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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 99-108
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Tuesday
Or contact your local HUD officeJune 22, 1999


SACRAMENTO, CA - After meeting today with California Governor Gray Davis and leaders of three synagogues damaged in arson attacks Friday, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced the synagogues are eligible for HUD low-interest loan guarantees to help them rebuild.

Speaking at Congregation B'nai Israel - the most severely damaged of the three Sacramento area synagogues - Cuomo said the loan guarantees will be available under the Church Arson Prevention Act that was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.

Cuomo currently has authority to make up to $6.8 million in loan guarantees available to cover up to 100 percent of rebuilding costs for places of worship around the country. The three Sacramento area synagogues suffered about $1 million in damages.

"The terrible attacks on the B'nai Israel, Beth Shalom and Kenesset Israel congregations weren't just attacks against Jewish Americans, they were attacks against all Americans," Cuomo said. "All of us - with all our varied religious and ethnic backgrounds - must stand together as one to rebuild these synagogues and to work against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. We must show the haters that their efforts at destruction have failed."

"I join with the larger Sacramento community and all Americans in a shared sense of horror at these vicious hate crimes," Cuomo added. "An attack on a synagogue, or church, or mosque is more than just an attack on a building. It strikes at the heart of our faith as a nation and as a people."

Cuomo said HUD will also make available funding and the advice of experts for a Community Reconciliation Initiative in the Sacramento area to reduce discrimination and encourage tolerance of different religious, racial and ethnic groups. The initiative will help Sacramento area communities relieve community tensions and increase activities to reduce housing discrimination.

The Community Reconciliation Initiative will be a long-term program designed to help prevent future hate crimes. Rabbi Brad Bloom of Congregation B'nai Israel proposed such a community program to teach tolerance in the wake of the arson at his synagogue.

The Church Arson Prevention Act created a three-pronged federal response to arson and terrorism at places of worship. HUD was given responsibility for guaranteeing loans with flexible repayment terms of up to 20 years, which give places of worship access to low-interest loans. The Departments of Justice and Treasury were charged with investigating and prosecuting the arson attacks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was assigned the task of preventing future arsons.

Since the summer of 1996 (when he was an Assistant Secretary at HUD) Cuomo has worked throughout the country to encourage public/private partnerships in efforts to rebuild houses of worship victimized by arsonists. Cuomo formed the National Rebuilding Initiative to enable HUD to work in partnership with other organizations to make as many resources as possible available for rebuilding places of worship.

In addition, HUD has held regional conferences in cities such as: Columbia, SC; Memphis, TN; New Orleans; and Birmingham, AL, to disseminate information and to work one-on-one with congregations.

HUD continues to take steps to improve the loan program by working with financial institutions on ways to improve underwriting criteria for loans.

A place of worship initiates the loan-making process by submitting a HUD application to a local bank or other financial institution requesting a rebuilding loan. The financial institution reviews the application, seeks additional financial data if necessary, conducts its underwriting analysis, and makes a submission to HUD requesting a loan guarantee.

HUD will participate in the rebuilding process through new construction, rehabilitation or refinancing. Property that is insured can be assisted if the insurance proceeds leaves a gap in the amount needed to finance completion of the rebuilding.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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