U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan has a simple message for housing and community development officials: HUD is here to help, not hinder, your efforts.
"You will have a new partner from the federal level in the work that you do," Donovan said at the Partners in Innovation gathering, held by the National Housing Conference and MacArthur Foundation this week in Washington, D.C.
Then, Donovan outlined how the government would (and already was) helping spur community development. The first, of course, was through the massive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which gave $13.61 billion for projects and programs administered by HUD.
HUD allocated $2 billion of its recovery money to project-based Section 8 housing. Donovan says that commitment will continue in the 2010 budget and beyond. "We have to get away from playing defense; this allows us to do that," Donavan said.
Soon, Donovan expects to have signed contracts with every housing authority to allocate the first $3 billion in the Public Housing Capital Fund Program. There's also $250 million for renovating assisted housing stock.
"It's very, very important to begin the process of creating an infrastructure for federal reinvestment in the precious resource that we have in our assisted and public housing stock," Donovan said.
Donovan is also meeting on a weekly basis with the Environmental Protection Agency and other cabinet secretaries to map out a strategy to reduce housing emissions' impact on the environment. Today, HUD and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new partnership to help American families gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs. Already, every assisted housing development is automatically eligible for weatherization funds, which complements the $250 million from the recovery bill.
Donovan also pledged to provide more data and research to support HUD's housing and community development partners, while also benchmarking the agency's performance. "Frankly, in HUD, there's no measure of what is success," he said. "We must hold ourselves accountable."
The financial support, benchmarking, and information sharing are all for one purpose: To break down the doors. "You need a partner in the federal government that no longer stands in the way of the work that you want to do," Donovan said.