Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan for 2010 Hispanic Heritage Month "
Heritage, Diversity, Integrity and Honor: The Renewed Hope of America"

Brook Mondale Auditorium
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thank you, Zuleika. Let me thank everyone for making this year's Hispanic Heritage Month a success, particularly Linda Bradford Washington and her ODEEO staff, Assistant Secretaries Trasvina and Marquez, and Zuleika, as we continue working for a new day of inclusivity and diversity here at HUD.

Hispanic Heritage Month reminds us both how far we have come as a society, and how far we still have to go -- how many more trails we still have to blaze to achieve that more perfect union our Founders described.

HUD has a unique role to play in that journey. For so many Hispanics in particular, home is family -- a source of stability and a building block with which we forge neighborhoods, put down roots and build the communities that are the engines of our economic growth.

And so I'd like to take a few moments to describe the work each of us is doing to help lift up the Hispanic community and talk a little bit about how we are working to make this agency as inclusive as the communities we seek to strengthen.


You and I both know that in the wake of an economic collapse that could have turned back the clock on decades of wealth creation in the Hispanic community, one of our first priorities at HUD was to protect those hard-won gains. That's why the Obama Administration passed the Recovery Act.

And here at HUD, we're committed to making sure the Recovery Act benefits all communities. That's why I'm proud to say that districts represented by African American and Hispanic members of Congress have received 34 percent of HUD Recovery dollars. Our recipients report that 63 cents of every Recovery Act dollar spent on rehabbing or greening homes went to communities of color.

HUD allocated 75 percent of that funding within eight days -- and it wouldn't have been possible without many of the people in this room. So, give yourselves a hand.

Supporting Hispanic families also meant addressing the dramatic drop in home equity, which the housing collapse had slashed in half before President Obama set foot in the Oval Office. With a larger share of their wealth concentrated in their homes, Hispanic homeowners have been especially vulnerable.

But as a result of the Administration's comprehensive approach to the housing crisis, homeowner equity has increased by over a trillion dollars. And thanks to FHA, 45 percent of Hispanic families have been able to purchase homes using FHA financing. Of the more than a half million borrowers FHA has helped keep in their homes, 1 in 7 are Hispanic.

And because HUD's vast network of housing counselors continues to be one of our greatest strengths in reaching underserved populations, HUD is also providing over $87 million this year for housing counseling, an increase of 36 percent. Indeed, nearly 300,000 Hispanics have received housing counseling from HUD-approved counselors this year, as we continue to beef up our requirements for bilingual service.

But the crisis hasn't just hurt minority homeowners -- it's hit communities of color particularly hard, rolling back 15 years of gains in some minority neighborhoods in a matter of months.

That's why we've invested $7 billion through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, including $1 billion announced just last week, to help localities turn tens of thousands of abandoned and foreclosed homes that drag down property values into the affordable rental housing communities need.

Under the outstanding leadership of Assistant Secretary Marquez, 60 percent of HUD's NSP investment has gone to communities of color, including 77 cents of every dollar that was provided through President Obama's Recovery Act.

Coupled with the National First Look program--a historic public-private partnership between HUD, the nation's leading financial institutions and partners like the National Council of La Raza--we'll continue to ensure that NSP funding is targeted to the communities that need it most.

A New Foundation for Opportunity

Of course, at the same time we build stronger families and communities during this economic crisis, we also need to provide opportunities for communities to thrive and grow, so that our children's futures are not determined by, as Ron Sims says, the zip code they grow up in.

That's why we're working to increase Section 3 reporting -- to ensure that public housing residents and community members have access to Recovery Act employment opportunities.

I'm proud to say that FHEO has done a remarkable job in increasing Section 3 reporting by 55 percent since we took office, and prouder because I know Assistant Secretary Trasvina won't be satisfied until every grantee holds up their end of the bargain.


But as important as all these efforts are, serving our Hispanic families and communities well requires that we have a first-hand understanding of the challenges these communities face -- whether it's because of language barriers or housing discrimination based on race or ethnicity.

Let me be clear: I couldn't be prouder of the outreach many of you in this room have done to the Hispanic community.

But as you and I both know, as far as Hispanic representation at HUD is concerned, we still have a long, long way to go.

Right now only 7 percent of the permanent workforce at HUD consists of Hispanics, according to the most recent report from OPM on Hispanic employment in the Federal government. To me, to Deputy Secretary Sims, to all of us, we know we can do better.

But slowly but surely, we're making progress. To tackle the inequities that exist in the HUD workplace, and give everyone in the HUD family a forum to make their voices heard, last year we created the Diversity Council -- which is helping us achieve one of the core goals we set forth in our Strategic Plan: transforming the way HUD does business.

That process of transformation is happening thanks to the hard work of each and every one of you here today.

In particular, let me commend the efforts many of you in this room undertook to start the Latino Network, HUD's own affinity group for Latino and Hispanic employees. This group, open to anyone interested in the issues facing the Hispanic and Latino communities, is already providing wonderful opportunities to HUD employees for mentoring and networking.

Additionally, the Hispanic Employment Program, run by Manuel Alba out of ODEEO, is working side-by-side with the Office of Human Resources Recruitment Team to recruit more Hispanics to HUD. Staff like Manuel, and Kerrie Ferrell from Human Resources, have traveled the country looking for talented individuals to join the HUD ranks -- attending job fairs and recruitment events such as "Latinos for Hire."

Our team here at HUD has also been a leader in Federal career development programs -- taking part in the Federal Hispanic Career Advancement Summit and the OPM-sponsored Career Days, as well as in student employment and internship programs.

We know that interns and recent graduates represent some of the best young minds of our communities, and that's why together, we're working to ensure that as many as possible not only can lend their talents to us here at HUD -- but are encouraged to.


Ultimately, if we are going to realize President Obama's vision of making our communities more diverse and more inclusive, then we need to make the Federal government a more open, diverse place to work. And I can think of no more appropriate place for that work to continue than right here HUD.

Committing to that effort will allow HUD to be the champion for diversity in the workplace and the catalyst for change in our communities that we all want it to become.

Ensuring we are that champion--that catalyst--is what this celebration of Hispanic heritage is all about. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of today's event.


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