Two years ago, newly inaugurated President Barack Obama stood before the nation and promised a “new era of responsibility.” Part of that responsibility requires a commitment to the health of our families and children by protecting the environment in which they live, laying a new foundation for growth by building the clean energy economy of the 21st century, and fighting the threat that climate change presents to our planet. As Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, I’m proud of the work HUD has done to live up to the standard the President set, and to share with you some of our major accomplishments in advancing clean energy and a stronger environment in the Obama Administration.
- Increasing the Energy Efficiency of American Homes and Saving Families Money. Passed as part of President Obama’s Recovery Act, the Green Retrofit Program along with other HUD programs will create thousands of green jobs, reduce energy costs, and improve resident health, as workers retrofit older multi-family apartment developments with energy efficient and green technologies. -Thus far, HUD has “greened” 245,000 homes with a range of energy improvements – and another 35,000 have received deep green retrofits that will save up to 40 percent in energy costs
- Protecting Children From Lead Paint and Other Home Health Hazards. There can be no more important task than protecting our children from health and safety hazards found in their own homes. Despite banning lead-based paint for residential use over three decades ago, many American homes still have significant lead-based paint hazards. But thanks to the Recovery Act and HUD’s ongoing lead programs, we’ve been able to produce over 16,700 housing units free from lead paint and other health hazards in the last year alone.
- Supporting Local Efforts to Fight Climate Change by Building More Sustainable, Green Economies and Communities. Research demonstrates that homes are responsible for 20 percent of America’s carbon emissions – and the long distances many families have to drive to get to work and schools contributes to our dangerous dependence on oil. That’s why HUD joined with EPA and the Department of Transportation in an unprecedented partnership to reduce our carbon footprint at the same time we connect where we live to where we work. With those partners, HUD recently awarded nearly $170 million in planning grants to ensure that metropolitan regions and rural communities across the country have more housing and transportation choices, can create more livable, walkable neighborhoods that promote energy independence, and will be more economically competitive.
- Strengthening the Ability of Americans to Make Home Energy Improvements of Their Choice. Americans currently spend $200 billion every year in home energy bills, and for too many families, making energy improvements to their homes does not make economic sense. That’s why, as part of the Administration’s Recovery through Retrofit initiative, I joined with Vice President Biden in November to announce PowerSaver, a new FHA mortgage insurance product to enable homeowners to make cost effective, energy saving improvements to their homes. Under the PowerSaver pilot, homeowners will be able to borrow up to $25,000 for terms as long as 20 years to make proven, cost-saving home energy improvements , based on a list of measures developed by FHA and the Department of Energy. The program will kick off later this year.
- Recycling Brownfield Sites to Provide Safe, Affordable Housing for Families. Too often, communities that would like to revitalize their neighborhoods and develop quality affordable housing for families have been hampered by federal red tape. That’s why HUD made changes to the Federal Housing Administration’s procedures to make developing affordable housing easier on brownfield sites provided they meet EPA cleanup requirements – changes that could directly impact the revitalization efforts of communities. Without sacrificing the health of the residents, by employing state-of-the-art environmental protection technologies and techniques, we can “recycle” land in our communities and use it to develop safe, affordable multifamily housing.