Shelterforce Interview: Mercedes Márquez

HUD Assistant Secretary of Community Planning and Development Mercedes Márquez spoke with Shelterforce about NSP, technical assistance, and the importance of leveraging resources.

NSP is fairly focused on the acquisition. Is there a way that we can better use federal funds to support the exit strategies, helping with takeout mortgages or capital strategies for long-term rental, for example?

Folks first thought, this is going to be the country’s largest acquisition-rehab-resale program. But we also had something which I thought was a great policy move, which was to set aside 25 percent of the funds aimed at families at 50 percent [AMI] or below. Overwhelmingly, that speaks to a rental strategy. And I think folks in many communities have less experience with that. We spent a lot of time on technical assistance focused on what is a rental strategy, how can you do it.

So far, though, other than short sales, what the statute does not permit is for us to go in and buy owner-occupied mortgages.

That’s a big challenge, since the problem is so much cheaper to address upstream.

Right. Now, that’s not to say that the department as a whole isn’t paying a lot of attention to that. We are.

We also have to be kind of sober about how we got here. So much of it is where people were buying too much. We have to understand that having a legal piece of paper that says you’re the owner, when the conditions for you to remain an owner are so onerous, is that really homeownership? If you have equity in a property, if you can take out that home loan that’s going to help you buy the used car or that helps get your kid to college, that’s homeownership. If you can never build any equity, that’s a lease.

Honoring and helping our families do better is the American dream. What’s important is for people to have decent housing, and that their kids get to move on and get educated and get their dreams met. It doesn’t matter if you’re a renter or homeowner to do that.

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