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HUD’s Castro: New Instruction Coming on Fair Housing

Image: President Obama Delivers Remarks At The Department of Housing and Urban Development

epa04337144 Julian Castro, secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), center, gestures to employees as he and USPresident Barack Obama arrive to speak at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, DC, USA, on 31 July 2014. EPA/Andrew Harrer / POOL Andrew Harrer / POOL / EPA

WASHINGTON -- Housing Secretary Julián Castro said Thursday local and state governments soon will have better guidance on providing fair housing in their communities.

Castro, who moved into the Cabinet job in July, spoke at the Asian Asian American Advancing Justice conference, a summit of civil and social justice groups advocating for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

He said the fair housing guidance, which should be final in coming months, is part of a recommitment to uphold fair housing, anti-discrimination laws.

“Local leaders will be able to make better decisions that increase choice for families and connect affordable housing to opportunities like jobs and quality schools,” Castro said of the additional guidance.

Last year, HUD won favorable decisions in 2,200 cases, bringing relief to more than 9,600 people who had complained of housing discrimination, he said.

But Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, cautioned that people cannot use their fair housing rights if they can’t afford to pay rent or get access to credit to buy a home.

“Right now, our nation is in the midst of an affordable rental housing crisis,” Castro said.

“HUD is working tirelessly to combat the rental crisis, we’re fighting for housing finance reform that would provide billions for the production of affordable housing through a national housing trust fund,” Castro said.

Castro repeated support for proposed housing finance reform legislation borne out of the housing crisis of recent years.

“The credit pendulum in recent years has swung too far in recent years from where we were before,” he said. Higher credit rating requirements have made it more difficult for some people, particularly minorities, to buy homes.

“The current system is not working,” Castro said in an interview with NBC Latino following his speech. He cited newly released federal data showing mortgage lending to minority borrowers is at a 14-year low.

“So I believe that all Americans can benefit from housing finance reform - including the Latino community having greater access to mortgages,” Castro said.