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

6249 S. 16th Lane, Phoenix, AZ
Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank you, Congressman Pastor, for that introduction and all that you do for Phoenix families, as well as Mayor Gordon and everyone from Chicanos Por La Causa.

Today, we're here to see for ourselves how President Obama's American Jobs Act will put families back to work rehabilitating homes and communities using tools that are bringing the South Mountain neighborhood back to life. 

We all know that Arizona--and cities like Phoenix--were "ground zero" in the foreclosure crisis. And not long ago, this neighborhood, like so many across the country, was riddled with foreclosures -- harming families and neighborhoods by dragging down property values. 

We also know that with a foreclosure rate of nearly 8 percent, no one was hit harder than America's fastest-growing community -- Latinos.

But because of tools championed by Congressman Pastor and Mayor Gordon, this is a neighborhood on the rebound.

Thanks to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, properties like this one that once sat vacant are being developed and rehabbed -- to be sold to families that have worked hard to achieve the dream of homeownership and converted to the affordable rental housing families need. 

And those won't be the only families to see its benefits. Just ask their new neighbors, who instead of watching the value of their homes fall by $5,000 to $10,000 simply because they live on a block with a foreclosure sign, will see their home prices go up.

Indeed, 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.

It wasn't long ago that home prices in Phoenix fell to their lowest level in a decade. 

But with these funds, and partners like CPLC targeting them to the hardest-hit neighborhoods, home prices have begun to bounce back -- while foreclosures in the Phoenix area have been cut almost in half compared to a year ago. 

Indeed, neighborhood stabilization efforts are on track to address nearly 95,000 vacant and abandoned properties and create nearly 90,000 jobs nationwide.

That's the kind of progress President Obama wants to build on in the American Jobs Act with a new "Project Rebuild."

Project Rebuild would use the same neighborhood stabilization tools that are transforming South Mountain to create more than 6,000 jobs in Arizona and 200,000 jobs nationwide -- creating real opportunities for the nearly 3 million Latinos working in the construction industry.

And it would include a few important innovations, such as allowing for the rehabilitation of vacant commercial properties -- providing the spark entrepreneurs need to start small businesses and create jobs.

Now, I'm sure most folks here are aware that a minority in the United States Senate has repeatedly voted to obstruct the bipartisan ideas in the American Jobs Act. 

But President Obama believes that we can't wait to help homeowners and put more money in people's pockets.

There are still millions of Americans who have worked hard and acted responsibly, paying their mortgage payments on time. But because their homes are worth less than they owe on their mortgage, half of all Arizona homeowners can't refinance.

That's not right. That's why President Obama directed his economic team and the Federal Housing Finance Agency to help more families refinance.

Last month, the FHFA announced changes that will help more borrowers take advantage of today's low mortgage rates, knocking down barriers such as closing costs and fees that can cancel out the benefit of refinancing altogether. 

And by creating more competition so that consumers can shop for the best rates, these changes will save homeowners on average $2,500 per year -- the equivalent of a pretty good-sized tax cut.

These changes will help families start to rebuild the wealth they lost in the economic crisis -- particularly Hispanic families, who saw a staggering two-thirds of their median income wiped out between 2005 and 2009.

But now we need Congress to step up and help homeowners by passing the Jobs Act. 

Because we can't wait -- to cut the payroll tax in half for 110,000 of Arizona businesses, prevent the layoffs of nearly 10,000 Arizona teachers and first responders, or create tax credits that would put 145,000 long-term unemployed workers in Arizona back to work.

Well, with the American Jobs Act, the people of Arizona don't have to wait. Phoenix families 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 today. So, thank you -- and I'd be happy to open it up to questions.


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