Chairman D'Amato, Senator Sarbanes, members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I am honored that President Clinton has nominated me to be the Assistant Secretary for Housing-Federal Housing Commissioner. I am excited about the prospects of working with members of this Committee, Secretary Andrew Cuomo, and the entire HUD team as we set about to ensure that each American has the opportunity to live in decent and affordable housing.
I believe that I am well qualified to serve as HUD's Assistant Secretary for Housing-Federal Housing Commissioner. Currently on leave from Harvard University where I served as the Executive Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies and Lecturer in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, I have more than 20 years experience in housing policy research, education, and advocacy.
Widely recognized as the premier housing research center in the country, Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies is known for its capacity to bring together diverse groups and organizations to address important housing and community development issues. At the Joint Center, I directed programs of education and research funded by Federal, State, and local governments, for-profit and not-for-profit housing organizations and foundations. Core funding for the Center was provided by the Joint Center's Policy Advisory Board, a group of CEOs and senior executives of major corporations representing the housing construction, housing finance, and building material manufacturing sectors of the economy.
The Joint Center and its Policy Advisory Board represent a model of cooperation between business, government, and university-based research. Three times a year, the Joint Center hosted roundtable discussions that provided an opportunity for business leaders to join with senior government officials, as well as prominent academics and opinion leaders to discuss important issues facing the housing industry. As Executive Director, I was fortunate to lead these sessions, and to learn about the important management challenges that face business and government.
Building on the work with the Policy Advisory Board, I organized and chaired the Housing Leadership Conference. Sponsored by McGraw Hill and the National Housing Endowment and co-sponsored by the America's Community Bankers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, the National Association of Home Builders, and Mortgage Bankers Association of America, the Housing Leadership Conference enabled private, public, and not-for-profit sector leaders to participate in an informal, candid and off-the-record discussion of important trends that will shape housing and housing capital markets today and in the future.
At Harvard, my teaching included graduate-level courses on housing and community development policy, real estate finance, urban economics, and public sector management and policy analysis. I also participated in numerous executive education programs. For example, in cooperation with the National Council of State Housing Agencies, I organized a program of executive education for housing finance agency directors that addressed issues ranging from public sector management to financial analysis and risk assessment. I also co-founded the Leadership Institute at Harvard's Divinity
School, an executive program designed to assist clergy and lay leaders of predominately African-American churches in exerting leadership on the housing and economic development issues that confront their communities. These and other initiatives have enabled me to better understand the challenges confronting both public and private sector managers.
Over the years, my research has focused on regional and demographic analysis, housing economics, housing finance, and housing and community development policy analysis, with particular reference to housing costs, housing conditions, and the housing situation of the nation's low- and moderate-income households. Recent research activities include: analysis of the housing situation of racial and ethnic minorities and new immigrant populations, particularly focusing on the extent to which these groups are benefiting from the continuing surge in homeownership; assessment of the implications of welfare reform for the rent paying ability of low-income households; and an examination of how best to make homeownership initiatives a productive part of a program of individual wealth building and comprehensive community economic development.
In addition to numerous articles targeted to academic audiences, for the past ten years I was the principal author of the Joint Center's annual report, The State of the Nation's Housing. Funded by the Ford Foundation and completed with the cooperation of a diverse group of housing organizations, the report is a widely read account of important housing and community development issues confronting the nation. Each year, more than 8,000 copies of the report are distributed to Administration Officials, Members of Congress, and other national, state and local housing leaders.
Last year, summaries of the report appeared in some 400 newspapers and magazines targeted to general audiences.
I also have consulted widely on housing and housing finance issues. For example, in 1994, I worked closely with FHA Commissioner Nicolas Retsinas to plan and to facilitate a series of eight public forums designed to stimulate candid discussions about ways to improve the Federal Housing Administration. The final report summarized various approaches for transforming the FHA into an efficient, entrepreneurial, and accountable government agency that relies on public-private partnerships and market mechanisms to achieve public purposes.
Since coming to HUD in October, 1997 as an advisor to Secretary Cuomo, I have continued to focus on the reform of FHA, including assessment of best practices in property appraisal, the use of automated underwriting of FHA single-family insured mortgages, alternative methods of disposing of FHA foreclosed properties, and efforts to improve the operations of FHA multifamily programs. I welcome the opportunity to continue to work on the important task of revitalizing the FHA.
Finally, I have devoted significant time to local community service. I was a founding member of the Committee for Boston Public Housing, a tenant-led organization that seeks to improve the well-being of residents of public housing in Boston. I also served on the Board of Directors of the Newton Community Development Foundation, an organization that owns and manages several hundred units of affordable rental housing in the Boston suburbs. I am also active in youth sports. As a member of the Board of Directors of the Beantown Junior Olympic Volleyball Club, I helped establish a youth volleyball league that serves nearly 100 boys aged 14 to 18 from the Boston area.
On a personal note, I am married to Kristen Reasoner Apgar, and have two sons, Joshua (age 21) and James (age 19). My wife is the General Counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. Joshua is a Senior at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and James is a Sophomore at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
My wife and I consider ourselves lucky that 24 years ago we were able to purchase a home of our own in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. As is the case with many others, homeownership is the American Dream. Our home is more than just the place we live. It is the place where we raised our family, it is the site of our most cherished memories, and is by far and away our most important financial resource.
Should I be confirmed, I will work tirelessly to help ensure that all Americans have the same opportunities that my own family has enjoyed. My life long focus on research, teaching, and advocacy on housing issues reflects my deep belief in the importance of decent and affordable housing - and particularly affordable homeownership opportunities - for the well-being of families. Yet it also builds on my long standing concern about the persistent disparity between what I see as the "housing haves" and the "housing have nots." The "housing haves" - and this includes the vast majority of Americans - live in homes that are the envy of the world. In contrast, all too many Americans pay high shares of their incomes for what is often marginally adequate housing. Tragically, some have no housing at all and must struggle daily to secure even the most basic shelter.
Over the years, I have come to understand how many housing programs and policies - well intentioned as they might have been - have contributed to this disparity. Undoubtedly, the FHA has been a major factor in helping millions realize the American Dream of Homeownership. At the same time, numerous poorly crafted and equally poorly managed housing initiatives have had the unintended effect of adding to the deterioration of many older, less affluent neighborhoods. Such misguided efforts not only waste taxpayer money, they undermine trust in government and often hurt the very people the programs were intended to help.
So the challenge of HUD's Office of Housing - my challenge -- is clear. As Secretary Cuomo has
stated, the challenge is to prove competence, to work to restore the public trust in HUD's housing
programs, and to make the FHA into an organization worthy of taxpayer support. Under
Secretary Cuomo's leadership and working in partnership with the members of this Committee,
HUD is well on its way to doing just that. I am excited and honored by the prospect of joining in
this important venture.
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