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Statement by The Honorable Henry G. Cisneros
former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
Confirmation Hearing on the Nomination of
Andrew Cuomo to become HUD Secretary
January 22, 1997

Chairman D'Amato, members of the Senate Banking Committee, thank you for allowing me to appear before you today. I would like to first express my heartfelt appreciation for the responsible oversight and informed support you have given the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the last four years.

And, today, I especially appreciate this opportunity to speak on behalf of a dedicated colleague in public service. I am proud that President Clinton has nominated, and you have agreed to consider, Andrew Cuomo as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Let me tell you a little of what I have learned about Andrew Cuomo ... the public servant and the man.

When Andrew Cuomo was put forward in 1992 as a potential candidate to be Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at HUD, it was immediately clear that his experience and capabilities matched the requirements of the HUD position that has responsibility for homeless programs, CDBG, the HOME program, Empowerment Zones, and neighborhood economic development.

Andrew had been the founder of a widely respected housing nonprofit group called H.E.L.P. which, under his leadership, became the largest provider of homeless services in the nation. He began H.E.L.P. in 1986 as an alternative to housing the homeless in welfare hotels. Under Andrew, H.E.L.P. built transitional and permanent housing, helped homeless men and women get job training, G.E.D.s, child care, substance abuse treatment and mental health care so they could become self-supporting.

Andrew turned H.E.L.P. into a 350-employee organization, with a $25 million annual budget, an organization that, by the time he left, had built more than $120 million worth of housing and had helped thousands of homeless people.

He also had created another nonprofit group called Genesis which developed innovative approaches to urban development, that portion of HUD's mission which is the "U.D." in HUD.

At H.E.L.P. and Genesis, Andrew worked in the neighborhoods and on the streets, at the bricks and mortar level of housing and urban programs. He built housing, collected rents, met a payroll. And he dealt with government bureaucracies from the other side of the fence.

He has taken his experience with H.E.L.P. and used it as a national model for the overhaul of' HUD's homeless policies. In a study released just last month, Columbia University found that HUD's homeless programs -- we call it the Continuum of Care --are effective and have assisted record numbers of homeless persons. In 1992, HUD served 20,000 homeless persons; today we annually serve about 290,000, or 14 times as many, even though our spending has only doubled.

His leadership of the Community Development Block Grant program has advanced its reputation as our most successful community development program. And he built on the CDBG experience by taking the Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community concept from ground zero to a vital, up-and-running program.

He took the HOME affordable housing program which - - due to lack of effective management -- had completed fewer than 2,000 units, and made the reforms necessary to complete more than 110,000 units.

He created EDI - - the Economic Development Initiative - - which mayors consider their most flexible economic development tool for community revitalization.

He led the effort to create HOME OWNERSHIP opportunities through the highly successful HOME OWNERSHIP Zones program, our most promising HOME OWNERSHIP tool for bringing back urban neighborhoods. He combined 12 application and reporting documents into one easy-to-understand strategy that each community develops. And he managed all this while cutting the CPD staff by almost 25 percent since taking office.

These assessments of Andrew's accomplishments are shared by others. HUD's Inspector General praised the streamlining efforts in the Community Planning and Development office under his leadership, and those efforts have been cited by the Ford Foundation and Harvard University as a model of government reform. And, in a recent report, the General Accounting Office noted how HUD's management of the Empowerment Zone program has cut through' red tape to get things done in the community.

And the most important assessment comes from those who know HUD's programs best. It is for that reason that his broad base of support ranges from advocacy groups such as the homeless facility run by Father John Carol in San Diego, California, to Habitat for Humanity. From rural economic development leaders to the National Association of Realtors. From local elected officials to veterans' groups and the Mortgage Bankers' Association of America.

Andrew has been a vital part of the teamwork we have stressed over the past four years at HUD. He has been a consistently reliable and constructive contributor at the senior staff meetings every Monday morning ... planning and problem-solving meetings that covered the complete range of HUD's programs and responsibilities. He has demonstrated his understanding and knowledge of the entire spectrum of HUD's responsibilities.

Chairman D'Amato and members of the Committee, I've come to know and respect Andrew Cuomo after working so closely with him. I believe I know the kind of person he is: his strengths and his values. He is a man of great energy; a diligent, resourceful manager. He has a sense of public service, a sense of propriety and dignity, and a sense of the purpose of government. He has the skills to succeed, and he'll be starting like a relay runner already going full speed when he takes the baton.

He is not only the official most qualified to do the job, but the best person for the job.

On a personal note, let me say that I feel toward him as I would toward a brother, and I couldn't be more proud of Andrew if we were related. He and Kerry are a loving couple, they are raising two beautiful daughters, and by experience and temperament they share the hopes and dreams of America's families.

In sum, Mr. Chairman, I am proud to support President Clinton's nomination of Andrew Cuomo to be the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. I am confident that, together, you and he will succeed in making HUD a stronger, more efficient and dependable partner in the work of building a better future for all Americans.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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