Office of Public Engagement

Building a New Foundation

Recently, I had the privilege to speak before the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference Summit, where HUD staff participated in several panels and roundtables addressing issues, such as minority contracting, that are particularly important to communities of color.  There, I was proud to describe how the Obama Administration and HUD are building a New Foundation to make minority communities more livable, sustainable, competitive and prosperous. Before an audience of CBC members and community advocates, I described how HUD is working to strengthen our economy—how, for instance, the Federal Housing Administration helps 51 percent of African American borrowers purchase a home; to invest in communities—how HUD’s $7 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program is targeting communities hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, including CBC districts; and to protect civil rights – by increasing by a third federal funding to combat mortgage fraud and lending discrimination.

I was particularly proud to announce $7.4 million in awards to help Historically Black Colleges and Universities address community development needs in surrounding neighborhoods.  These remarkable institutions are often neighborhood anchors and so these funds will help them to stabilize areas hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, provide down-payment assistance to underserved communities, remove lead paint from affordable housing, and support so many other local activities essential to building safe, healthy neighborhoods. 

Perhaps the most exciting news I shared was new data, hot off the presses, about how HUD’s Recovery Act dollars are really making an impact on the ground in Congressional Black Caucus districts.
HUD has invested some $13.6 billion in communities across the country through President Obama’s Recovery Act that CBC members helped pass – to green our nation’s homes and revive stalled affordable housing projects while stabilizing neighborhoods devastated by foreclosures and preventing homelessness. 

In tandem with our Recovery team, HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research recently did groundbreaking analysis on the impact this funding is making in neighborhoods. Here are a few highlights of what our recipients reported:

  • Nearly 180,000 homes have been renovated in communities of color. 
     
  • Sixty percent of HUD’s Recovery funds went to urban cores where the foreclosure crisis has hit particularly hard.
     
  • Areas of concentrated poverty—those neighborhoods with the poorest families, most troubled schools and least economic opportunity—received nearly twenty times the funding per capita more than low poverty areas.
     
  • Fully half of HUD’s Recovery funds went to places where the median income was less than $30,000, with recipients reporting nearly 200,000 home renovations.  These investments offer an extra bang for the buck because many of these renovations include energy efficiency improvements that lower the overall cost of utility bills for residents in affordable housing supported by HUD. 


Most exciting of all, we’ve tracked this data down to the census tract.  Imagine if you were able to make a donation to the Red Cross for relief efforts in, for instance, post-Katrina New Orleans, and then you can find out what neighborhood received those funds, down to the cross-street.  That’s the level of transparency we aspire to in the Obama Administration.

With information we will be posting on our website shortly, you will be able to see how many homes have been renovated and newly constructed by cross sections of data (such as poverty level, income, or percentage minority) to see how much different types of neighborhoods are benefiting from Recovery Act programs – so that you can see how the Recovery Act is impacting your community, your family, and your children’s future.

These kinds of innovations remind us long after the last Recovery Act dollar is spent, its legacy won’t only be the homes it has rehabbed and jobs it created, but just as importantly, the new platform it’s creating for the transparent and public accounting of taxpayer dollars. Given the toll our economic crisis took on minority communities, we know we won’t solve all our problems overnight.  But as I see every day at HUD, when we commit to investing in the communities that need it most and changing the way we do business, we can strengthen our economy today.  And we can build the new foundation for growth and opportunity our country needs in the decades to come.

Shaun Donovan is the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

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