Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Fox Run Rural Sustainability Panel Discussion

Greeley, Colorado
Friday, May 14th, 2010

Thank you. It's great to be with Congresswoman Markey, Governor Ritter and Mayor Norton to discuss how the Federal government and agencies like HUD can be a better partner to communities like Greeley.

Now, you might be asking why the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is in Greeley, Colorado.

Well, despite our name, over the past decade, HUD's Rural Housing and Economic Development program has provided over $230 million to over 800 Community Development Corporations, local rural non-profits, and native tribes -- while funding housing construction and rehab, creating business incubators and credit unions, supporting housing counseling and homeownership programs.

In fact, it was HUD that provided the nearly $4 million in federal funds to build Fox Run affordable housing for seniors.

But today I want to discuss what we're doing to help you make the most of these investments -- and help rural places and small towns like Greeley become more sustainable, walkable, competitive communities.

Right now, housing and transportation costs average more than 50 percent of income for American families. That's a problem for every community -- but particularly in places where families have to drive long distances to get to work, to school or to the doctor's. Spending more than half your budget on two items doesn't leave much for education, for groceries, or for prescription drugs.

That's why HUD will soon be launching a $100 million Sustainability Planning Grant program to encourage regions to integrate their economic development, land use, transportation, and water infrastructure investments -- and integrate workforce development with transit-oriented development.

By making these dollars available to a wide variety of partners-from planning organizations and state governments, to non-profits and philanthropic organizations, we want to encourage communities like Greeley to partner with places like Windsor and Milliken.

As Governor Ritter's Sustainable Main Streets Initiative does at the state level, we want you to find new ways you can work together -- whether it's making senior housing a hub for coordinating local health services, building HUD homes near the new elementary school or job center, providing adult education programming at multifamily housing, or any other investment that helps this community participate in the regional economy. With these funds, we want to help folks that share problems start sharing solutions.

That goes for the Federal government as well. We can't afford to continue working in "silos" where we rarely speak to one other and make investments that often work at cross-purposes.

That's why these planning grants will be selected not only by HUD -- but also by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

When it comes to supporting community development, it's time the Federal government spoke with one voice.

But we also need to listen. Earlier this year, we issued an Advanced Notice and Request for Comment for the program, inviting feedback through a new online "Wiki" accessible via HUD's website and through an extensive listening tour around the country.

We asked communities to tell us what works, what isn't working, and how we can help them build more sustainably. Just as importantly, we wanted to send a very important signal that the Obama Administration is serious about being the kind of partner that listens and learns.

And one thing that we heard loud and clear was a concern that larger communities and central cities might receive preference for these funds despite the great need in small town America.

It is with communities like Greeley in mind that we decided to create a special category of funding in this program that will ensure that small towns and rural regions have a better shot at competing for these dollars.

The goal behind all these efforts is to connect housing to jobs and opportunity and to lower energy and transportation costs -- so we can spend less time commuting and more time with family.

In all of them, I don't believe the federal role is to dictate to communities what would be considered the "right" choices inside the Washington Beltway -- but to provide the resources you need to make choices that work for your communities, your needs, and your residents.

Different communities face vastly different challenges and require very different tools. What works for Denver won't necessarily work for Greeley.

But one thing that every community needs is a partner -- who can provide resources and the guidance necessary to use those resources in the best possible way, specific to the challenges they face.

That's what a partner is -- and it's why we're thrilled to be one to all of you here at HUD. And with that, let me pass this off to Governor Ritter. Thank you.


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