Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Middle Class Task Force Meeting

St. Cloud, Minnesota
Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thank you, Minnesotans, for giving us such a warm welcome today. It's great to be in St. Cloud along with Vice President Biden and the members of the Task Force to discuss with you how we're working to help families like yours. I hope to give you some insight into how our work at HUD will touch the lives of middle class Minnesotans, from Duluth to the Twin Cities to Albert Lea and beyond.

In this time of economic crisis, we must take bold action to build new pathways to the middle class, preserve the quality of life for middle class families, and protect neighborhoods from decay.

[As Vice President Biden mentioned], Secretary LaHood and I forged a new partnership yesterday to help American families gain better access to affordable housing, greater transportation options, and lower transportation costs. When we're talking about building new pathways to the middle class, we have to remember that the average American working family spends nearly 60% of its budget on housing and transportation costs. That figure is staggering, and demands the type of partnership that Secretary LaHood and I have formed. Together, we will lower these costs and expand every family's choices for affordable housing and transportation by better coordinating our investments on the federal level. The interagency task force we've formed between HUD and DOT will set forth a new vision of integrated regional housing, transportation, and land use planning- a vision that will go beyond just developing plans to actually creating and building sustainable, affordable communities for middle class families.

The economic crisis we face began with the foreclosure crisis, but it's become a jobs crisis. We are seeing record unemployment across the country, triggering more foreclosures and deepening the economic crisis. So in addition to building sustainable, livable communities, Energy Secretary Chu and I are coordinating our efforts to ensure that the investments of the Recovery Act work to catalyze a nationwide energy retrofitting industry. These Recovery funds provide a historic opportunity for us to jumpstart a green industry, create tens of thousands of jobs, and provide middle class workers new opportunities for employment.

Many hard-working American families trying to build a pathway to the middle class know they can only do so when they have a stable place to call "home." Many of HUD's Recovery Act investments focus on helping hard-hit families find a home, and ensuring that those homes are safe, sanitary, and stable. We've invested nearly $7 billion in improving public housing, assisted housing, Section 8 housing, and Native American housing units. By the end of this week, HUD will have signed contracts with every public housing agency in the country to use these funds. And in order to produce and preserve tens of thousands of units of affordable housing, we've invested $2.25 billion to support affordable housing being built with the assistance of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. With the implementation of HUD's Recovery Act investments, more American families will be on the pathway to the middle class.

For the homeowners fighting hard to make their mortgage payments and stay in their homes, our housing plan- the Making Home Affordable Plan- will help 7 to 9 million Americans. Making Home Affordable will work in concert with the Recovery Act and support a recovery in the housing market. Our plan will help families in three ways. First, we will protect housing opportunities for all Americans with a $200 billion backstop measure to help shore up resources for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Second, we will commit up to $75 billion to help 3 to 4 million homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure modify their unaffordable mortgages into affordable ones. Lastly, through new guidelines for refinancing at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we will assist an additional 4 to 5 million homeowners who can't otherwise take advantage of today's historically low mortgage interest rates. These three planks of our housing plan will keep middle class families in their homes and prevent the falling home prices that result from nearby foreclosures.

Lastly, just as all American families deserve a stable home, they deserve a stable neighborhood where they can thrive. HUD investments through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the Community Development Block Grant Program will be directly targeted at this effort. In fact, today the President is in California, where we are releasing $145 million to target emergency assistance to distressed neighborhoods by acquiring and redeveloping foreclosed properties that might otherwise become centers of abandonment and blight- part of a total $3.92 billion fund provided by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. In addition, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 invests another $2 billion of NSP funding to supplement State and local anti-blight efforts. With these Recovery Act funds, more neighborhoods across the country will have the tools they need to strengthen communities and maintain stability in a time of turbulence.

Once again, it's been an honor to be in Minnesota with all of you. I pledge to you that in the weeks, months, and years to come, I will work very closely with my partners in the Obama Administration to ensure that all American families have the ability to build and lead stable lives and have a place to call "home."

Thank you.


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