to meet other community development needs.

The assistant secretary for community planning and development also implements Hope for Ownership of Single Family Homes, which helps low-income persons become homeowners by providing federal assistance to help finance the purchase and rehabilitation of single-family homes at affordable prices. A similar program administered by the Community Planning and Development area of HUD is Home Investment in Affordable Housing, which also provides federal assistance to localities and Indian tribes for housing rehabilitation, assistance to first-time home buyers and funding for the new construction

of rental housing in areas where such housing is needed. Other programs provide assistance for procuring both transitional and permanent housing for homeless people and for relocating property owners displaced by federal projects under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (42 U.S.C.A. § 4601 et seq.).

The assistant secretary for community planning and development is also responsible for implementing the Neighborhood Development Demonstration Program, which was designed to determine the ability of neighborhood organizations to fund and implement neighborhood development activities. The program uses cooperative efforts and monetary support from individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations in conjunction with federal matching funds to encourage neighborhood organizations to become more self-sufficient in their development activities.

The assistant secretary for policy development and research evaluates and analyzes existing and proposed HUD programs and policies. The office of this secretary conducts field studies to determine the effectiveness of HUD programs through cost-benefit research and provides the secretary of HUD with economic, legal, and policy analyses of issues related to the department's oversight responsibilities.

The Office of Lead-Based Paint Abatement develops policy, conducts research, and drafts regulations to increase awareness of the dangers associated with lead-based paint poisoning and to develop safe and effective methods for the detection and abatement of lead-based paint poisoning. It also encourages state and local governments to develop programs for public education and hazard reduction surrounding such poisoning.

The assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity administers fair housing laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination in public and private housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or familial status. This assistant secretary thus acts as the principal adviser to the secretary of HUD on all matters relating to CIVIL RIGHTS and equal opportunity in housing. The assistant secretary also administers equal employment opportunity laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or age.

The assistant secretary for public and Indian housing administers a number of programs to help meet the housing needs of Native Americans. These programs include the Comprehensive Improvement Assistance Grant Program, which helps modernize and upgrade low-income housing projects; the Resident Initiatives Program, which supports resident participation in the management of properties, economic development, and other services, including programs to help ensure drug-free neighborhoods; and other programs that determine eligibility for public housing.

The Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA), another component of HUD, is a government corporation that guarantees mortgages issued by private lenders. In addition, through its mortgage-backed securities programs, Ginnie Mae, as it is known, works to promote and expand the housing market by increasing the supply of credit available for housing by channeling funds from the securities market into the mortgage market.

HUD headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., and ten HUD field offices are located throughout the United States. Each field office is headed by a secretary's representative, who is responsible for the management of the office and reports directly to the secretary. The representatives carry out the objectives of HUD as they relate to state and local governments and monitor the potential local effects of HUD policies and decisions.

In 1998, HUD opened the HUD Enforcement Center to take action against HUD-assisted multifamily property owners and other HUD fund recipients who violate laws and regulations. In the same year, Congress also approved Public Housing reforms to reduce SEGREGATION by race and income, encourage and reward work, bring more working families into public housing, and increase the availability of subsidized housing for very poor families. Subsequently, HUD increased its funding for low income family housing, as well as tax credits to developers of affordable single family homes.


Housing and Urban Development Department. Available online at <www.hud.gov> (accessed July 27, 2003).

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