HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 00-278
Further Information: For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685 Sunday
Or contact your local HUD office October 1, 2000


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors thousands of sites, including toxic air emitters throughout the United States. You will find them in affluent neighborhoods and non-affluent neighborhoods, minority neighborhoods and non-minority neighborhoods. There are EPA-monitored sites within a mile of The White House, Disneyland and the United Nations. There’s even one not far from the offices of the Dallas Morning News.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is very concerned about the environmental conditions found in the cities and towns we serve. That is why, for example, we have secured over $2 billion in public and private funds to clean up environmentally-contaminated "Brownfields" sites across the United States in the last three years alone; that is why we require new public housing complexes to both identify and remediate on-site environmental problems; and, that is why we have launched a sophisticated Internet service which allows citizens, community organizations, and local governments to identify environmental problems in their communities and their resources available to address them.

The Morning News, however, is running a multi-part series which focuses only on a mere handful of housing sites – singling out those located near some 130 public housing complexes that have been or are being transformed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI program. In short, HUD stands unfairly accused of environmental racism based solely on the proximity of some HOPE VI projects to these emitters and the mistaken suggestion that HUD determines the location of HOPE VI developments.

The charge is outrageous. The very purpose of HUD’s HOPE VI program is to tear down the public housing ghettoes in which so many poor and minority Americans have been residentially, socially, and economically trapped for decades. With a mix of new on- and off-site housing opportunities, HOPE VI reconnects those residents to the larger society. And where it’s been tried, HOPE VI has done precisely that, providing public housing tenants with new affordable housing opportunities, attracting higher-income families back into areas they once fled and, ultimately, revitalizing distressed neighborhoods.

Environmental concerns are identified and addressed throughout this process. Consistent with the National Environmental Protection Act, HUD conducts a thorough environmental review of every HOPE VI site proposed by local government before construction is permitted to start. If hazards are identified, HUD orders remediation. In fact, HUD has required remediation at 24 of the 40 HOPE VI projects already completed or where construction has begun. HUD has also contributed to the clean-up of our inner cities through our "Brownfields" initiative, which has made over $2 billion in HUD funds and leveraged private investments available to convert once-polluted sites into land that can once again be put to economically productive uses.

Air pollution, however, is not confined to specific project sites. EPA doesn’t even monitor air pollution at the Census tract level. In fact, EPA specifically "cautions against" using its data "to draw real world conclusions about current local conditions" since it is "most reliable" on a "national or state scale." High levels of air pollution affect all of us – rich and poor, black and white. Communities choose to respond to such conditions in a variety of ways, but its nonsense to argue that cities should abandon their efforts to revitalize their urban cores.

The irony here is that HUD has been a leader in empowering communities to make informed choices about environmental concerns. We recently combined EPA’s databases with information on HUD projects to produce a Web-based community-planning tool for the new century called E-Maps. Information, after all, is power for both communities and tenants. After a Hope VI project is completed, for example, HOPE VI residents may choose to live in the completed HOPE VI revitalization project, choose to move into another HOPE VI unit built on sites scattered throughout the community or choose to accept a Section 8 rental assistance voucher and seek housing in the private marketplace. It’s their choice, not HUD’s. Likewise, if a community decides it is appropriate to take emitter locations into account in siting a project, we support that decision. We won’t, however, micro-manage a city’s urban development strategy based on poor science and speculative hysteria.

The Morning News story is fundamentally misguided because it advocates an unrealistic and unbalanced approach to managing environmental concerns. It is unfortunate that the story seems to cast blame on community leaders of good faith across the country who have struggled to balance community and resident needs in choosing project sites that are sometimes located near emitters, just like many non-assisted sites. HUD has a statutory mission to revitalize distressed neighborhoods; we don’t believe communities have to abandon development efforts in their inner cities to provide decent and safe housing for families in need.


Content Archived: December 13, 2009