Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo Closing Plenary

November 19, 2010

Thank you, Dr. Stewart. It's a pleasure to join you and so many leaders from around the country and around the world committed to greener buildings and communities.

And I want to thank Rick Fedrizzi and the US Green Building Council for this opportunity -- and for everything you do every day to make our country not just greener but stronger.

Let me also thank Mayor Daley for hosting us and for his extraordinary leadership -- having worked for Mayor Bloomberg, I know firsthand what an inspiration and leader Mayor Daley has been when it comes to helping our cities tackle climate change.

I want to congratulate him and all the awardees this week.

It's an honor to be here at Greenbuild to close out a terrific week -- and to be with the organization that has set the standard and driven the market when it comes to green building.

And it's particularly good to speak to each of you on behalf of an Administration that shares your commitment to building the strong, sustainable housing and communities that America needs to lead in the 21st century.

Today, I want to talk to you about our economic future.

Like you, the Obama Administration believes that the energy, climate change and economic challenges we face are inextricably linked -- and that the key to unlocking America's potential in the 21st century starts with reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, curbing pollution, and creating a new generation of clean energy jobs.

Of course, many of those jobs are in the building sector -- and will be for years to come.

I don't have to tell this crowd that green construction spending already supports more than 2 million jobs and generates more than $100 billion in GDP and wages.

Over the next four years, the green building industry will support nearly 8 million jobs and generate more than a half trillion dollars in economic activity.

Put simply, green jobs are the future of the American economy -- and the green building community will drive so much of that growth.

The Moment We're In

But in order to understand where we're headed, we need to understand the moment we're in – the role housing and the built environment played in creating this economic crisis, and the role they can play in helping us recover from it.

Obviously, this has been a remarkable two years -- unlike any of us have seen in our lifetimes.

When the President took office, we were staring into an abyss. Experts across the political spectrum said we were headed for a Second Great Depression.

And they were right.

We were losing 753,000 jobs a month when the President walked into the Oval Office.

Credit--the lifeblood of our economy--was frozen nearly solid.

And house prices were in freefall -- they had declined for 30 straight months.

Those were the grim realities we faced less than two years ago. And so we stepped in aggressively.

Both the Federal Reserve and the Treasury intervened to keep interest rates at historically low levels for more than a year. This helped stabilize housing markets and the broader economy.

But as all of you in real estate know, low interest rates only matter if there are mortgages available at those rates.

That's why we also moved to restore confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and provide critical support through HUD's Federal Housing Administration, which enabled a robust refinancing market to emerge.

And with passage of the President's Recovery Act, we brought the full force of the Federal government to bear on rebuilding the foundation of our economy.

The results of this comprehensive approach are clear:

That most critical source of wealth for Americans, home equity, has increased by over a trillion dollars, or $14,000 on average for the nation's nearly 78 million homeowners.

More than 3.5 million homeowners have received restructured mortgages with more affordable monthly payments.

And most important of all, we have now seen 10 straight months of private sector job creation. We created more jobs this year than the entire eight years of the last Administration.

But we all know that's not good enough -- our unemployment rate is still unacceptably high. And given the millions of people the recession put out of work, we've got a lot of work ahead of us.

In order to repair this damage--to create the jobs to meet the large need--we must accelerate the pace of our economic growth.

That begins with green building and green jobs.

That begins with you -- the creators of green jobs, green homes and green communities.

So, today I want to tell you about what this Administration is doing to scale up your work and help you green the mainstream -- for our families today and for generations to come.

The Recovery Act -- Laying the Foundation

Certainly, these last two years the most important tool in our toolbox has been the Recovery Act.

When President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law, he said it would do three things: create jobs, help those most harmed by economic crisis, and lay the foundation for long-term growth.

And you know better than anyone that it has done exactly that. According to the President's Council of Economic Advisers, the Recovery Act is responsible for as many as 3.7 million jobs.

Because of the Recovery Act's $90 billion investment in renewable energy, we are on-track to double U.S. renewable energy generation and manufacturing capacity by 2012.

More than 2 million smart meters have been installed in homes and businesses nationwide to help consumers reduce their energy use and lower their utility bills -- and we're on-track for 18 million smart meters in total through the Recovery Act.

Nearly a quarter million families nationwide had home improvements made to reduce their energy use and cut utility bills thanks to the Department of Energy's weatherization program -- putting nearly 15,000 people to work making home improvements that save homeowners an average of $400 per year.

Indeed, according to data hot off the presses from the Council of Economic Advisers, the Recovery Act has created nearly a quarter-million clean energy jobs to date -- and we are still counting.

At HUD, we've been at the epicenter of this green transformation.

All told, nearly a third of HUD's $13.6 billion in Recovery Act funds can be used for "greening" America's public and assisted housing stock -- making homes healthier and more energy efficient at the same time they create good-paying jobs.

Thus far, we've greened 245,000 homes with a range of energy improvements -- another 35,000 have received deep green retrofits that will save up to 40 percent in energy costs.

Thousands more newly constructed homes are being built to green standards.

As I saw at Gibson Plaza Apartments in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC, these investments are helping families -- cutting their utility bills by more than 20 percent and at the same time helping them live in healthier homes, removing asthma triggers, lead paint and other health hazards.

As I saw for myself at Shalom Housing in Warwick, Rhode Island, which is installing a wind turbine expected to generate enough power to provide for 80 percent of the buildings' electricity, these funds are helping prepare a new generation of professionals -- the mechanics, plumbers, architects, energy auditors, and factory workers we need to design, install, and maintain the next wave of green technologies.

Indeed, at groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings in communities across the country, I've seen for myself how the single largest investment in green building and products in America's history is laying the foundation for the Clean Energy Economy we need.

Broader Reforms

And long after the last Recovery dollar has been spent, its legacy won't only be the green homes it has rehabbed or the technologies it has forged -- just as importantly will be the lessons it has taught us about how we need to do business differently.

For HUD, the first lesson we learned is it can't just be about a one-time investment. We need to use every dollar we have to strengthen the standards in our core programs.

If all the homes built before 1990 were as efficient as those built since then, we'd cut residential energy use by more than 22 percent.

Already, more and more housing development supported by core HUD programs like HOME and the Community Development Block Grant, are meeting high levels of environmental performance such as Energy Star for New Homes. But with HUD spending over $6 billion a year on energy for our public and assisted housing, it's clear we need to do more.

That is why HUD is moving aggressively to raise the bar on standards for energy performance that will put affordable housing at the forefront of the residential sector. By saving just 5 percent per year, we could generate $1.2 billion in savings over the next 5 years.

The second thing we learned from the Recovery Act is that one size doesn't fit all -- that every property is different and so are its capital needs.

That's why HUD has developed a cutting edge tool called a "Green Physical Condition Assessment" -- which is a perfect example of how the Recovery Act is changing the way the government does business.

Created initially for our Multifamily Green Retrofit Program, the tool combines a traditional property capital needs assessment with an energy audit and broader assessment of green improvements.

Not only does the Green Physical Condition Assessment analyze cost effectiveness -- it also provides multifamily owners with a concrete list of green improvements their budget can currently accommodate, as well as suggested green measures for future investment, all tailored to the specific needs of that property.

Not only will this tool provide real benefits to low-income families, but we see it as central to the new future of rental housing in America because we can help catalyze the market for green multifamily retrofits.

New Tools for Sustainable Housing

These efforts remind us that as much as the Recovery Act accomplished, we'll never green America's built environment with Recovery grants alone -- that real change requires a market transformation with leadership, solutions and capital from the private sector.

But the Federal government has a critical role to play in catalyzing private market transformation.

And in few places is that role more needed than in financing energy efficiency in buildings.

I mentioned to you earlier that the FHA is playing a tremendously important role in our housing market right now.

Only a few years ago, we were responsible for 2-to-3 percent of the market. Today, as private capital has fled, FHA insures a third of all mortgages.

Last week, as the culmination of an 18-month-long interagency effort called "Recovery Through Retrofit," I joined Vice President Biden as he announced a set of new tools to help take energy efficiency efforts to the scale America needs in the 21st century -- so every family can realize the benefits of lower home energy bills, less pollution, and--most important of all--more jobs.

It starts with better information. When you buy a car, you know its energy efficiency because there's a sticker on the window that tells it to you -- we need the same for our homes and our buildings, which is why I'm excited that Energy Secretary Chu announced a new Home Energy Score that will help homeowners better understand how to save energy in their homes.

At that same meeting, I announced a new financing program to help them realize those opportunities called FHA PowerSaver, which will allow homeowners to borrow up to $25,000 to make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to their homes.

Our goal is to ultimately create a mainstream mortgage product, affordable and available to all American homeowners, that every family can access to retrofit their homes.

Because liquidity is so crucial to ensuring access, we've designed PowerSaver to be viable on the secondary market -- so lenders can make as many loans as possible.

Indeed, while FHA will guarantee up to 90 percent of the loan, private lenders will be central to PowerSaver's success -- and we need your help getting them to apply.

Information on PowerSaver is available on the HUD website -- and we hope you will take full advantage of it to educate and inform lenders and consumers alike of the benefits PowerSaver will provide.

But the single family market is only part of the green financing equation. Fifteen million households live in multifamily apartments.

That's why for the first time, today before Greenbuild 2010, I'm happy to talk about a new initiative that will unlock additional private capital to retrofit multifamily properties as well -- beginning with thousands of units in America's affordable multifamily housing stock.

A joint effort between FHA and Fannie Mae, the Green Refinance Plus program represents an exciting new opportunity for owners of older affordable housing properties to be the first to go green in connection with refinancing their mortgages at today's historically low interest rates.

An expansion of an FHA partnership with Fannie Mae, FHA will provide additional insurance coverage and Fannie Mae will offer more flexible loan underwriting to generate additional loan proceeds to make green improvements.

A typical development will be able to access a loan that is 5 percent larger. For a $5 million loan, that means an additional $250,000 will be available to support energy-saving green systems and appliances that cool and heat properties more efficiently -- saving owners and renters' money, while reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

By allowing owners to refinance into a lower rate loan at the same time they make energy upgrades that save money over the long haul, Green Refinance Plus provides real bang for the buck with real implications for the broader multifamily market.

We will have more detail in the weeks to come as we announce the formal implementation of the program -- but we expect Green Refinance Plus to launch early next year.

Both PowerSaver and Green Refinance Plus will take advantage of the data we gather on performance by tracking energy saved, bills reduced and value created.

And let's be clear:

It's only through proving that these investments pay for themselves and provide real benefits to families that we can catalyze change on the scale that is truly transformational -- driven not just by the public sector but more importantly through massive private investment.

New Partnerships for Sustainable Communities

As important as all these efforts are, this audience knows that real economic and environmental sustainability isn't just about the kind of buildings we build -- but also where we build them.

Certainly, it's no coincidence that the neighborhoods that faced the brunt of the crisis--with the highest foreclosure rates and the deepest job losses--were the most unsustainable -- with the least access to transportation, the most troubled schools and the least economic opportunity.

This economic crisis illustrates how when Washington fails to think about our nation's future the same way communities and regions think about theirs, every American pays the price.

For all the implications of "sprawl"--from job loss, economic decline and segregation, to alarming obesity, asthma rates, to the loss of habitat and climate change, to our dangerous dependence on foreign oil--all of them share one fundamental problem:

The mismatch between where we live and where we work.

Whatever else we do to address these problems, America must find a way to connect housing to jobs.

And Americans are demanding it. Today, for every dollar the average household earns, they now spend 52 cents on housing and transportation combined. They have become American families' two single biggest expenses.

Of course, while the "drive to qualify" frenzy of the housing bubble years forced families to move further away from job centers to find a home they could afford, sprawling development didn't begin with the housing boom -- it just got worse.

Lest we forget, the beltways and highways that drove investment away from the urban cores and into disconnected employment centers outside city limits were built by the Federal government.

Put simply, it's hard to green your built environment when congestion on our roads costs us five times as much wasted fuel and time as it did 25 years ago.

But communities like Dallas have proven that there is a better way -- building a comprehensive public transportation system--DART--that links Dallas with twelve suburban areas, allowing people to travel quickly and affordably between the places they live, work and shop.

According to a study published by economists at the University of North Texas, the DART system is expected to generate more than $5.6 billion of economic activity between 2009 and 2014. Since the system opened, homes near DART stations held or increased their value on average 25 percent more than those without convenient public transit options.

Dallas reminds us that we live in a world that is changing in three fundamental ways.

First, we increasingly recognize that cities, suburbs and the rural areas that surround them share an economic future.

Indeed, the metro area surrounding Chicago is home to two-thirds of Illinois' population and produces more than three-quarters of this state's GDP.

Even in rural states like Iowa, Arkansas, Nebraska and Kansas, metro areas are responsible for the majority of their economic growth.

Second, people are voting with their feet more and more -- moving back into central cities and inner ring suburbs. And communities from Seattle to Salt Lake are responding -- leveraging public dollars with private and philanthropic capital to expand transportation options and preserve the affordability of neighborhoods.

And third, challenges we once associated with cities--from foreclosures to homelessness--have become surburbanized.

Indeed, in the last two years alone, as we've made progress on chronic homelessness, we've seen a more than 50 percent increase in rural and suburban family homelessness.

Even as cities and suburbs increasingly share challenges, the Federal government can do so much more to ensure they can share solutions.

That's why the Federal government is supporting on an unprecedented scale the planning and creation of sustainable communities that are better places to live and work and more economically competitive.

Indeed, from the moment President Obama was inaugurated, he directed us to not only catch up to what localities are already doing -- but to scale up those ideas, lead the charge and set the pace for change.

In February, HUD launched our new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, led by my Deputy Secretary Ron Sims and its Director, Shelley Poticha. This office allows us to work directly with communities to support innovative planning and practice at the local level and helping to coordinate our investments with other agencies at the federal level.

And its work goes beyond any one agency. Last year, HUD formed the Partnership for Sustainable Communities with the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency to catalyze a new generation of integrated metropolitan transportation, housing, land use and energy planning.

When it comes to housing, environmental and transportation policy, the Federal government finally must speak with one voice.

And so we did last month. With our partners at DOT, HUD awarded nearly $170 million in planning grants to ensure regions and communities across the country have more housing and transportation choices, more energy independence, and will be more economically competitive. This represents the most significant federal investment in planning in generations.

These awards were jointly reviewed and selected by all three agencies -- HUD, DOT and EPA.

For those of you who haven't been bureaucrats, this may not sound like a big deal.

But in the sphere of government, having three different federal agencies in a room, reviewing grants together--and agreeing on how to coordinate in a place-based way--is nothing short of a revolution.

At a moment in our political history when every dollar the Federal government invests in jumpstarting the economy is critical, President Obama's plan ensures that our three agencies are coordinating efforts and targeting resources with absolute precision.

Indeed, communities across the country offered bold, unique proposals to plan and build sustainably based on their own local resources, landscape, culture and ingenuity.

Right here in the Chicago Metro area, a diverse consortium including the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, local business and civil rights leaders, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, which has done extraordinary work on housing and transportation costs, have proposed a plan to create jobs, more walkable neighborhoods and affordable housing by capitalizing on this region's rich public transportation system.

Using a $2.3 million grant from HUD, the partnership estimates the transportation savings of 2,500 households living in housing near transit will add over $6.8 million per year to the wealth of the region, with energy-efficiency measures and improved building codes reducing household expenses even further.

Too often the discussion in Washington is about big government versus small government. But on the ground in communities, it's about smart government.

It's about generating savings that will benefit families for generations to come. And that's what these grants were about.

And these funds didn't just go to central cities. Indeed, more than half of applicants for these funds came from small towns and rural regions.

And we delivered.

And so, with the $1.5 million HUD recently awarded, the Spokane Tribe of Indians is planning mixed-income, mixed-use communities on the reservation that are energy-efficient and culturally-relevant, utilizing existing infrastructure. And to protect local wetlands, this funding will also help the reservation produce its first ever zoning code with input from tribal members.

Indeed, the diverse proposals we are funding show that we aren't following the old Washington playbook of dictating how communities can invest their grants -- but instead encouraging creative, locally focused thinking from the bottom up.

They show that this isn't your father's "smart growth." This isn't about central cities alone, but whole regions and rural communities, who are not only engaged -- but are at the forefront of those offering ideas for smarter, more sustainably planned communities.

And as such, we need a broad coalition represented here this week -- of people who have been leaders on these issues and those who are emerging as leaders in the sustainability movement.

As history-making as these grants are, $170 million alone isn't going to build more sustainable communities.

That's why I believe the real size of my sustainability budget is nearly $44 billion. That's the size of HUD's entire budget -- and we intend to use every dollar of it to put more power in the hands of communities and more choices in the hands of consumers.

This is why we have been working with the Department of Transportation to develop an Affordability Index to educate consumers who want to buy homes in more sustainable places by accounting for that housing's proximity to jobs and schools.

But one of the most important ways we can drive funding toward sustainable development is through our grant competitions.

For all our competitive funding this year, we've challenged our grantees to incorporate green building and features into their plans.

This year, however, we've decided to take an additional step -- for the first time in the history of federal grant competitions, using location-efficiency to score our grant applications.

Using the "LEED-ND" green neighborhood rating system USGBC developed in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Congress for a New Urbanism, it's time that federal dollars stopped encouraging sprawl and started lowering barriers to the kind of sustainable development our country needs and our communities want.

And with over $3.25 billion at stake in these competitions, that's exactly what they will start to do.

Greening the American Economy

And so, in a very short time, we've made an important down payment on our clean energy future.

But as clear as it is that we need to make green building and clean energy a new foundation for long-term growth, leading to new jobs, new exports and new industries, it's equally clear that HUD and the Federal government can't do it alone.

The only way America can make this transition is if the private sector is fully invested in this future -- if capital comes off the sidelines and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs is unleashed.

Just as we have provided critical support these last 21 months to enable the housing market to return to stability, we've put up the resources to get the ball rolling on green building.

Now, it's your turn.

Now, the time has come for the private sector to prove that these investments pay for themselves -- and take them to scale.

To do your part to support green jobs and American manufacturing, and to commit to investing in not only the sustainable housing -- but the sustainable communities we need.

Indeed, when I return to Greenbuild, I hope to find that the federal funds we've provided were ultimately dwarfed by the size of the private dollars that you've leveraged.

I hope to find that because of the help the private sector provided, we were able to measure the progress made by these communities and regions across the country in exactly the same way that Dallas has tracked theirs -- and prove that these investments pay for themselves and catalyze a vast new private market.

Certainly, as President Obama reiterated this month, addressing our energy and climate change challenges with comprehensive legislation will be a giant step in the right direction.

But we're not going to wait. That's why this Administration has set tough new fuel-economy standards and the first greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks, which alone will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

We spearheaded a new commitment by the largest nations in the world to eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies.

And we are leading by example -- cutting energy use across the Federal government.

These steps remind us why green building, with private sector leadership, can be an engine of economic growth, jobs and opportunity for every community in America.

Indeed, with nearly three-quarters of our carbon emissions coming from our homes and businesses and our cars, the largest, fastest and most cost effective way we can unlock a clean energy economy is through better buildings built in smarter places.

Every step we take to reduce energy waste in our buildings and plan our communities in a sustainable way sends a strong message -- that green, sustainable building isn't in conflict with our country's economic growth.

It's essential to it.

By investing in energy-efficient homes and buildings, and by planning our communities in a smarter way, we can make America competitive for the 21st century.

We can create jobs -- and we can lead in this century as we did the last. I know we can -- and looking out at all of you today, I know we will.

Thank you.


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