Marcia L. Fudge was sworn in as the 18th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Wednesday after the U.S. Senate confirmed her on a bipartisan 66-34 vote.
Fudge has represented northeastern Ohio’s 11th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2008. Before that she had been the mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, since 2000.
She is the second Black woman to serve as HUD secretary and the first in more than 40 years. The first was Patricia Roberts Harris, who was appointed under President Jimmy Carter in 1977.
Fudge is taking on the job as the nation struggles with a housing crisis. The pandemic has resulted in billions of dollars in back rent, an uncertain future for tenants and landlords and housing supply is so low that lawmakers and economists are worried that the resulting home price increases will “choke off” buyers.
Fudge will now be in charge of a federal department with broad reach throughout the U.S., HUD pointed out in a press release. The agencies under HUD’s purview include the Offices of Housing, Community Planning and Development, Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Public and Indian Housing, Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), Policy Development and Research, Field Policy and Management, Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae), Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, and Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
In video remarks, Fudge emphasized that millions of Americans don’t have the stability of a good home and that she is determined to change the lives of those in need.
“[Home is] where we start and end each day,” she said. “It’s where we raise our families and come together in times of joy. It’s where we find shelter and comfort during times of hardship. The past year has reminded us just how important it is to have a safe and stable place to call home. But, right now — for millions of Americans — that sense of security and peace of mind is out of reach.”
She said she hoped “to provide relief for those struggling to pay their rent or mortgage as a result of the pandemic. To ensure every American experiencing homelessness has a roof over their head. To revitalize our communities — and help more Americans achieve their dream of homeownership. To break down the barriers of injustice that still limit the futures of far too many young people.”
Fudge, 68, said during her January confirmation hearing that her priorities include ending discriminatory housing practices as part of President Joe Biden’s focus on dismantling systemic racial injustice and boosting Black homeownership in order to narrow the racial wealth gap, according to The Washington Post.
Fudge will be tasked with implementing key aspects of the Biden campaign’s promises on affordable housing, which include an investment of $640 billion in housing over the next 10 years.
In a statement to Vox, HUD press secretary Meaghan Lynch said the agency is prepared to ramp up its fair housing work: “With the support of Congress, incoming HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge will prioritize increasing staffing for the investigation of fair housing complaints and other fair housing enforcement activities. HUD plans to continue recent efforts to increase FHEO’s enforcement capacity going forward so that FHEO has the resources it needs to respond to complaints and conduct vigorous fair housing enforcement going forward.”
The National Association of Realtors’ lobbying arm, the Realtor Political Action Committee (RPAC), donated $4,000 to Fudge’s campaign for the 2019-2020 election cycle, according to Open Secrets, a political lobbying watchdog organization. She was one of 451 congressional candidates to receive money from NAR for the cycle.
On Wednesday, NAR President Charlie Oppler congratulated Fudge on her bipartisan Senate confirmation as HUD secretary.
“As a former mayor, Secretary Fudge recognizes the critical role HUD programs play in preserving the American Dream and ensuring everyone in this country has access to a safe, affordable home,” Oppler said in a statement.
“NAR looks forward to partnering with Secretary Fudge as we continue our work to address racial disparities in real estate and our nation’s persistent housing affordability crisis.”
In a statement, Lindsey Johnson, president of U.S. Mortgage Insurers (USMI), said Fudge’s appointment comes at a critical time as housing hardships due to the pandemic linger.
“In HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, America gains a housing advocate with proven leadership and an accomplished record while serving in Congress and supporting investments in housing programs and community development,” Johnson said.
“To strengthen the housing finance system, it is critical for federal policymakers and the industry to collaborate on policies that balance prudent risk management and access to mortgage credit. USMI and our member companies look forward to working with Secretary Fudge on making home financing more affordable, advancing fair housing, and ensuring that the government and American taxpayers are appropriately shielded from mortgage-related credit risks.”
In a statement, Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), said Fudge will bring needed expertise to aligning systems and services to better meet the needs of low-income Americans and address problems in public housing that have existed for decades.
“Years of willful neglect and chronic disinvestment in public housing has left the portfolio in disrepair,” Zaterman said. “Recapitalizing the public housing portfolio is a significant step towards reversing racial inequities created by decades of racist housing policies. We encourage the Secretary to prioritize recapitalizing the public housing portfolio during her tenure at HUD and throughout the entire Biden-Harris administration.
“Secretary Fudge can also take meaningful measures toward a permanent and significant expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher program. Research has clearly shown that vouchers are the most effective and efficient tool to prevent housing instability and homelessness. A key advantage of vouchers is their distribution through the existing infrastructure of 2,400 public housing authorities across the nation.”