Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Seaboard Square HOPE VI Ribbon-Cutting

2847 Berkley Avenue, Portsmouth, VA
Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thank you, Senator Warner, for that introduction and for your outstanding leadership on behalf of Virginia families.

Both as the former governor of this state, and now as a senator and member of the Banking Committee, Senator Warner has proven he isn't just the kind of bipartisan leader who can bring different sides to the table -- he's an innovator who knows what it takes to create jobs and grow our economy.

We're also joined by another champion for Virginia's working families -- Congressman Bobby Scott, who for nearly two decades has fought to bring jobs and opportunity to the city of Portsmouth.

And I'd like to recognize Councilman Steve Heretick and Hal Short of the Housing Authority for all that they do to provide affordable housing for Portsmouth's families.

It's an honor for me to be here today as we welcome families to their new homes at Seaboard Square. Because of the leadership of those standing with me today and a $20 million grant from HUD, what was once a crumbling public housing complex is transforming into a dynamic mixed-income community of hope and opportunity.

That transformation that will not only help make Seaboard Square an anchor and an asset for this community for decades to come -- it will dramatically improve the housing choices of some of Portsmouth's most vulnerable families.

Today, more than 10 million people across the country live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty -- those neighborhoods surrounded by disinvestment, failing schools, and little opportunity.

In fact, research shows that we can predict the health, economic, and educational outcomes of children based not on their family's economic status, their educational backgrounds, or their talent, but on their zip codes.

That is a tragedy -- and we can't out-educate the rest of the world and win the future if we leave those children behind.

But we're here today because communities like Portsmouth have shown us that with tools like the HOPE VI program that made this day possible, we don't have to.

Pioneered by former HUD Secretaries Jack Kemp and Henry Cisneros and with strong bipartisan support, HOPE VI has created nearly 86,000 homes in healthy, mixed-income communities that were once troubled by distressed public housing.

Just as importantly, it's raised the average income of residents by 75 percent or more. And HOPE VI has leveraged twice the federal investment in private development capital, forging the public-private partnerships that our communities need and ensuring American taxpayers get the biggest "bang for the buck."

That's the kind of transformation I'm confident we're going to see here at Seaboard Square.

Through HOPE VI, the redevelopment of the Jeffrey Wilson Homes will provide nearly 500 homes for local families -- from affordable rental homes to opportunities for sustainable homeownership.

Of course, as Mayor Wright knows, a healthy neighborhood depends on more than successful housing.

That's why Seaboard Square's plan will provide services to help families move to self-sufficiency, and will reinvigorate Frederick Boulevard by bringing in shops and small businesses that can attract private investment.

Now, Seaboard Square isn't Portsmouth's first HOPE VI award -- and its first, Westbury, isn't far from here.

These developments have shown us how communities are using these tools to revitalize not just public housing, but whole neighborhoods -- from schools, to retail and other small businesses, to other distressed affordable housing. .

Indeed, the comprehensive approach that we see here is the inspiration for the Obama Administration's new Choice Neighborhoods initiative, which builds on the success of HOPE VI.

And by tying this housing transformation to the Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods initiative, Choice Neighborhoods will ensure that stable housing, quality learning opportunities, and quality job opportunities are at the center of these communities.

Only then will children have access to the stable housing, strong neighborhoods, and good schools we need to out-educate our competitors and win the future.

As President Obama has said, "If poverty is a disease that infects an entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can't just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community."

To win the future, we must -- and with tools like HOPE VI and Choice Neighborhoods, and the partnership of leaders like Mark Warner and Bobby Scott, I know we will.

Thank you.


Content Archived: February 23, 2017