Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Public Housing Capital Funds Press Conference

Kennedy Place Redevelopment
Houston, Texas
Monday, August 2, 2010

Thank you, David. And thank you, Congresswoman Jackson-Lee, for your passionate advocacy on behalf of your constituents and families across the country.

I'd also like to thank Congressman Green for his service and his dedication as a Member of the House Financial Services Committee in Washington. And lastly, let me thank Tim Seckinger. Thank you all.

This is an important moment for our economy and our country. It was only a year and a half ago that we were losing 753,000 jobs a month and we were staring at a second Great Depression. Today--even after six straight months of private sector job creation--too many families are still struggling.

But I'm here at Kennedy Place because, with $7.8 million in Recovery Act dollars renovating this property, it's clear that for communities like Houston the Recovery Act is making a big difference.

Just last week, two leading economists reported that America would have lost twice as many jobs had we not taken the extraordinary steps of passing the Recovery Act and stabilizing our financial sector.

So let's be clear: because of President Obama's leadership, instead of losing another eight-and-a-half million jobs--setting us back a generation--we're creating jobs again. The Recovery Act alone is responsible for 225,000 jobs here in Texas -- and it's right on track to hit 3.5 million across the country by the end of December.

And with more than 750,000 jobs were directly funded by the Recovery Act between April and June--with tens of thousands of projects getting underway and hundreds of housing developments just breaking ground across the country--in some ways, we're just getting started.

By Labor Day, HUD will have built or rehabilitated 230,000 homes as part of the larger $13.6 billion Recovery Act investment HUD has made across the country.

I'm proud to say that this investment was targeted to the communities that need it most. Nearly two-thirds of dollars rehabbing or greening homes was invested in neighborhoods with median incomes under $30,000. And nearly half went to communities of color.

One of the most important Recovery Act investments was the $4 billion in public housing capital funds we provided to over 3,000 public housing authorities throughout the nation. Creating or saving more than 10,000 jobs in 2010, these funds are helping communities redevelop blighted properties, renovate and weatherize affordable housing and make homes energy efficient.

Here at Kennedy Place, they are helping provide 108 affordable homes -- already employing 37 people who are installing energy efficient windows and doors and improving ventilation while using the safer, greener paints and building materials we know are essential to giving children who will grow up here the healthy start they need.

Of course, we all know that the Recovery Act was a one-time investment that at best meets a fifth of our public housing capital needs.

At the same time the need is so great, we estimate there is $25 billion of private and other public capital sitting on the sidelines, waiting to be invested in public housing -- but can't be because of antiquated federal rules.

That's one reason the Obama Administration is proposing its Transforming Rental Assistance initiative, which we estimate would create more than 300,000 jobs -- 90,000 in the first year and more than 1,600 right here in Houston.

At the same time, this proposal would put an end to the parallel housing system in this country that isolates for generations the 2.5 million poor families that Congressman Green so accurately calls "the least, the last and the lost."

These are the families served by HUD's oldest programs who live in the poorest communities, with the least opportunity -- and we need to do better by them.

Well, by linking the way we finance public housing to investments in neighborhood schools, local businesses and other community anchors, we can.

Instead of being a problem for neighborhoods, this housing can be an asset to our communities that preserves affordable housing and increases property values in surrounding neighborhoods. More importantly, it can be the foundation for opportunity our poorest families need.

Over half a century ago, the Warren Court's unanimous decision in Brown vs. Board of Education stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Well, a separate housing system for low-income families is also inherently unequal. President Obama and I think it's time to complete this unfinished business of the Civil Rights movement -- and ensure that all our families can live in sustainable communities of opportunity and choice.

In so doing, we can build on the successes of the Recovery Act, which continues to show us day after day that at the same time we build better homes for families, we can put people to work -- and lay a new foundation for a stronger, smarter, more resilient 21st century economy.

That is what this Recovery Summer is about -- that is what we celebrate today. And it is why I am so glad to be here. Thank you all very much.


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