Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities Spring Executive Directors' Meeting

Washington, DC
Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Thank you for welcoming me here today.

Thanks to CLPHA President Michael Kelly for the introduction here today.

I'd also like to recognize CLPHA's executive director Sunia Zaterman for organizing today's conference.

First of all, I want to say that all of the executive directors of public housing authorities here today do vitally important work on the ground to ensure that American families have access to quality, affordable housing. Particularly in these incredibly difficult economic times, your work touches the lives of so many. You should be proud that every day you enable millions of Americans to lead fulfilling and stable lives in vibrant communities.

Improving our current stock of public housing, and creating new green, affordable housing options for low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled are and will continue to be critical parts of the Obama Administration's response to the housing crisis. We at HUD, and in the Administration, understand the importance of public housing in an economic downturn and look forward to working closely with all of you here today.

While we are without a doubt in a housing crisis, I believe strongly that in crisis, there is great opportunity, and this crisis gives us the opportunity to think together about what this crisis can offer us and where we can go from here.

Today I'll share with you HUD's work in the short term: HUD's role in the President's Recovery Act, as well as HUD's leadership in the Making Home Affordable Plan. And I'll share with you my vision for the long term: how HUD will rise to the challenges of our world today and be truly partners with state and local government and agencies, including public housing authorities. My colleague Bruce Katz is also here today to talk in more detail about our work on greening affordable housing.

Before going into details about the Recovery Act and how it will impact your work as public housing authorities, I want to emphasize that HUD's work to address the housing crisis in the short term is one leg of the three-legged stool that comprises the President's comprehensive plan to address this economic crisis. I view these three legs - the Recovery Act, the Making Home Affordable Plan, and Secretary Geithner's Financial Stability Plan - as inextricably linked.

The first leg of the stool - the Recovery Act - makes a substantial investment - $13.6 billion - in housing and community development programs administered by HUD. These investments in HUD programs support three main themes of recovery for Americans: promoting energy efficiency and creating green jobs, unlocking credit markets and supporting "shovel-ready" projects, and mitigating the effects of foreclosures and preventing community decline.

I'm proud to say that within a week of the President signing the Recovery Act, here at HUD we had already allocated nearly 75% of HUD's funding, totaling $10.1 billion.

Under the theme of promoting energy efficiency and creating green jobs and in recognition of the need to provide rapid relief to families affected by the current economic crisis, HUD has announced nearly $3 billion in Capital Funds to public housing agencies participating in the public housing program throughout the nation. These funds are effectively more than doubling HUD's annual support of local housing authorities to improve your housing stock. I'm sure you are all very familiar with these funds, but let me just touch on them briefly.

These funds will enable you to undertake energy-efficient modernization projects and make large-scale improvements to public housing developments.

We have already signed contracts with every public housing agency in the country to use these funds and put them to work to improve energy efficiency, modernize, and create new jobs. And just last week, we announced that you could begin spending your Recovery Act allocations on the backlog of previously underfunded capital improvement projects. We are working overtime to get the money to you so that you can get to work immediately and improve the quality of life for your residents and your communities.

Additionally, we're working to competitively award another $1 billion to local housing agencies to support catalytic investments, particularly investments that leverage private sector financing to retrofit public housing and enhance energy efficiency conservation. Notice of the availability of these funds will be published in late April and the funds will be dispersed in early September.

To advance energy efficiency, HUD has formed an exciting new partnership with the Department of Energy that will streamline and better coordinate federal weatherization efforts to make it much easier for families to weatherize their homes and spur a new home energy efficiency industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs. Working together, our two departments will coordinate our efforts under the Recovery Act to ensure that Recovery Act funds help build a home energy efficiency industry in the U.S.

In addition to saving and creating jobs, this partnership will help make our affordable housing stock, as well as all housing, energy efficient. These recovery funds provide a historic opportunity for our two agencies to work together to accelerate deployment of energy efficient and green building technologies in millions of homes, and at the same time to help create a highly qualified, highly trained, and high-performing workforce.

We will also work together to provide guidance to public and assisted housing, which will assist all of you here today on how to use Recovery Act funds to "go green" through sound energy efficient building practices. These funds and this partnership will directly impact the work that CLPHA's members do. Bruce will also expand on these green initiatives in his remarks.

Additionally, $510 million will be invested in modernizing and renovating housing maintained by Native American housing programs and $100 million will be invested in lead-based paint hazard reduction.

The second theme of HUD funding under the Recovery Act helps state and local agencies unstick developments frozen by locked tax credit markets, accelerate shovel-ready community development and affordable housing projects, and bridge long-standing funding gaps in our programs.

$2.25 billion will also be invested in a special allocation of HOME funds to accelerate the production and preservation of tens of thousands of units funded by the low income housing tax credit.

And $2 billion will be invested in full 12 month funding for Section 8 project-based housing contracts. This funding will enable owners to undertake much-needed project improvements to maintain the quality of this critical affordable housing.

I'd also like to say that in the face of an economic downturn, housing vouchers are a very effective tool that help very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. While we need to work to improve the program here at HUD and are committed to doing so, they should not be forgotten as we work to fix the housing crisis.

The Recovery Act will also help the communities and families who have borne the brunt of this economic crisis, reviving imperiled neighborhoods and protecting families from homelessness.

First of all, $1.5 billion will be allocated to the emergency shelter grant program to try and prevent homelessness in the most extreme cases of foreclosures.

HUD is also allocating nearly $1 billion to state and local governments through the Community Block Grant Program. This will enable local governments and agencies to invest in rehabilitating affordable housing and improve public facilities, helping to stabilize communities and create jobs locally.

$2 billion are also going to into the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. These funds will help mitigate the impact of foreclosures through the purchase and rehabilitation of foreclosed, vacant properties in order to create more affordable housing and renew neighborhoods devastated by the economic crisis.

I'd now like to briefly discuss the second leg of the recovery stool: President Obama's housing plan - Making Home Affordable. As you all know, the housing market is interconnected and rising rates of foreclosure and people losing their homes - both owners and renters - has a direct impact on your work. Making Home Affordable is critical to the health of our nation's housing market and to the ability of American families to stay in their homes.

I know that you understand the severity of the foreclosure crisis, but let's make clear how serious the problem has become. Realtors note that 45 percent of sales in December 2008 were distressed sales. Fourth quarter 2008 Mortgage Bankers Association shows that nationally, 6.3% of mortgages are in foreclosure or 90 days or more delinquent. RealtyTrac data shows three metro areas approaching 10% of total housing units in foreclosure at the end of 2008: Stockton, CA at 9.5%; Las Vegas, NV at 8.9%; Riverside/ San Bernardino, CA at 8.0%.

Making Home Affordable will make help available to as many as 7 to 9 million homeowners who are fighting hard to make their payments and stay in their homes. The plan will not provide money to speculators.

It will target support to the working homeowners who have made every possible effort to stay current on their mortgage payments.

Making Home Affordable will support a recovery in the housing market and ensure that working families can continue paying off their mortgages.

There are three major planks to Making Home Affordable that I'd like to share with you: We will protect housing opportunities for all Americans with a $200 billion boost in our financial commitment to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We will also commit up to $75 billion to help an additional 3 to 4 million homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure modify their unaffordable mortgages into affordable ones. And finally, through new guidelines for refinancing at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we will offer assistance to as many as 4 to 5 million homeowners who can't otherwise take advantage of today's historically low mortgage interest rates.

I also want to stress that is a great resource for families and individuals wanting information about the plan and help with their mortgages. As more of the plan's moving parts get finalized and implemented, the website information will be continually updated and improved.

It is important to also stress that implementation of both the Recovery Bill and the Housing Plan will require engagement from and collaboration with our local partners on the ground, including the public housing authorities. The President has set a tone of collaboration, and I will promote the same collaboration in promoting our housing initiatives.

At HUD, we are increasing our collaboration with other federal agencies on these critical issues.

Our strong partnerships will also involve HUD coming to you in your communities across the country. Currently, we are in the beginning stages of planning regional conferences around the implementation of the Recovery Plan. We will share best practices, serve as a resource, and collaborate on implementation.

We're really viewing both the Recovery Act and Making Home Affordable as pilots for charting our future as an agency. The current crisis is an opportunity for us to grow, innovate, and reform, and better meet our mission of making quality housing possible for all Americans, a mission I know that we have in common.

Our mission and vision for the future at HUD encompasses working to: catalyze the market for energy-efficient homes; develop communities that are livable, walkable, and sustainable; plan with housing and transportation in mind, giving families the choice to live closer to where they work and cut transportation costs; and create a geography of opportunity for all Americans.

Our vision at HUD for creating a geography of opportunity for all Americans at its most basic means that we will focus our innovations and our funding on urban, suburban, and rural development, with an increased focus on how we can improve the lives of American living in urban areas. We will put the "UD" back in HUD, and work to reverse the marginalization of cities and urban cores that has happened all across the country.

I'm very happy to say that President Obama has nominated Ron Sims to be HUD's Deputy Secretary. Ron is the county executive of the 13th largest county in this country, King County, which includes Seattle, Washington. He has been one of the great leaders, nationally, in his effort to link housing, zoning, and transportation. He will lead the new Office of Sustainability here at HUD, serve as an expert on urban development, and help us generally look forward to the future.

Our commitment to urban development in supported by the Obama Administration, and I know that President Obama understands the importance of metropolitan areas and the work HUD is doing to improve the geography of opportunity for urban dwellers.

As we strive to achieve our mission, we will be a center of governmental reform and renewal in the Administration.

At HUD, we will invest at an unprecedented level in research and evaluation. We will hold ourselves accountable to a standard that has never been imposed before on the work that we do.

And where we don't achieve what we think we should, with our programs, we will change. We will revitalize our policy department and research organization, and we will form broad partnerships with foundations, universities, stakeholders, and state and local agencies and government on the ground, including all of you here today. We will be your partner in working for housing equality and affordability.

We will make a commitment together, I hope, to revolutionize the way HUD operates and impacts the lives of all American families. I look forward to continue working with all of the public housing authorities that comprise CLPHA to make our vision for the future a reality for our families, for our communities, and for our country.

Thank you.


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