Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the 11th Annual Convention of CAPACD

Liaison Hotel, Washington, DC
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thank you, Sue, for that very generous introduction.

Let me also thank your executive director, Lisa Hasegawa, your co-presidents Kerry Doi and Lynette Jung Lee as well as Hyeok Kim.

And I'd like to acknowledge some of the HUD team here this week -- my Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, John Trasviña, as well as HUD's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Relations and point person for AAPI outreach at HUD, Francey Youngberg -- as well as the many others you are hearing from and meeting with this week, like Stan Gimont from our Office of Community Planning and Development and members of our Sustainable Housing and Communities staff.

It's a pleasure to join all of you this morning. For more than a decade, CAPACD has been on the front lines, making sure that the voices of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians, refugees and immigrants are heard by federal policymakers.

With our public and assisted housing programs alone serving 300,000 Asian American Pacific Islanders--from Hmong Americans to Vietnamese, Chinese, and Filipino Americans--believe me when I say: we share a common agenda.

A Difficult Moment

Obviously, these have been difficult times for all of us. When we came into office, we were losing 753,000 jobs a month. Housing prices had fallen for 30 straight months. Home equity had been sliced in half.

I know Asian American and Pacific Islanders have been particularly hard hit with homeownership rates falling three times as fast.

While we still have a long way to go, we've put a stop to that slide. Homeowner equity started growing again in the second quarter of 2009 -- to date, increasing over a trillion dollars, or close to $14,000 on average for the nation's nearly 78 million homeowners.

Central to much of this improvement has been the FHA, which has been a powerful pathway to the Middle Class for minority borrowers.

When Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ran into trouble, it was FHA along with Veterans Affairs and federal farm programs that stepped up -- insuring ten times the number of loans for AAPI borrowers in 2009 compared to three years earlier.

And more help is on the way. As part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform bill, HUD will soon be announcing a $1 billion effort to help unemployed homeowners in danger of losing their homes.

But we also know that even the best programs won't reach the people who need them unless we connect them to your communities on the ground.

Take Las Vegas, for example -- Ground Zero for the foreclosure crisis and also located in the state with the fastest growing Asian American population in the country. At the same time, Pacific Islanders have the second lowest homeownership rate in Clark County.

That's why we've been working with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to make sure that we are responsive to AAPI families facing foreclosure.

As you know, CAPACD is a HUD-approved housing counseling intermediary -- opening the door for increased collaboration and focus on reaching this group of vulnerable families. This week we made available $5 million more for housing counseling training grants.

This is tremendously important given that nearly 60 percent of Asian American Pacific Islanders speak native languages at home, over a third have limited English proficiency and our nation's Asian population is growing faster than any other.

That's why HUD, with Assistant Secretary Trasviña's leadership, has translated over 100 vital housing documents into 16 languages. In addition, HUD has set up a language assistance line that is capable of translating into 150 languages.

Building Sustainable, Inclusive Communities

With the remainder of my remarks, I want to talk to you about how the Obama Administration is using this moment not just to recover -- but to lay a foundation for economic growth and build sustainable, inclusive communities for all.

Through President Obama's Recovery Act, HUD has pumped nearly $14 billion into our communities.

Using these funds, nearly 170,000 homes have been renovated in communities of color.

Fully 60 percent of these funds went to urban cores, where the foreclosure crisis has hit particularly hard -- and fully half went to places where the median income was less than $30,000.

Neighborhoods with the poorest families, most troubled schools and least economic opportunity received nearly twenty times more funding per capita more than low poverty areas.

The Recovery Act has helped us begin paving the way toward broader reforms that promote safer, healthier, more walkable neighborhoods and connect housing to jobs and opportunity.

Allow me to cite three specific ways HUD is doing that at the home, neighborhood and regional scale.

Promoting More Equitable and Affordable Housing

The first is through HUD's Transforming Rental Assistance initiative -- or "TRA."

President Obama and I are committed to putting the Federal government back in the business of affordable rental housing -- offering a budget for FY 2011 that, even in a difficult budget environment, serves a record number of people in the Section 8 voucher program, and includes a billion dollars to capitalize the National Housing Trust Fund.

But building sustainable communities isn't just about providing more affordable housing -- it's also about connecting that housing to opportunity.

HUD has a history of doing this, partnering with Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Institutions in places like Hawaii's Palolo Homes which provides 300 low-income families with not only decent shelter -- but also a learning center.

Despite these partnerships, in too many communities we have "separate, but inherently unequal" housing system in this country.

What do I mean by that?

Well, most families live in housing that is financed, developed and managed in a way that can be integrated--literally and figuratively--with the communities around them. But the two-and-a-half million poor families served by HUD's oldest programs live in housing that can't be. As a result, nearly half of America's public housing is located in segregated neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.

Not only do families have to wade through a mass of paperwork to receive assistance, when they finally do, they can't move to a better job or neighborhood because that assistance is often tied to a specific unit in a specific development.

That's not right. That's not what we stand for as Americans.

TRA would allow owners of public housing to leverage $25 billion in private and other public capital to fix up these homes. It would simplify a system that has desperately needed it for decades.

Just as importantly TRA would provide residents with real choice -- reflecting the Obama Administration's belief that families should be able to choose where they live and take responsibility for their futures.

It's time to make this housing the foundation for opportunity it needs to be -- and with TRA, it will be. And I hope we can count on your support for it in the coming months.

Supporting Existing Communities

Of course, choice isn't always about moving -- it's also about having the choice to stay in a community with opportunity, safety, good schools and a mix of incomes.

Real choice also means investing in existing neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. The funds TRA provides would do that -- but for the most troubled neighborhoods, we need to take a more comprehensive approach.

Here again, we've seen how HUD is already doing that in AAPI communities. HUD's healthcare programs insure the loans for two hospitals in Queens, New York, where AAPIs make up more than 20 percent of the population.

HUD's Choice Neighborhoods initiative would take this approach to scale.

In cities like San Francisco, you can see why the HOPE VI program has become one of our country's most powerful weapons to fight concentrated poverty and rebuild distressed public housing.

Of course, at its best, HOPE VI changed the world outside the development gates -- reducing neighborhood poverty, crime, and unemployment, increasing income and property values, and spurring investment, business growth, and jobs.

It is that foundation that we seek to build upon with our Choice Neighborhoods demonstration, for which we've recently made $65 million in competitive grants available.

By expanding HOPE VI to allow for the redevelopment of all assisted housing in a neighborhood and to provide funding flexibility for health care and other social services--as we are asking Congress to do--Choice Neighborhoods will at last bring disinvested properties under the HOPE VI umbrella.

Another way we are supporting existing communities is through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program -- or "NSP."

HUD has provided $7 billion to communities across the country struggling with concentrated foreclosures -- to help them turn vacant, abandoned properties into the affordable homes families need during these tough economic times.

Thirty-six percent of the $1 billion of NSP funding included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform bill passed this summer is being invested in communities with median incomes of less than $30,000 -- and 57 percent of those funds are helping communities where more than 4 out of 10 residents are minorities.

And I'm proud that the three states with the largest AAPI communities--California, New York and Hawaii--have received a total of nearly $1.2 billion throughout the three rounds of this program.

Connecting Housing to Jobs

NSP and Choice Neighborhoods reminds us that creating healthy, safe and walkable communities of opportunity starts at the neighborhood level -- but it doesn't end there.

It reminds us that to truly bring opportunity to communities we need to connect housing to jobs at the regional level, too.

As many of you know, last year, President Obama announced an unprecedented partnership between HUD, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

That's why this spring, HUD's new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities made the biggest investment in planning in a generation -- making $100 million available to regions to encourage locally-driven, cross-sector collaborations that bring down the combined cost of housing and transportation for families.

And HUD's Deputy Secretary Ron Sims has shown us the way. When he was County Executive in King County, Washington, where the AAPI population grew by an incredible 90 percent in just a single decade, Ron successfully fought for light rail service that connected some of the most distressed areas of Greater Seattle -- and bus service to ensure residents had access to it.

The idea is simple: neighborhoods and communities that share problems should start sharing solutions. And with the funding we'll be awarding this fall, they'll have that opportunity.

But to truly create communities of opportunity, these efforts need to be as integrated as the communities we seek to build.

That is why one goal of the FY2010-2015 Strategic Plan HUD unveiled earlier this year is to "Build Inclusive and Sustainable Communities Free from Discrimination."

We've set hard metrics to hold ourselves accountable to this plan -- committing HUD to reducing the share of household income spent on housing and transportation, increasing the proportion of HUD-assisted families in low-poverty and racially diverse communities, and improving the quality of housing and available community opportunities reported by HUD residents.

I know Assistant Secretary Marquez spoke to you earlier about how HUD is redesigning its Consolidated Plan to link this work together. We're also bringing HUD's fair housing policies into the 21st century -- so that they not only include the racial makeup of housing, but also its orientation to opportunity like public transportation and job centers.

Armed with this broader set of criteria with which we can better understand segregated development patterns, HUD can not only help communities identify longstanding challenges -- more importantly, we can help them with new development strategies and targeted technical assistance.

This is not just enforcement -- but what we call "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing."

Because you and I both know that building diverse, inclusive communities of choice and opportunity won't be realized in our courtrooms alone -- but rather in the neighborhoods each of us works to help communities build.

With housing-specific resources like vouchers, counseling and Choice Neighborhoods, to new financing tools for transit-oriented development, to incentives that encourage the repurposing of polluted land for affordable housing development, the goal of these efforts is to help communities coordinate the use of all available resources -- so that no child's future is ever determined again by the zip code they grow up in.

A New Way of Doing Business

And so I hope you can see that this is a very new direction for HUD.

In all of these efforts, we need to work together. I'm proud to be participating in the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders with Hyeok Kim, Chris Lu at the White House and so many others and involved in its Federal Interagency Working Group.

But I'm even prouder that in the past 18 months, we have engaged AAPI communities like never before in our agency's history -- from conducting listening sessions around the country with Assistant Secretary Trasvina, to holding community meetings here in Washington and in your communities with Assistant Secretary Marquez to Deputy Secretary Sims leading HUD's efforts to improve services for AAPIs through the White House Initiative.

In all of these efforts, we have heard you -- but I know we still have a long way to go.

For me, my commitment to these issues comes down to an experience I had as an 11 year-old boy.

More than three decades ago, I sat in Yankee Stadium during Game Two of a World Series game against the Los Angeles Dodgers when Howard Cosell broadcast his famous words to millions of viewers across the nation: "Ladies and gentleman, the Bronx is burning."

The South Bronx of the 1970s was nothing less than an urban catastrophe. Arson consumed thousands of buildings. Neighborhoods lost 75 percent of their populations in 10 years.

Today it's hard to imagine that the now vibrant neighborhoods surrounding the new Yankee Stadium were part of that warzone.

The rebirth of the South Bronx depended on people like you -- people who come together for your homes, your neighborhoods and your families.

Whether it's the South Bronx, September 11th or disasters like Hurricane Katrina, we've seen how one of the unique communities in America band together to make change happen for themselves.

My message to you this morning is that you don't have to do it alone this time. As I said at the outset of my remarks, we share a common agenda. The Obama Administration stands ready to help.

That's why I say to you today, "Yes, we can" -- but "together, we will."

Thank you. And with that, I'd love to take some of your questions.


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