HUD No. 08-094
June 30, 2008
NEW HUD SECRETARY TOURS NEW ORLEANS, MEETS WITH MAYOR
On His First Visit as HUD Secretary, Preston Surveys Recovery Progress, Challenges
NEW ORLEANS - On his first visit to New Orleans as the new head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary Steve Preston toured some of the city's public housing communities, participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new community center, visited a family that used a HUD program to become first-time homeowners, and met with Mayor Ray Nagin to get a briefing on the city's ongoing recovery.
"Soon we will commemorate the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast," said Preston. "Our commitment to this region continues, which is why it was important to me to get a first-hand look at the city's progress and challenges early in my new role. I welcome the opportunity to partner with state and local leaders to help continue the rebuilding efforts underway."
Today at Abundance Square in New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward, Preston joined Nolan Rollins, the president of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans and the HUD-appointed Executive Administrator Karen Cato-Turner, to break ground for a new community center that will be built on a parcel of land near the new Abundance Square/Treasure Village mixed-income community. HUD approved of HANO's application to donate the vacant land to the Urban League to build the community center that will provide daycare, medical and employment services for people in the community, as well as creative programs for youth. The Urban League has committed to fully fund the state-of-the-art center with $1.6 million. Families throughout the community will have use of the new facility that will sit on the 2.2 acres of land.
At River Gardens, the HUD-appointed HANO Board Chair Diane Johnson introduced Preston to Lillie Daniels and Ronald Craig, a husband and wife who in April purchased their first home in River Garden, the mixed-income community that replaced the old St. Thomas public housing development. The family realized the American Dream of homeownership in April by using HUD's Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Homeownership Program, which allows renters to use their rental voucher to pay a portion of their mortgage.
"This family and this thriving community are an example of what can be done with patience, perseverance and partnerships with public and private resources," said Preston. "These neighborhoods are creating model communities where children can play freely and families can proudly have a place to call home."
Earlier in the day, Preston toured the Lafitte and C.J. Peete public housing developments, two of the four large public housing sites that are undergoing massive redevelopment to create better housing in safer neighborhoods. The demolition of C.J. Peete is complete and construction of new homes is set to begin in the fall; nearly half of Lafitte is demolished and construction is set to begin early winter. The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), which has been under HUD receivership since 2002, is also working closely with developers and resident leaders to demolish and rebuild affordable rental housing and homeownership opportunities at St. Bernard and B.W. Cooper, in addition to Lafitte and C.J. Peete and the other five properties that have already been redeveloped.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.