Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a Neighborhood Stabilization Press Conference with Congresswoman Waters

Los Angeles, California
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Mayor -- for that introduction and for your leadership on behalf of Memphis families and businesses. I also want to thank Dexter Muller and the Chamber for their partnership.

Thank you, Congresswoman Waters, for that introduction, and for your extraordinary leadership.

For nearly four decades, Congresswoman Waters has fought relentlessly for L.A. families and neighborhoods.

Whether it's standing up for some of our poorest families living in public housing, or ensuring that every community in America has a path to homeownership, no one has done more to preserve our social safety net--and no one is more synonymous with opportunity--than Maxine Waters.

Indeed, today we can see that for ourselves here in South Los Angeles, where tools championed by Congresswoman Waters and the Obama Administration have begun to revitalize neighborhoods, create jobs, and build affordable housing for the families who need it most.

Think about it. Two decades ago, this neighborhood was devastated by riots, followed by years of disinvestment.

But recently, this community has begun to see a real turnaround -- a brand-new charter school, as well as apartments and retail where a vacant lot once stood.

And that is a tribute to the dedication and spirit of our local partners here in South L.A.

Indeed, within a mile of where we're standing right now, 34 properties that were once vacant or abandoned have been brought back to life by the Obama Administration's Neighborhood Stabilization Program -- from single-family homes like this one, to redeveloped apartment complexes, to public parks where parents feel safe bringing their children.

Just as importantly, these investments are providing a lifeline to the nearly 1 out of 5 construction workers looking for a job -- creating more than 1,700 jobs throughout Los Angeles, including 20 good-paying construction jobs on this house alone.

Not only that, but by ensuring homes like these were rehabbed to "green" standards, families know they will be saving their hard-earned dollars on energy costs when they move in.

As one of the original architects of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Congresswoman Waters knows how powerful investments like these are.

So does President Obama. That's why he recently sent Congress legislation that would create a new "Project Rebuild" -- putting people to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities, while leveraging private capital and other public-private collaborations.

Project Rebuild would build on efforts like this one -- in areas with targeted investments we've have seen vacancy rates go down and property values go up, helping families in the communities start rebuilding the wealth they've lost.

Project Rebuild will build on the success of neighborhood stabilization by creating 200,000 jobs and adding a few important innovations.

It would allow for-profit organizations to apply directly for funds, ensuring businesses who have participated in neighborhood stabilization efforts 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 -- which can drag down a neighborhood just as much as vacant homes.

That's why Project Rebuild would allow commercial redevelopment essential to neighborhood revitalization to be funded directly, from retail to grocery stores.

Indeed, with emerging neighborhood anchors like the Heritage College-Ready Academy that will help attract community investment, South L.A. is particularly well-positioned to take advantage of these new tools.

Unfortunately, as the Congresswoman knows all too well, there are Members of Congress in Washington who seem to think neighborhood investments like this one can wait.

That families who need affordable housing can wait.

That more than 1 million unemployed construction workers can wait.

That homeowners can wait -- homeowners who have watched their home prices sink by $5,000-$10,000 simply because there's a foreclosure on their block.

Well, I'm here today because this community knows we can't wait. Like Congresswoman Waters, I believe we can help these families and neighborhoods -- not in the next few months, or the next couple of years, but now, when they need it most.

That's what Maxine Waters is fighting for. It's what she's always fought for -- and it's one of the reasons I love working with her so much.

She won't take "no" for an answer -- and neither will President Obama. That's why I'm so proud to be here today. Thank you -- and I'd love to take your questions.


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