HUD secretary talks support, housing in Flint

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Flint — In his evaluation of the city’s ongoing lead-tainted water crisis on Monday, Julián Castro, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary, addressed Flint’s housing market.

Castro said lending from the Federal Housing Administration during the city water quality issue has not dipped.

The “good news is that we have not seen a year-over-year decline in the number of transactions here in Flint on FHA-backed loans,” he said.

“HUD recognizes the crucial role FHA lending plays in keeping the housing market healthy,” he said, adding that HUD provided guidance to FHA-approved lenders “on how they will be able to meet FHA requirements while continuing to lend to prospective homeowners in Flint.”

Castro visited the city Monday to “see first-hand both the challenges and opportunities that exist here in Flint.”

“What happened here in Flint goes beyond the pale,” Castro said. “No community should have to go through what the residents of Flint are going through.”

He had planned meetings at City Hall with Mayor Karen Weaver and several other elected officials.

Weaver said she was excited that Castro addressed the city’s housing needs and keeping business from leaving the economically depressed city.

“That’s a huge issue for us because we know we need a tax base here in the city,” Weaver said.

Castro said HUD is proud to be a part of a team of agencies working to recover “and improve the quality of life for Flint residents.”

Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, said there is a bipartisan push to get Flint “back on track.”

He remarked that the tone of the meetings in the city was “very productive.”

“Everyone wants to work as a team and do their part to ensure residents are getting what they need,” he said.

Castro said he was encouraged by the bipartisan support the issue has in the presidential election season.

“We wanted to come here and do this apart from all of the politics,” he said. “My hope is that people of different stripes can see what happened here shouldn’t ever happen in any community.”

Castro said recovery in Flint means “that a mother doesn’t have to worry about the water, that a child’s health isn’t going to be in danger and the community continues to move forward with stronger business and more opportunities for housing.”

In the meeting with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, Weaver and others, Castro spoke of accessing funding faster.

“First, we talked about maximizing resources the city already has,” Castro said. “Secondly, I know that the mayor had made a request for additional Community Block Grant funds. We had a conversation about that and what that would look like.”

Castro said additional funding requests will have to go through the Office of Management and Budget.

Kildee said he is encouraged by the support the city has received for residents and the immediate needs of clean water.

But “in terms of the long-term prospects of recovery, we need more help.”

Weaver said she was happy to see Castro in Flint with his team.

“It shows us that he wanted to see first-hand what’s going on in Flint, when you come and visit first-hand you really get a different story.”