Hearing on Pending Nominations

Prepared Testimony of Ms. Susan Wachter
Assistant Secretary-Designate
Department of Housing and Urban Development

10:00 a.m., Friday, November 5, 1999

Chairman Gramm, Senator Sarbanes, members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I am deeply honored to have been nominated by President Clinton to serve as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research. I welcome the challenge of working with the members of the Committee, Congress, the Administration, Secretary Andrew Cuomo, and the PD&R Office.

Before I begin my formal comments I would like to introduce my husband Michael L. Wachter, who is here with me today and would like to acknowledge my entire family - my parents, my son Jonathan and my daughter Jessica -- for their constant love, patience and support through the years.

I would also like to extend a special thanks to the staff of the office of Policy Development and Research. I have served as a consultant to the Office for much of this year and have been thoroughly impressed with their dedication and commitment to the housing and community development concerns of all Americans.

Finally, I want to acknowledge President Clinton and Secretary Cuomo. Their leadership has reinvented HUD and brought a new commitment to serving the housing needs of all Americans. Secretary Cuomo recognizes the role of policy development and research in identifying and implementing reforms and I am honored to have been nominated to serve with him.

I believe that I am well qualified to serve as HUD's Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research. Currently on leave from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where I served as Chairperson of the Real Estate Department, I have more than 20 years housing and real estate policy and research experience. I am honored by the prospect of working on the important issues relating to HUD's policy and research agenda. This opportunity to serve allows me to draw on a lifetime of experience addressing the critical housing and urban issues facing our Nation.

The Office of Policy Development and Research is responsible for providing advice and information on the HUD policy agenda; for maintaining current information to monitor housing needs, housing market conditions, and the operation of existing programs; and for conducting research on priority community-development issues. The primary research mission is to provide reliable and objective data and analysis to, inform policy decisions that will have impact today and in the future.

While at The Wharton School, I directed programs of research and related activities funded by the Federal Government, foundations, nonprofit organizations and corporations involved in the housing and real estate sectors of the economy. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to oversee many of these research efforts and served as principal investigator on major housing and real estate research projects. I have also taught real estate and housing finance courses to Wharton and University of Pennsylvania students; and as Chair, founded the real estate Ph.D. program at Wharton. In addition, I founded and directed the Wharton GIS lab, a pioneering community development research lab using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis.

I am committed to bringing the best research insights into practice to provide better housing and living conditions to those in most need, so that they too may share in the unprecedented economic prosperity of today. In particular, I believe that expanding access and opportunity to homeownership is critical to the revitalization of our cities and the economic well-being of our Nation.

This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1949 Housing Act which set our Nation on a course to provide a "decent home and a suitable living environment" to every American family. This anniversary presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the gains we have made toward this goal and to prepare ourselves for future challenges. If confirmed, I will dedicate myself to fulfilling the intention and spirit of this Act. As Assistant Secretary I will seek to provide the research and policy development to put solutions into place.

Over the years, my own research has focused on housing finance, real estate cycles, real estate and housing economics, and housing policy analysis, with particular reference to housing affordability and the analysis of local market housing price dynamics. I have pioneered work on homeownership affordability, including the first-time identification of the impact of borrowing constraints on homeownership. My recent research activity includes an analysis of the differential impacts of assisted housing program types on nearby urban property values; a global analysis of the interdependence of real estate cycles and banking crises; and a study on the roles of race and wealth in access to homeownership. I hope to bring much of this knowledge to bear on the HUD policy and research agenda.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, during the long course of my experience dedicated to the issues of housing policy , I have had the opportunity and the responsibility to work on issues which are in line with HUD's mission. I understand that the position of Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research carries great responsibility for promoting adequate and affordable housing, access to homeownership, economic opportunity, and suitable living environment without discrimination to all Americans. With the approval and consent of this Committee, and confirmation by the Senate, I would be honored to serve my country in this capacity.

Thank you.

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