Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Via Verde Groundbreaking

The Bronx
New York, New York
Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg, for that introduction.

While there were a lot of partners who helped New York reach this historic milestone today, the one without whom it wouldn't have been possible is Mayor Bloomberg.

What makes this development special isn't simply that it will provide affordable rental homes to 150 families, with 71 affordable co-op units, retail, community and outdoor recreational space.

It isn't just that Via Verde uses green design features and is located a quarter mile northeast of the "Hub" -- the main commercial and transportation center of the South Bronx.

Nor is it, when all is said and done, that Via Verde--including the $3.2 million in HOME funds provided by HUD--will support some 900 construction-related jobs.

Rather, what's special about this is that these characteristics collectively embody the 21st century way of designing and building affordable housing.

That it happened here in the South Bronx is symbolic -- but certainly no coincidence.

As I'm sure I've told many of the people I'm standing with today, as a child I remember sitting in Yankee Stadium during Game Two of the 1977 World Series when Howard Cosell broadcast his famous words to millions of viewers across the nation: "Ladies and gentleman, the Bronx is burning."

Well, today--because of the local leadership provided by people like Mayors Bloomberg, Dinkins and Koch, Rafael Cestero, Felice Michetti...and because of New Partners like Phipps Houses, Jonathan Rose Companies, and Dattner and Grimshaw Architects--the Bronx isn't burning -- it's thriving.

Indeed, it wasn't long ago that our most talented architects had stopped designing affordable housing -- turned off by bitter debates around urban design and the one-size-fits-all approach that typified "urban renewal."

The New Housing New York Legacy Project sought to bring them back -- by showing what is possible when we challenge designers to innovate, engage local stakeholders and partner with communities in new ways.

This 21st century way of designing and building affordable housing you see at Via Verde--competitively-awarded, and community driven--has become a model for innovative federal housing policy under President Obama's leadership.

You can see it in the competitive second round of Neighborhood Stabilization funding -- which provided New York City with $20 million to turn foreclosed and vacant properties into the affordable housing families need, and $36 million in all to the State.

You can see it in our Green Retrofit Program to upgrade older federally assisted apartment buildings with the next generation of energy efficient technologies -- the first winner of which was Jonathan Rose for a building just across the river in Harlem.

And you can see it in our Choice Neighborhoods program to bring mixed-use, mixed finance tools to bear for all housing in a neighborhood.

Like Via Verde, each of these efforts reflect a commitment to a new kind of sustainability -- not just the environmental sustainability of green roofs and compact fluorescents but also the social and economic sustainability that can only result from housing with a mix of incomes and uses.

A commitment not only to investing in affordable rental housing and community development -- but at a scale that is truly game-changing, can leverage other public and private dollars and brings new partners to the table.

Indeed, that was the very essence Mayor Bloomberg's leadership of the New Housing Marketplace Plan here in New York City.

By setting an ambitious but very specific goal--to create and preserve 165,000 affordable homes over a ensuring government stood what was driving the private sector...and by providing the kind of incentives and tools that ensured private partners understood it was in their interest to be at the table, we were able to unlock a much broader scale of affordable housing construction and preservation than government ever could alone.

And so, today, as we break ground at Via Verde and celebrate a historic milestone for affordable housing in New York, we celebrate what housing ought to be in the decades to come -- from its inception, to its design, to its construction.

As our neighborhoods and nation emerge from this economic crisis, building back stronger and smarter, we can all learn from its example. Thank you.


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