In the face of poverty and a growing population, the community a child resides in plays a pivotal role in determining his or her future, according to Julián Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Castro spoke at the 2015 Reimagining Cities Conference, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The HUD program was a part of Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and was motivated by his experiences with extreme poverty while growing up in the Texas Hill Country, according to Castro.
Although 50 years have passed, the issues Johnson experienced during his presidency have not disappeared, as neighborhoods still face racial and economic segregation often overlooked or ignored by the government, Castro said.
“The United States faces a growing gap between the rich and poor. Too often a child’s zip code determines a child’s future,” Castro said. “A child born in the zip code 63135 in north St. Louis can expect to live 18 years less than a child that lives 10 miles away in a more affluent neighborhood.”
Social work senior Alison Akler, who attended the event, echoed Castro’s sentiments.
“The biggest obstacle to creating developed communities is finding support from the government and the people that live in the surrounding community,” Akler said.
Event attendee Andrew Martin, a graduate student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said a developed community is essential to developed societies.
“[Communities] are where we live and where we converge,” Martin said. “The basis of our lives lies in our communities. If you don’t have a well developed community, then you cannot have a well developed society.”
The HUD has made enormous strides, but the department is nowhere near what it should strive toward, according to Castro.
According to a HUD press release, the department proposed a $49.3 billion budget for 2016 to help secure quality housing, end homelessness, increase community resilience to natural disasters, protect individuals from housing discrimination and provide assistance to poor families. This represents an 8.7 percent increase from previous years.
“The United States cannot afford another half century of benign neglect towards the communities that need it most,” Castro said. “The new Fair Housing rule makes sure that you use taxpayer money to invest in good schools, transit and economic development so that people can help build prosperous futures.”