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MORE THAN 10,000 VOLUNTEERS ACROSS NATION EXPAND SUPPLY OF HOUSING FOR FAMILIES IN NEED AS PART OF RAISE THE ROOF DAY
WASHINGTON - More than 10,000 volunteers in 156 cities participated today in Raise the Roof Day - an unprecedented nationwide volunteer effort to rehabilitate and build housing for families in need, organized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
About 1,800 houses and apartments in bad condition were being repaired and transformed into safe and decent housing in participating cities during Raise the Roof Day. Construction was also underway on dozens of new homes.
The event, which is the first national housing day, is designed to both expand the supply of affordable rental housing and increase homeownership for low-and moderate-income families.
"Raise the Roof Day isn't about big government, it's about people with big hearts helping their less fortunate neighbors get desperately needed housing," HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said. "The labor of these dedicated volunteers is a tremendous resource that will transform homes, transform neighborhoods and transform lives. These volunteers will also focus attention on the need to provide affordable housing for more families across our nation and increase homeownership."
Raise the Roof Day has created a partnership between HUD, local governments, non-profit groups and businesses to organize volunteers to repair deteriorated and often vacant housing and to build new housing. The groups will continue working together to make more housing available to families in need.
In Washington, Cuomo joined Mayor Anthony Williams, TV personality and home improvement expert Bob Vila, actress Sarah Jessica Parker, and more than 200 volunteers to help rehabilitate an apartment building on Lamont Street in Columbia Heights to create 14 units that will be owned by low-income families. The apartment building, which opened in 1926, was abandoned in the 1980s and was used by drug dealers for years.
The volunteers in Washington also rehabilitated five rowhouses on the same street.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, Habitat for Humanity, Christmas in April, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, YouthBuild and AmeriCorps joined with HUD to sponsor Raise the Roof Day. In addition, Nationwide Insurance and Financial Services donated $2 million to the effort, and merchants in participating cities donated building supplies and other goods.
Some of the housing being rehabilitated around the country today is owned by cities, some is owned by non-profit groups, and some is owner-occupied.
Cities, non-profit groups and HUD will work together to make vacant rehabilitated housing available at affordable rents or purchase prices to low- and moderate-income families and senior citizens. Rehabilitated occupied housing will provide residents with improved living conditions.
Raise the Roof Day is designed to be the modern-day equivalent of gatherings of pioneer settlers in America's frontier communities to build homes and barns for each other. In these day-long events in America's past, neighbors united their labor to help each other carry out construction work that no one family could complete on its own.
Repairs on some of the housing being worked on as part of Raise the Roof Day were being completed today. More extensive rehabilitation and construction work that was begun today will be completed in the near future.
Virtually every community in the nation is affected by the shortage of affordable units available for rent and homeownership. More than 5 million families in the United States live in severely substandard housing or pay more than half their income in rent.
According to a report issued by HUD in March, the strong economy that has improved the lives of most Americans has hurt some of the poorest families by worsening the crisis-level shortage of affordable housing.
The report - called Waiting In Vain: An Update On America's Housing Crisis (was linked to http://www.huduser.org/publications/affhsg/waiting.html) -- shows that: 1) The time families spend on waiting lists for HUD housing assistance has grown dramatically. 2) Market rents are rising faster than the incomes of poor people. 3) The number of affordable housing units is falling.
The report said a family's average time on a waiting list for an apartment in the largest public housing authorities rose from 22 to 33 months from 1996 to 1998 - a 50 percent increase. The average waiting period for a Section 8 rental assistance voucher rose from 26 months to 28 months between 1996 and 1998. In some big cities, the waiting period for vouchers is as high as 10 years.
There is a serious shortage of affordable homes available for homeownership by low- and moderate income families. While 77 percent of families with incomes above $30,000 own their homes, only 51.5 percent of families with incomes below $30,000 are homeowners.
Nationwide, about 2 million housing units have severe physical problems such as lack of adequate upkeep, plumbing, heating, or electricity.
COMMENTS FROM RAISE THE ROOF DAY PARTNERS
Dorothy Stoneman, President and Founder, YouthBuild USA: "The need for affordable housing in low-income communities has never been more intense. We applaud HUD's role in bringing resources and drawing the nation's attention to rebuilding our neighborhoods. Young people in YouthBuild programs gain enormous pride from producing housing for their communities."
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director, U.S. Conference of Mayors: "Raise the Roof Day is an exciting new initiative that will empower citizens across the nation who now live in distressed neighborhoods. Homes, apartments and neighborhoods will be cleaned up and fixed. More than 100 mayors will join with volunteers, local non-profits, faith-based organizations and local businesses to begin the transformation of urban neighborhoods. This is a great day for people and housing."
Thomas L. Jones, Managing Director, Washington Office, Habitat for Humanity ® International: "One of Habitat for Humanity's two basic goals is to raise sensitivity of all persons to the commitment that every person should have the opportunity for a permanent, decent place to live. Thus, Habitat for Humanity is proud to be a national sponsor of Raise the Roof Day. Habitat affiliates around the country have joined HUD, Mayors and their cities, and numerous local housing groups in this fully collaborative effort to raise awareness of the need for decent, affordable housing and to make that housing a reality for families across the nation."
Michael Rubinger, President and CEO, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC): "Across the country, in hard-pressed urban and rural neighborhoods, every day is Raise the Roof Day for thousands of local community developers. National Raise the Roof Day will underscore not only the tremendous need for quality affordable housing, but also the tremendous potential that exists in these communities."
John White, Vice President, Christmas in April, USA: "Christmas in April USA is delighted to join with HUD to focus on the thousands of low-income citizens who cope daily with crumbling walls, leaking roofs, and inadequate heating, electricity and plumbing. In 1999, Christmas in April's 236 affiliates will rehab more than 6,776 houses and 274 non-profits in communities throughout the 50 states, making them significantly safer, drier, warmer and more comfortable. Some 12.5 million Americans - many of them elderly or disabled - live in severely substandard housing and that number is growing. We appreciate HUD's leadership in this regard. Christmas in April volunteers will continue to work not only on National Raise the Roof Day, but throughout the year to address this crisis."
Content Archived: January 20, 2009
Content Archived: January 20, 2009