Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the White House Clean Energy Economy Forum
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
Thank you. It’s great to join Secretary LaHood and be with all you on behalf of President Obama – to discuss how we can work together to create jobs and lay the foundation for the clean energy economy America needs.
I also want to thank all the others participating today – Mayor Becker, Doris Koo, and everyone who’s joined us today.
Collectively, each of you remind us that, from Salt Lake City to New York City, the groundswell of interest and innovation when it comes to clean energy is happening at the local level.
Across the country, we’ve seen mayors enter into Climate Protection Agreements.
We’ve seen realtors, appraisers and homebuilders hold seminars on green building.
We’ve seen everyone from financial institutions to faith-based organizations to private foundations embrace the role clean energy will play in our communities for the years to come – and all for more or less the same reason:
Because each of them recognize that clean energy is the key to unlocking the potential of America’s economy – because it is essential to our ability to create jobs and build the kind of strong, sustainable, inclusive communities our country needs to compete and prosper in the 21st century.
We’re here today because President Obama believes it’s time the Federal government not only caught up – but, as Ray likes to say, started to lead the charge and set the pace for change.
For HUD, the implications are clear. HUD spends about $5 billion every year on energy for our public housing and Section 8 operations alone – by saving just 5 percent per year, we could generate $1 billion in savings over the next 5 years.
But the implications for our communities are just as clear. Today, the average household spends more than half of its budget on housing and transportation. They have become American families’ two single biggest expenses – largely because of the mismatch between where we live and where we work.
And so, this afternoon, I wanted to briefly discuss HUD’s role in realizing the President’s vision – how by investing in energy-efficient homes and buildings, in clean energy, and by tying the quality and location of housing to broader opportunities, like access to good jobs and quality schools, we can make our communities and metropolitan regions competitive for the 21st century.
A Green Recovery
Certainly, green building and energy efficiency isn’t a new subject for many of the people in this room. Over this last year, we have worked together on the Recovery Act, which has helped us begin greening our public housing, providing $600 million to help 169 public housing authorities make energy efficiency upgrades to their properties.
In addition, the Recovery Act is helping rehab tens of thousands of units for low-income families through $250 million for the new Green Retrofit Program for Multifamily Housing.
All told, nearly a third of HUD’s $13.6 billion in Recovery Act funds can be used for “greening” America’s public and assisted housing stock – making homes healthier and more energy efficient at the same time they prepare the new generation of professionals—from mechanics and plumbers, to architects, energy auditors, and factory workers building solar panels and wind turbines—we need to design, install, and maintain the first wave of green technologies.
And it’s not only HUD-assisted housing. With the competitively-awarded second round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding, totaling $2 billion, we asked applicants to establish energy efficiency standards as they rehabilitate foreclosed and abandoned homes.
Meanwhile, the $2.25 billion Tax Credit Assistance Program is putting people to work completing construction on an estimated 35,000 units of affordable housing nationwide – and we’ve found in communities like Cincinnati that these funds are driving green and energy efficient development.
And by forming interagency partnerships that break down the kind of silos Ray talked about, this Administration is committed to getting the biggest bang for the buck out of these Recovery Act investments.
In addition to our Sustainability Partnership with DOT and EPA, we have worked with the Department of Energy to streamline and better coordinate the use of $5 billion in federal weatherization funds appropriated through the Recovery Act.
As part of a rule published last month, I’m proud to announce today that DOE has made public a list of seventeen thousand public and federally-assisted rental properties that meet income eligibility requirements for weatherization assistance. These account for one-and-a-half million assisted households that could benefit from the DOE program.
We will also be contacting HUD stakeholders, including those who applied for retrofit funding, to ensure that every property owner who wants to go green is aware of the opportunities provided by the weatherization program.
Taking the Clean Energy Economy to Scale
Having made these historic investments through the Recovery Act, our challenge now—as President Obama reminded us yesterday in Savannah—is to take them to scale.
That’s the goal of HUD’s newly launched Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities.
The director is Shelley Poticha, who many of you may know from Transportation for America and Reconnecting America. Her deputy is Jim Lopez, who helped our Deputy Secretary, Ron Sims, turn King County, Washington into a model for sustainable development.
Their combined experience—planning and linking transportation and housing at the local level and developing tools to make markets work more efficiently—will help forge more sustainable, greener and smarter development in communities across the country.
Much like HUD itself, the office addresses both the quality of housing itself and its orientation to opportunity. That’s why we’ve focused both on Sustainable Housing—to drive energy-efficient and climate-resilient housing—and Sustainable Communities – to link federal housing, transportation and environmental investments at the local level.
With a $200 million total budget this year, we recently announced an Advance Notice and Request for Comment for the $100 million we’ve allocated in the form of planning grants for metropolitan regions.
For the first time ever, we will provide federal money to support planning grants that will selected not only by HUD, but also by DOT and EPA – because when it comes to housing, environmental and transportation policy, it’s time the Federal government spoke with one voice. Funding will be available to a wide variety of multi-jurisdictional partnerships and consortia, from MPO’s and COG’s, to non-profits and philanthropic organizations.
We want to urge regions competing for this funding to build their capacity to integrate economic development, land use and transportation investments. But we also want to encourage these regions to meaningfully engage residents and other local stakeholders to build long-lasting alliances.
And by posting this Advance Notice on our new HUD Wiki, we commit to ensuring all of you—residents, business, civic and community leaders from across the country—will be able to help shape the final product. You can see it at www.HUD.gov/sustainability.
We hope to send a signal that the Obama Administration is serious about being a partner that listens and learns.
In addition, through our $50 million Energy Innovation Fund, we are developing new and innovative low-cost financing for single- and multi-family programs, including taking an Energy Efficient Mortgage product to scale.
With the final $10 million of this office’s budget, we are developing an Affordability Index to lower the barriers to consumers who want to buy homes in more sustainable places by accounting for that housing’s proximity to jobs and schools.
These efforts are based on the same fundamental premise: that markets work best when there is reliable and useful information for consumers and communities alike – and that by making information on utility and transportation costs widely available, we can drive a much broader scale of change than government ever could alone.
Realizing Our Potential
I’m excited about these efforts – and I hope they illustrate that this Administration is committed to making green building an engine of economic growth, jobs and opportunity for every community in America.
Ron Sims—HUD’s Deputy Secretary who is leading our sustainability efforts and who you will be hearing from shortly—often says that people of color, in large part, missed the tech revolution of the 1990s. We both agree that can’t be allowed to happen with the Clean Energy revolution.
To ensure that it doesn’t—to truly take these investments to scale and fully transition to a clean energy economy and create millions of new American jobs—we need comprehensive energy and climate legislation. We need clear rules of the road that make clear that green building and clean energy technologies are the future.
I believe that we are on the cusp of creating a lasting change in our communities – and I know President Obama and Secretary LaHood feel the same way.
But we can’t do it alone. We need your voices – to realize this change on the ground, to work with us to ensure our efforts meet the needs of your communities, and to press Washington to deliver on this promise.
That is our shared goal – and meeting it starts with this gathering today.
So, thank you for joining us – for everything you do to keep our communities strong. And with that, I want to hand this over to Mayor Becker.