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Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Marrero Commons Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

New Orleans
Friday, May 4, 2012

Thank you.  I want to thank everyone who helped us get to this important day, from Mayor Landrieu, Senator Landrieu and Congressman Richmond, to Keith Key, to Councilmember-At-Large Clarkson, and to US Bank. 

Well, this is an exciting moment -- as the first of hundreds of families return to their new homes here at Marrero Commons.

For all of us, this has been a long journey -- one in which we have traveled together. 

From my first visit to New Orleans as HUD Secretary, when I came with Secretary Napolitano and we announced millions of dollars in funding to stimulate long term recovery, to volunteering with my own family as part of the St. Bernard Project, revitalizing New Orleans and the Gulf Coast has been a personal priority for me, my cabinet colleagues and for President Obama.

And that commitment has produced real results. 

Of the nearly 40,000 families who were still living in temporary housing when President Obama took office, 99.9 percent are living in stable, permanent homes today.

Not only that, but for the first time, not a single family in Louisiana displaced by Katrina remains in federally funded temporary housing today. 

In the last three years, we have put $600 million in recovery funds into the hands of low-income homeowners -- families who despite their best efforts still hadn’t been able to finish renovating their homes.  

And with the additional $7-to-$10 million we are announcing today, case managers with expertise in the contracting process will be able to help more families get their homes across the finish line.

With tools like Neighborhood Stabilization Program, we’ve made real progress addressing blight across the metropolitan area. 

And I’m pleased to announce that we will build on that success by releasing up to $20 million in funds to help Louisiana address blight remediation and homes that have been sold to the state. 

And neither of these announcements--or this day--would have been possible without Pat Forbes and Paul Rainwater.

But I’m here today because one of the accomplishments I’m most proud of is our work to meet our commitment that there be more federally assisted housing in New Orleans today than there was before the storm.

That wouldn’t have been possible without the outstanding leadership of HUD Assistant Secretary Sandi Henriquez and David Gilmore, who together are reforming the Housing Authority of New Orleans -- and ensuring HANO is a real partner to the city and the community. 

Let’s not forget, when we first came into office, not a single family had returned to the Big Four public housing developments severely damaged during the storm. 

Well, because of this partnership, today, all of the Big Four complexes are under construction.  Nearly 1,200 families have moved in -- and today, we are opening the first of over 400 more homes.

Indeed, whether it was the work our friends at FEMA did to lay the groundwork for this development...the work people like Donna Johnigan did to protect the families that lived here...or the extraordinary leadership of champions like Senator Landrieu and Congressman Richmond to get Congress to extend the deadline for the Gulf Opportunity Zone Tax Credits to the end of last year, giving us the time we needed to finish the job -- getting Marrero Commons across the finish line was a team effort, from the first step to the last.

I’m particularly proud that a substantial portion of the work has been done by residents like Alfred Marshall. 

Indeed, because of the leadership of people Keith Key--who grew up in Pittsburgh public housing--more than half of the newly hired workers at Marrero Commons are benefiting from the Section 3 requirements which ensure that work that impacts low-income residents of a community can be performed by those residents.

And Keith, I’m proud to say David’s team at HANO is applying the model you provided to work they’re doing across the city.

Of course, of all the extraordinary men and women who made this moment possible, one couldn’t be here today -- but we know she is looking down on us.

Yvonne Marrero dedicated her life to the families of BW Cooper.  And as so many here remember, in the wake of Katrina, it was Yvonne who stood up and over the objections of just about everyone refused to let the homes here be bulldozed -- making sure they were brought up to code.

Because of her commitment--and that of people like Donna, Judith Watson, Claudette Warren, Mary Aples and Deborah Collins-Jackson--on this long and sometimes winding journey, 300 families have had a place to live since the storm.

But let’s be clear: for Yvonne, it wasn’t about preserving apartments.

It was about preserving a community.

Well, today, Yvonne -- we are finishing the job you started.

We are giving the families of this community not just the homes they need to get by but the opportunities they need to thrive, to prosper and be part of an economy built to last.