Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Ribbon Cutting for the Villages at Roll Hill

Cincinnati, OH
Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thank you for that introduction Madam Vice Mayor. I'm thrilled to be here today with all of you to celebrate the exceptional work that's been done here.

Having had the opportunity to tour the property this morning I can tell you that I'm impressed by what you have done -- and even more so by what The Villages at Roll Hill represent.

We all understand that this is a unique moment for our country and our communities -- that for all the challenges we face right now, we are learning to turn them into opportunities to make our communities more inclusive, more prosperous and, above all, more sustainable.

Not just "environmentally sustainable" -- but socially and economically sustainable.

As you know, if the certification is approved, the Villages at Roll Hill would be the largest LEED certified affordable rehab project in the country.

Indeed, I think the Villages at Roll Hill represent a sea change in how we think about affordable housing preservation.

That's because real change requires not just new buildings, but a market transformation -- with leadership, solutions and capital from the private sector.

And as one of HUD's most respected property developers and owners, the Wallick Companies are leading the way toward a more sustainable, affordable future for housing.

This green renovation is the result of a partnership between HUD, the City of Cincinnati, and private industry. I want to take a moment to applaud you for that.

Because these are some of the most consequential decisions we will make in the coming decade -- with broad implications not just for housing, but for our communities, and our economy.

In addition to green features like energy efficient windows and doors, and a new HVAC system, Roll Hill has improved security, a police substation, recreational facilities and a childcare center.

In other words, it is a safe, sustainable, affordable place to live and raise a family.

But all of you understand that sustainability is about more than green energy -- and green buildings. It's also about strengthening neighborhoods so that homes are sustainable in the broadest sense of the word -- providing the families that live there with access to real opportunities and the supports to take advantage of them.

It's no coincidence that the places that faced the brunt of the economic crisis and had the highest foreclosure rates and the deepest job losses, often had the most troubled housing, the poorest performing schools, minimal access to transportation, and little economic opportunity for residents.

Investments like Roll Hill, that offer a vibrant community and quality affordable housing help put an end to communities that offer limited opportunities.

Investments in places like Roll Hill not only save money for residents and owners alike, but also create jobs and train a new generation of professionals who are ready to build, install, repair and maintain clean energy technologies -- from mechanics and electricians to plumbers and construction workers.

Vice Mayor Qualls tells me that this renovation has supported over 250 jobs during the last two years. This is even more significant because the entire community is now invested in preserving quality affordable housing.

As we're all aware, the need for affordable housing in this country continues to grow, while the stock continues to shrink. "Worst case housing needs" grew by more than 20 percent from 2007 to 2009, affecting 1.2 million families.

Over the last 10 years, every time three new affordable housing units are built in the U.S., we have lost two. In the last 15 years, we have lost nearly 170,000 Section 8 units due to opt-out, foreclosure or abatement.

What's more, some parts of our privately owned and managed affordable housing stock are facing the end of their contract terms, with either no option to renew, or, the inability to renew on terms needed to attract capital for reinvesting in their properties.

So, you can see how critical your dedication and support is to keeping families in quality, affordable homes.

Change is never easy -- and I know that revitalizing our nation's urban communities won't happen overnight, or as of any one policy or the work of any one agency.

But whether it is supporting models for sustainable growth or helping other communities design individualized, smart, sustainable solutions, this Administration is committed to changing this country by making strong, inclusive communities the foundation of America's prosperity.

That's the 21st century way of designing and building affordable housing that Roll Hill represents -- and it's my job and my priority to ensure that communities can benefit from this model -- from conception to completion.

That's the kind of partner we in the Obama Administration are committed to being to communities like Cincinnati -- working together to create housing and communities built to last.

And it's why I'm so proud to join all of you here at this celebration. Thank you.


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