Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge during a Tuesday stop in Denver warned the affordable housing crisis is “bigger than people want to admit” but praised efforts to revamp public housing in Colorado.
After touring a public housing complex currently under construction in Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood along with her Democratic former congressional colleague Diana DeGette and Mayor Michael Hancock, Fudge laid out for reporters the “dire” state of housing in America.
“We are short about 11 million places for people to live,” she said. “As we talk about things like getting homeless people off the street, right now we're at a point where we can do things like put them in hotels and motels, but it's not enough.”
DeGette added Denver ranked 42nd in the country in terms of available affordable housing units, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“We can all see that when we drive downtown by the city and county building and see homeless encampments,” the Denver Democrat said. “But it's not just the homeless encampments, it's the ability to get affordable housing for families and for individuals, almost all of whom have jobs, some of them have two or three jobs.”
That’s where Hancock hopes the new Gateway South and Gateway North Denver Housing Authority units come into play.
“Denver Housing Authority has been one of the leaders in building seamless public housing so that no one recognizes that this is public housing,” Hancock said. “I want you just to take stock of this area: this is typically what we see around the country — areas that become gentrified because of the development.”
The tour through the Gateway South complex included a stop in a unit as well as the complex’s gym and an attached supermarket still under construction, which drew praise from Fudge.
“When I talk with the president ... I'm going to say to him, ‘When somebody wants to see an example of what works, meet me in Sun Valley,’” she said. “This is something that I've not seen and I traveled an awful lot.”
Fudge also touted the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan legislation backed by the Biden administration that is before Congress. That’s the infrastructure package proposed by Biden during his early days in the Oval Office.
“The president understands very, very clearly how important housing is and that's why he is requesting of Congress $300 billion to build new housing, housing like this.” she said. “Homelessness is an issue that the president is honing in on and we're going to be addressing.”
The Biden administration in June announced support for a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package negotiated by federal lawmakers. That package does not explicitly contain funding for housing and Biden indicated he would only sign it if lawmakers also passed a bill directing money to "human infrastructure" programs.
“The president really does understand very clearly housing is infrastructure,” Fudge said. “We are in the richest nation in the world, no one should sleep on the street in a tent, under a bridge, on a bench.”