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HUD   >   Press Room   >   Speeches, Remarks, Statements   >   2011   >   Speech_10192011

Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a Project Rebuild Press Conference in Independence

Independence, Missouri
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thank you, Congressman Cleaver -- for your leadership and partnership. 

Let me also thank Mayor Reimal and Bill Rogers for joining us here today as we discuss how President Obama’s American Jobs Act will put Missouri families back to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities using tools that have transformed the Norledge neighborhood. 

Not long ago, this neighborhood, like so many across the country, was riddled with foreclosures -- harming neighborhoods and families alike by dragging down property values.

But because of tools championed by leaders like Congressman Cleaver, today Norledge is a neighborhood on the comeback trail.

Thanks to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program he helped create three years ago, nearly 400 people are on the job.

Homes and lots that once sat vacant on the market for months and even years are being developed, rehabbed and sold -- to sales reps, to folks who work for the local school district, to retirees.

These are middle class families -- families that have worked hard to achieve the dream of homeownership.  And because of neighborhood stabilization, now they have that chance.

And the best part is, they’re not the only ones to see its benefits.  In fact, I think the only people happier than Norledge’s newest homeowners are the folks they’re living next to: their new neighbors.

That’s because instead of watching home prices fall by $5,000 to $10,000 simply because they live on a block with a foreclosure sign, home prices in this neighborhood are going up -- selling for as much as 35 percent more.

This is a story we’ve seen in communities across the country.  In fact, three-quarters of communities across the country with targeted neighborhood stabilization investments have seen vacancy rates go down -- and two-thirds have seen home prices go up.

As a result, neighborhood stabilization efforts are on track to address nearly 95,000 vacant and abandoned properties and create nearly 90,000 jobs.

That’s progress -- and it’s the kind of progress President Obama wants to build on in the American Jobs Act with what we’re calling “Project Rebuild.”

Project Rebuild would use the same neighborhood stabilization tools that have transformed Norledge to create at least a thousand jobs in Missouri -- about a quarter of which would be created right here in the Kansas City area.

And it would include a few important innovations, such as forging stronger partnerships with the non-profits and CDCs who have helped turn around the Independence school system.

Even better, it would allow for-profit organizations who have participated in neighborhood stabilization efforts like this one to be full partners in this transformation.

It would also provide the spark entrepreneurs need to start small businesses and create jobs by allowing for the rehabilitation of vacant commercial properties.

Across the country, we’ve seen how it’s not just abandoned homes that can drag down an entire neighborhood -- but also vacant commercial properties.

That’s why Project Rebuild would allow commercial redevelopment essential to neighborhood revitalization to be funded directly -- from retail to grocery stores.

And so, Project Rebuild’s inclusion in the American Jobs Act reflects President Obama’s belief that rebuilding neighborhoods is essential to rebuilding our economy.

Now, last week, a majority of the Senate voted to advance the American Jobs Act.  Unfortunately, a minority united to block the bill -- and leadership in the House has indicated they won’t even allow a vote on it.

Let’s be clear: whether it’s cutting the payroll tax in half for 120,000 of Missouri businesses, to preventing the layoffs of 9,100 Missouri teachers and first responders, to creating tax credits that would put 109,000 long-term unemployed workers in Missouri back to work, virtually every proposal in the American Jobs Act has had bipartisan support in the past.

In fact, it wasn’t even President Obama who signed the original Neighborhood Stabilization Program into law -- it was President Bush.

But the reason President Obama chose to build on it in the American Jobs Act isn’t that it was a Democratic or a Republican idea.

It’s in there because it’s a good idea. 

An idea that not only works -- but has helped put 400 people here in Independence back to work.

Those are the kinds of solutions we need right now -- they’re the kind of solutions in the American Jobs Act.  And it’s time Congress stood up and let it come to a vote.

So let’s pass the American Jobs Act.  Let’s start rebuilding Missouri today.  Thank you for this opportunity.