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A Turning Point: US HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge goes one-on-one with 3News' Russ Mitchell

Fudge, the former congresswoman from Cleveland, spoke with Mitchell about her solutions to make the dream of home ownership a realistic goal for all.

CLEVELAND — U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge is committed to fixing the many problems facing those who have systematically been locked out of a fair shot at buying a home for generations. 

3News Anchor and Managing Editor Russ Mitchell recently traveled to Toledo to speak with the former Cleveland congresswoman, turned HUD secretary, about her solutions to make the dream of home ownership a realistic goal for all. 

Fudge believes the cost and supply are the biggest housing issues facing America today. "Certainly we are about a million and a half homes short of where we need to be today. That's how many homes we need to build units of housing. The cost has become so high that the average person can't afford to buy a home," she told Mitchell.

But while Americans try to work their way toward home ownership, the cost of rent has exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic. Fudge admits that because of a free marketplace, her hands are somewhat tied. 

There's not a whole lot we can do. It is a free market. So people are coming in to environments in which they know they can make an awful lot of money, and they're taking the out," Fudge explained. "They're taking a shot at doing it. It's just unfortunate that we would gouge people in a time where people are such high need, but that is what is happening across the country."

A recent study revealed that Cleveland has the largest minority homeownership gap in the nation, at around 35%. White ownership is at 76%, while Blacks stand at 41%. National numbers show a similar trend. Can HUD fix that disparity? 

Fudge says that her office is looking at discriminatory practices that have existed both "inside our building and outside."

"We are looking at the fact that we still do some redlining because we don't invest in neighborhoods that are lower income," she said. "It's not necessarily because of race, but they don't make money doing it. So I can't buy the house next door to me if it's under $100,000 because my bank won't lend me the money to do it, because they don't make money. So we we're looking at how we bring people, investors back into the market, banks back into the market that will allow us to build communities."

In addition, Fudge says her office is working to make it more affordable for people to get a home by assisting with debt and credit. For instance, if someone is dealing with student debt, Fudge says that FHA-insured mortgages are recalculating that debt in its underwriting. 

"We're saying, ''have you been paying your rent on time? We're going to make that your credit.' We're looking at down payment assistance for first time and first generation home buyers because we know most people who can afford to pay their rent can't afford a mortgage. They don't have a down payment," she explained.

Fudge told Mitchell that she hopes her biggest accomplishment as HUD secretary will ultimately be "that people knew that we cared and that we fought for them, and we did everything possible to make their lives better."

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