Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a Project Rebuild Press Conference in Richmond

Richmond, VA
Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thank you. I want to thank Mayor Jones for having us here today and for his leadership. Let me also thank Marion Cake and Peter Chapman.

Mayor Jones and I just returned from a tour of this neighborhood -- which like so many in our country has been hard hit by a vicious cycle of foreclosures and unemployment.

Well, we're here in Church Hill today to see how President Obama's American Jobs Act will help us tackle both.

Certainly, we've made progress. Over the last two-and-a-half years, more than 5 million families have received a modified mortgage -- that's more than double the number of families who've lost their homes over that same time.

But as any homeowner will tell you, as important as stopping foreclosures is, we also need to do something about the abandoned properties foreclosures leave in their wake -- which harm neighborhoods and drag down property values.

That's why, when President Obama sent the American Jobs Act to Congress last month, it included a new "Project Rebuild" which would put people to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities, leveraging private capital and other public-private collaborations.

Existing neighborhood stabilization efforts enacted by Congress since the housing crisis began are on track to create nearly 90,000 jobs and address nearly 95,000 vacant and abandoned properties throughout the country.

In fact, we're standing in front of three of them.

It wasn't long ago that the three homes behind me were boarded up and abandoned. But because of neighborhood stabilization, there are three new families on this block--the Johnsons, the Pruseks and the Krushkes--teachers and machinists who have been able to realize the American Dream.

About the only people happier than Church Hill's new homeowners are their neighbors.

That's because three-quarters of communities across the country with targeted neighborhood stabilization investments have seen vacancy rates go down -- and two-thirds have seen home prices go up.

These efforts have not only helped stabilize neighborhoods and turn foreclosed properties into homes for families in hard-hit neighborhoods.

Just as importantly, they've created jobs in hard-hit industries, helping builders keep construction workers on the job and giving real estate agents the opportunity to show and sell homes once again.

Project Rebuild would create 200,000 jobs and build on the bipartisan success of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program with a few important innovations.

It would allow for-profit organizations to apply directly for funds, ensuring businesses like Elder Homes who have participated in neighborhood stabilization efforts like this one can be full partners in this transformation.

It would also provide the spark entrepreneurs need to start small businesses and create jobs by allowing for the rehabilitation of vacant commercial properties.

Across the country, we've seen how it's not just abandoned homes that can drag down an entire neighborhood -- but also vacant commercial properties like the supermarket not far from here.

That's why Project Rebuild would allow commercial redevelopment essential to neighborhood revitalization to be funded directly -- allowing for more mixed-use development in hard-hit neighborhoods, from retail to grocery stores.

And so, Project Rebuild is fundamentally an investment not just in neighborhoods but also in neighbors -- in the countless families across the country who have watched their home values plummet on average by $5,000-to-$10,000 simply because they live on a block with a foreclosure sign.

And its inclusion in the American Jobs Act reflects President Obama's belief that rebuilding neighborhoods is essential to rebuilding our economy.

Now, some here in Virginia have suggested that Congress shouldn't even vote on the American Jobs Act -- that bipartisan ideas like Project Rebuild can wait. That repairing and modernizing 35,000 schools can wait. That veterans returning home to find a job and tax breaks for small businesses who want to hire them can wait.

But as President Obama has said, Americans don't have the luxury of waiting.

The families in Church Hill have met their responsibilities -- it's time Congress met theirs.

And by passing the American Jobs Act, they can -- creating more jobs and putting more money in people's pockets.

That's what Congress needs to do -- and that's why I'm so proud to be here in Richmond today. So, thank you -- and with that, let me pass this off to Marion Cake.


Content Archived: February 23, 2017