Shelterforce Interview: Raphael Bostic, HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research

Bostic, now in his second turn at HUD, is known for his extensive work analyzing the roles that credit markets, financing, and policy play in furthering economic access for all.

The route that led Dr. Raphael Bostic to his current role as assistant secretary for policy development and research at HUD, was, in his words, “probably more circuitous than anyone could have ever expected.” His early work on mortgage lending discrimination got the attention of the Federal Reserve Board, leading to a position for him there where he was eventually recognized for his review of the Community Reinvestment Act. He did one tour at HUD under the Clinton administration as a special assistant for PD&R Assistant Secretary Susan Wachter, and then to moved on to teach at the University of California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development. Now in his second turn at HUD, Bostic is known for his extensive work analyzing the roles that credit markets, financing, and policy play in furthering economic access for all.

Shelterforce: What’s should the balance be between rental and homeownership policy? Lots of people in the administration and in the legislature want to focus on rental now, but homeownership was the main focus for so long.

Asst. Secretary Bostic: Secretary Donovan has talked about this a fair amount, and he’s been pretty clear that we need a comprehensive housing policy, one that focuses both on ownership — still the majority of Americans are owners — but also on rental and lift up the rental part of the housing market in an important way.

There are two functions to housing. There’s shelter and there’s investment value potential. And over the last 15 or 20 years we’ve seen a tremendous increase in attention on the investment value to the detriment of the shelter notion. And you can just see that in terms of how we live. Flipping houses used to be considered predatory lending. Now we have TV shows about it. Twenty-five years ago people were not using [housing] as an ATM, and the home equity loan wasn’t this common source of resources. We’ve deemphasized in ways I don’t think have been healthy, the notion of just shelter.

Our goal is really to rebalance that message and try to get to a place where the thing we worry about is people being housed well. For some, that will be homeownership. But it’s a bigger set than has been that should be rental.

I think what you’ll see from this administration is more attention to rental markets. We know that there’s a lot of stress in rental markets right now. The number of families that are paying more than 30 or 40 percent of their income has gone up dramatically through this crisis. Household formation has slowed tremendously, which would suggest that people are doubling up, they’re not moving out. And that’s particularly true in high-cost markets, but it is true across the board.

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