Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the B.W. Cooper Groundbreaking

New Orleans, Louisiana
Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Thank you.

This is an important day – but it didn't happen overnight.

I'm proud to be here on my fourth trip to New Orleans since becoming Secretary and to be joining President Obama this afternoon for his town hall meeting.

Nine months ago, when President Obama took office, he said bringing real change to New Orleans was a top priority.

And since that time, we've seen what he meant, as more than a billion dollars for federally supported developments that had been stuck in the bureaucratic pipeline are now moving forward.

And in preventing 30,000 families from losing assistance essential to moving from temporary to permanent housing we've proved something else:

That HUD can change as well.

With a new "Turnaround Team" at HANO we've ushered in a new era of oversight and accountability.

With a fairer interpretation of the so-called Duplication of Benefits rule, we've helped families cut through the bureaucratic red tape that for too long prevented them from rebuilding and getting back into their homes.

And it's not just HUD. Just this week, the State stepped up to do its part as well, proposing to remove a cap on additional compensation grants that will allow as many as 19,000 low- to moderate-income families to complete the rebuilding of their homes. And I'm proud to announce that we have accepted their proposal.

Today, we're helping New Orleans take another step toward revitalization as we break ground on the rebuilding of last of the Big Four public housing developments.

Built over a half-century ago, B.W. Cooper has stood in the Central City for decades – providing over 1,500 families with a place to call home.

Unfortunately, with age came deterioration and poor living conditions – and that was before Hurricane Katrina forced a full evacuation of families from its 14 traditional style public housing buildings.

But out of crisis comes great opportunity – and today we are seizing a big opportunity to transform a traditional public housing complex into a mixed-income community.

When complete, the new B.W. Cooper will provide housing to nearly 750 families connected to the surrounding neighborhood – with access to greater economic opportunity and new community anchors like a business center, day care center, and playgrounds for children.

Indeed, B.W. Cooper reminds us that long before Katrina, this great city was burdened with many of the same challenges that plague metropolitan America – from high concentrations of poverty to troubled public schools.

Today, we recognize that for any community to succeed it needs access to good schools, affordable child care, public transportation, and retail businesses.

Today, we know the correlation between successful housing and successful schools isn't just theory – it's practice.

That's why we're challenging public, private and nonprofit partners to extend neighborhood transformation efforts beyond public housing with our Choice Neighborhoods proposal.

By expanding the range of activities eligible for funding, we can capitalize on the full range of stakeholders we know are needed and want to be involved – from local governments and non-profits to private firms and public housing agencies.

We are incredibly excited to start this work and can think of no better place for it to begin than New Orleans.

Collectively, our efforts at all the Big Four signal that this is a new day – not only for public housing residents, not only for HUD. But for every neighborhood in New Orleans.

That is what this effort is about – and it is why today is so important.


Content Archived: February 23, 2017