The observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is in full swing across the country. They include festive celebrations of ethnic foods, traditional dances and speeches about the history of AAPIs in the United States.
As an immigrant who had to learn a new language and culture, I appreciate the needs of the newly-arrived and those who struggle to make a life in the United States. Having worked for twenty years as a community organizer for AAPIs and other underserved communities before joining the Obama Administration, I have advocated for changes in federal, state and city governments to improve access for undeserved communities to essential government services. Now the tables are turned. As the Interagency Working Group representative for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at the White House Initiative on AAPIs, I am tasked with working with our HUD team to effectuate changes at HUD according to our agency plan. I am proud to say that HUD has undertaken significant steps under the leadership of Secretary Shaun Donovan to improve services for AAPIs. Here are some examples:
- The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) continued its efforts to translate HUD vital documents into AAPI languages, increasing the number of AAPI languages available from 7 to 15. HUD has since translated over 100 vital documents into many of those languages. Examples include the “Fair Housing Brochure” (Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Tagalog, and Vietnamese) and “Are you a Victim of Housing Discrimination?” (Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese).
- HUD has developed a phone translation service that is available for all callers to HUD. The HUD Language Line offers live, one-on-one interpretation services in more than 175 languages, 24 hours a day.
- HUD has partnered with the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) to address housing and lending discrimination facing the AAPI community. We have also provided housing counseling grants to the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Development (NCAPACD) so they can better serve AAPI clients purchasing a new home or struggling to keep their homes in the midst of the housing crisis.
- Last year Secretary Donovan provided a keynote address at the 10th Annual Convention of the Council on Native Hawaiian Advancement, met with the mayors from Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island, announced the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant with Senator Daniel Inouye and met with homeless veterans to underscore the increasing problem of homelessness in the islands.
- Assistant Secretary for FHEO John Trasvina and I participated in a webinar on housing on March 7 hosted by the White House Initiative on AAPIs and met with AAPI community leaders, students, small business owners, and local elected officials in various cities.
- HUD held a webinar in September for Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) to improve their awareness of public sector career opportunities and specifically student internship opportunities at HUD.
- On April 2 of this year, HUD colleagues joined over 150 representatives from the philanthropic community and federal agencies at the White House for the first White House AAPI Philanthropic Briefing. This event, organized by the White House Initiative on AAPIs, shone a spotlight on the challenges faced by underserved AAPI communities and provided participants a forum to discuss collaborative solutions to these challenges.
These changes and increased engagement with AAPI communities enable HUD to be a more responsive and effective agency in serving all populations. Of course, more needs to be done so we look forward to partnering with the various AAPI communities to help continue the progress made by the White House Initiative on AAPIs.
Francey Lim Youngberg serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.