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Helen Kanovsky, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, shared her view of the agency with lawyers at the 23rd Annual Conference of the American Bar Association Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law. Kanovsky will return to her post as general counsel when Nani Coloretti is confirmed as deputy secretary for HUD.
“As it turns out, however, there is a lot you do not see in counsel’s office and a lot you do not necessarily understand,” she said during the conference’s opening session at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. “What you see — how you see an issue — depends on where you sit. Not surprisingly, you see a lot more in the deputy secretary’s office.”
Though Kanovsky said she was unable to discuss policy decisions, she stressed that the administration “cares passionately about affirmatively furthering fair housing.”
Last July, HUD published a proposed rule that would further the purpose and policy of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination. HUD received more than a thousand submissions of comments on the proposed rule, she said. “Thank you for your passion, for giving us a better understanding of the concerns you are balancing and for ultimately making the AFFH process more informed and therefore better,” Kanovsky said.
She said the comments ranged from those proposing that HUD submit another version of the rule to those seeking for HUD to phase in implementation of the rule. “HUD is currently reviewing all the comments received and determining the most appropriate responses,” Kanovsky said.
The agency is committed to making the process fair, she added.
Kanovsky also gave an update on HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which is part of its preservation strategy to sustain affordable housing.
HUD has received applications to convert nearly 180,000 units from public housing to Section 8, Kanovsky said.
“This is an incredible showing of interest, and we believe this strong support proves the need for this program,” she said.
Every year HUD loses more than 10,000 public housing units “because of an inability to fund the capital needs necessary to maintain those units as habitable,” Kanovsky said.
HUD is also working to lift the cap of 60,000 units designated by Congress for the program, she said. When the cap is raised, the public housing agencies would be eligible to take on nearly $5 billion in improvements, she noted.
“Our residents cannot wait any longer,” Kanovsky said. “Our residents deserve action on long-deferred maintenance and the revitalization of our ailing public housing stock that is so sorely needed.”