A Day in the Life: Atlanta Regional Office, Office of Field Policy and Management

Photo: Dexter Brandon.

Welcome to another edition of our series, A Day in the Life, which will introduce you to HUD employees and highlight the important work they do.

 Today, we meet Dexter Brandon, a Customer Service Representative in the Office of Field Policy and Management in the Atlanta Regional Office.

 What is your typical day like?

A typical day starts with checking voicemails complaints, emails on the Georgia Webmail and interacting with customers on behalf of the organization. I provide them with information or guidance to solving their problems.

What is the overarching task of your position?

To listen and respond to customers’ needs. Every call is not the same, so it’s imperative that I provide them with the correct information. Also, transferring the customer to the proper program areas, internally and externally, is essential too. The key is to prevent people from going around in circles. Another one of my tasks is to assist with promptly processing Freedom of Information Act request and inquiries.

How long have you been in your current role? 

My career started at HUD in June 2014, as a Student Trainee (Office Support) Intern. Upon completion of my internship, I volunteered for three months and was eventually able to obtain a position as a Customer Service Representative in January 2015.

What is the most exciting part of your job? 

Providing customers with information that may change their lives for the better; it’s gratifying for me. I enjoy helping people, so when a person says, “you‘ve saved my life” or “thank you for the information,” that motivates me throughout the day.

Where did you work prior to your position at HUD?

I worked at a company as a Power Plant Technical Writer, Contractor, in Atlanta. My job consisted of generating technical documentation for power generation, petrochemical, and other heavy industrial applications, that included organizing and producing professional technical documents used in the field to build or repair equipment and systems for industrial power plants.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back for a new edition of A Day in the Life!

Joe Phillips is a Public Affairs Officer in HUD’s Atlanta Regional office.

A Day in the Life: Atlanta Regional Office, Office of Field Policy and Management
A Day in the Life: Atlanta Regional Office, Office of Field Policy and Management

Mortgage Rates Uninspired by Fed or Economic Data

Mortgage rates were flat to slightly higher today, depending on the lender. The average lender was quoting the same rates as yesterday, but with slightly higher upfront costs (or a lower credit, depending on your scenario). That said, if you could only choose one word to describe the movement, it would be “flat.” The flat trajectory has been intact for 3 straight days, even though today’s events had enough street cred to cause a shift in momentum. The morning hours brought and important economic report and an even more important update on the Treasury’s borrowing needs. Rates care about Treasury issuance because it’s the foundation of the “supply” side of the supply/demand equation for bonds (and bonds dictate rates). Rates care about economic data because a stronger economy can generally support
Mortgage Rates Uninspired by Fed or Economic Data
Mortgage Rates Uninspired by Fed or Economic Data

Rental Assistance Demonstration in Northfield, Minnesota: Three Links Apartments

Three Links Apartments in Northfield, Minnesota is a quiet and attractive senior living community of 20,000 people about an hour south of the Twin Cities and an hour north of the Iowa-Minnesota border. MaryLou Murphy, Eldora Sietz, and Diane Decker share their experience going through a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) renovation.  The improvements allowed tenants who require accessibility features to live at the property while maintaining their independence. Read more of their story here.

Rental Assistance Demonstration in Northfield, Minnesota: Three Links Apartments
Rental Assistance Demonstration in Northfield, Minnesota: Three Links Apartments

50 Years of Enforcing the Fair Housing Act

Photo: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Ongoing segregation in America, regular reports of sexual harassment in housing, newly-constructed properties inaccessible to people with disabilities – these are just some examples that underscore that we have not yet vanquished housing discrimination. We can, however, look back on 50 years of enforcement to determine how we may make the progress that has eluded us.

The 50th anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act stands as a watershed moment in our enforcement of this landmark civil rights law. We now have seen five decades of government and private enforcement of this law. This time affords us an opportunity to review what has worked, what has not, and how we might face the future in view of those lessons. It’s important to celebrate milestones, but more important is to take action.

First, I think it is critical to acknowledge that the passage of the law itself was a major victory. Walter Mondale, a co-sponsor of the Act, said this month, “The view of how America speaks is reflected in our laws. And one of the laws is fair housing.”

Having such a law on the books certainly changed American cultural norms regarding housing discrimination.  Real-estate and other housing associations in those early years pledged fair housing compliance as a central tenet of their profession. Still, it was government and private enforcement of the law in those first two decades that put muscle behind the law. It’s during those decades that much of the seminal caselaw that we rely on today developed.

It should be noted that, upon its passage in 1968, the Act did not grant HUD the full enforcement authority Congress would provide in its 1988 Amendments. However, it did provide HUD with the authority to investigate and conciliate complaints. It also empowered the Department of Justice to enforce the law and provided a private right for anyone harmed by a discriminatory practice to pursue a lawsuit in federal court.

Similarly, fair housing groups were key to policing the housing industry in their communities and bringing many early cases. The decline in documented acts of discrimination, between HUD’s 1977 and 1989 national housing discrimination studies, reflect the combined enforcement and education activities of all these actors in the early years. The 1988 Amendments then strengthened HUD’s enforcement powers, authorizing a HUD administrative law judge to make findings of discrimination and award damages.

In recent decades, HUD’s decennial Housing Discrimination Study has tracked continuing declines in documented housing discrimination in the sales and rental markets. We can attribute that trend to the ongoing enforcement and education efforts on fair housing. Today, in addition to federal enforcement at HUD and the Department of Justice, 85 state and local agencies enforce substantially-equivalent laws. Our respective agencies not only bring cases to judges, but also help resolve these cases and obtain relief for individuals during the investigation process. For example, in Fiscal Year 2017, in 44% of its cases, HUD succeeded in bringing parties together to agree to a resolution before HUD issued findings.

You would think that with this record of success, our communities would not exclude any residents based on race, all apartment buildings would be accessible to individuals with disabilities, and sexual harassment in housing would be a thing of the past. While it may be difficult to completely eradicate discrimination, we can, and will do more.  The year may have changed but our commitment hasn’t.

50 Years of Enforcing the Fair Housing Act
50 Years of Enforcing the Fair Housing Act

Undesign the Redline

It was a mix of personal and professional experiences that brought together three passionate artists to create the Undesign the Redline exhibit. Designed to address the transformation of place, race, and class, this exhibit curates a past-to-present journey, grounding discussions about race, wealth, opportunity and power.  Design practitioners, April De Simone, Sabrina Dorsainvil, and Branden Crooks wanted to provoke thought, questions, and dialogue around the policies, practices, and investments shaping the socio-spatial landscape of America. In commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the passing of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, HUD will host this interactive exhibit at its Headquarters building throughout the month of May.

What’s brilliant about this exhibit is its dual purpose. First, it seeks to educate the public on how our segregated metropolitan areas came about. The exhibit name itself offers the answer: through redlining. But ‘redlining’ here is shorthand for a host of practices, to include racially-restrictive covenants for entire subdivisions, private racial steering, government-supported redlining, and a host of other practices.

Second, the exhibit calls on us to “undesign” this legacy. To condemn these past practices and promise not to repeat them is not enough. The exhibit says we created a segregated society; now we must take active steps to undo it. This mirrors the mandate of the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act for HUD and other federal agencies to “affirmatively further” the purposes of the Fair Housing Act. The exhibit helps fill in the gaps in the public’s understanding of why we must take active steps to reverse the harm.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968, he said he was signing into law “the promises of a century.” This measure was necessary because we had not yet fully guaranteed for all Americans, equal protection under the law. President Johnson said, “We’ve come some of the way but not near all of it.”

Now, 50 years later, we still have a long course to run. We have achieved much in the way of the enforcement of the Act on behalf of individual families who have experienced discrimination.  We have helped obtain meaningful relief for them. Yet, that has not resulted in a major transformation of our neighborhoods. To do that, we must engage in more active work, at the Federal, state, and local level.

“Undesign the Redline” reminds us, going forward, we must live up to the Fair Housing Act’s central purpose—not just to root out discrimination, but, as the Act’s co-sponsor Senator Walter Mondale said, to promote “truly integrated and balanced living patterns.”

Undesign the Redline
Undesign the Redline

Opening Doors: Fair Housing Means Housing Choice without Discrimination

Photo: Fair Housing "Opening Doors" exhibit at HUD headquarters.

This month, HUD celebrates the 50-year legacy of the Fair Housing Act, the landmark legislation that was signed into law on April 11, 1968, and has helped open doors for millions of Americans. . We know the key to one’s home unlocks not just a door, but also provides a family access to a community, its schools, social networks, and jobs. As Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer noted in a recent opinion, “The housing market is interconnected with economic and social life.”

The passage of the Fair Housing Act allowed America to chart a new course. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, and religion. In the 1970’s, an amendment to the law made discrimination based on gender also illegal. Then the 1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act added protections for persons with disabilities and families with children. That same law strengthened HUD’s enforcement power. Today, HUD’s enforcement actions address the broad range of discriminatory practices that still too often rear their head in the housing market.

The housing conditions before the passage of the Fair Housing Act demanded bold action. People of color were confined to what we then called “ghettos” and “barrios.” The Kerner Commission, convened by President Johnson to study the mid-sixties riots, determined that that housing discrimination and lack of opportunity were the significant underlying causes for the disorder we saw all around the country. The unrest following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. drove that point home for everyone in the United States.

So, on this 50th anniversary of the Act, we celebrate not only our country’s progress in eliminating housing discrimination, but also our nation’s commitment to make the American Dream a reality for all who live here.

We also now have 50 years of enforcement successes, robust caselaw, and strong partnerships to face the challenges ahead.

As we embark on the next 50 years of Fair Housing Act enforcement, let us use all our tools, our wisdom, and our commitment from the past half-century to the renewed struggle on behalf of the entire country.

Anna Maria Farias is the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Opening Doors: Fair Housing Means Housing Choice without Discrimination
Opening Doors: Fair Housing Means Housing Choice without Discrimination

Mortgage Rates Fairly Steady Despite Market Weakness

Mortgage rates didn’t move much today, on average, even though underlying bond markets suggested a move higher. We talked about the stock/bond relationship being fairly well intact yesterday, and the same was true today. In other words, bonds (“rates”) were ready to move lower in the event that stock losses accelerated. In today’s case, stocks moved somewhat higher, and bond markets didn’t like that. Fortunately for rates, the stock gains were minimal today. If that changes in the coming days, rates could come under additional pressure. Given that rates are in line with their best levels in nearly 2 months, and the risk that stocks are finding a floor here, this looks like a good tactical opportunity to lock as opposed to float in the short-term. Longer-term, things are a bit less clear as
Mortgage Rates Fairly Steady Despite Market Weakness
Mortgage Rates Fairly Steady Despite Market Weakness

Ask HUD’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU)

Welcome to “Ask HUD’s OSDBU”, a new blog series hosted by HUD’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), where frequently asked questions are posted with informative responses.  The goal in this blog is to provide information small businesses can use to effectively pursue federal contracting opportunities.

What is the OSDBU?  In 1978 Congress passed P.L. 95-507 which required every federal contracting agency to create an office of small and disadvantaged business utilization to develop, implement, and manage small business utilization programs, policies and procedures.

What does the office do?  HUD’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is responsible for ensuring that small businesses including veteran-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, HUBZone, small disadvantaged, and women-owned small business concerns are treated fairly and have an opportunity to compete and be selected for a fair amount of HUD’s prime contracting and subcontracting opportunities.

HUD’s OSDBU conducts acquisition reviews and monitors HUD’s Small Business Goal and Achievement (both Prime and Subcontracting); provides internal and external training for acquisition professionals, program offices/managers, and the small and large business communities. Additionally, OSDBU responds to external inquiries from Congress, as well as the Government Accountability Office, Small Business Administration, OSDBU Council, Federal Acquisition Council, Office of the National Ombudsman; and conducts outreach and represents the Department at industry events.

Where to start contracting with HUD?  The OSDBU’s advice to small businesses interested in federal procurement is very simple: do your homework, list your certifications and credentials, establish relationships and be patient.

Homework: Before coming to HUD, visit www.hud.gov to research the agency and the program office in which you have an interest to understand the Department’s and program office’s mission, objectives and procurement needs. Make sure HUD procures what you are selling. Review Fedbizopps.gov and HUD’s Forecast of Contracting Opportunities on www.hud.gov/smallbusiness  to gain an understanding of procurement opportunities.

Certifications and Credentials: List your certifications such as 8(a), small disadvantaged business and HUBZone certifications on your business cards and capability statements. Your one-page capability statement should specifically indicate your firm’s credentials to compete for the procurement.

Relationships: Establish a relationship with the OSDBU and program office staff.  Make an appointment with the OSDBU to introduce your company and its capabilities.  Arrange marketing visits with program office staff to discuss contracting opportunities for which you are qualified.  Attend one of HUD’s Vendor Outreach Sessions.  In this high-tech world, it is still a personal touch that will win you your contract!

Patience: Finally, be patient and establish yourself.

 

Your comments and questions will help shape future blog posts.  Our goal is to provide you with informational resources about maximizing federal contracting opportunities for small businesses from which all can learn and benefit.

 

Ask HUD’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU)
Ask HUD’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU)

Mortgage Rates Sideways to Slightly Higher Despite Stock Rout

Mortgage rates were just barely higher in many cases today, although underlying bond markets recovered enough ground by the afternoon to suggest Monday’s rates will recoup those losses. The only catch is that other factors can have an effect on bonds between now and then. If bond markets are weaker by Monday morning, this afternoon’s strength will be overshadowed. Bottom line here: rates will start Monday with a very slight advantage “all things being equal.” Incidentally, the reason we don’t see this advantage today is that the bond market gains were small enough and happened late enough in the day that mortgage lenders didn’t update their rate sheets. The source of inspiration for the aforementioned bond market strength was a much bigger move in stocks. The latter are generally freaking out
Mortgage Rates Sideways to Slightly Higher Despite Stock Rout
Mortgage Rates Sideways to Slightly Higher Despite Stock Rout

Rental Assistance Demonstration in Cleveland: Bohn Tower

Mr. Brown shares about his experience being part of the renovation project while living as a tenant in the building.

When the 22-story high rise that he calls home went through a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion, resident Charles Brown decided to take an active role in the transformation.  “When you’re living in a building you care so much about and you get to be part of the process, it makes you feel outstanding,” he said.  Click here to hear more about this model transition and for the list of top recommendations for success based on the solid working relationship between the affordable housing property’s owners and its residents.

Read more>>

Rental Assistance Demonstration in Cleveland: Bohn Tower
Rental Assistance Demonstration in Cleveland: Bohn Tower