March 12, 2014

Creating New Opportunities For Americans To Buy Green Homes

Yesterday HUD partnered with the White House to host a Green Mortgage Appraisal Roundtable with national leaders from the lending, realtor, homebuilding and appraisal industries.

The roundtable discussion was an initiative of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and one more step in a series of actions the Administration is taking to accelerate the adoption and use of energy efficient improvements in single-family homes. The event highlighted actions both the Federal government and industry can take to achieve market transformation in this area. We discussed ways that industry leaders can address key challenges when valuing high performance, energy efficient single-family homes and improvements.

For many Americans, this is a key “pocketbook issue.” According to the National Association of Realtors’ Annual Home Buyer/Seller Profile, 87 percent of people surveyed said a home’s heating and cooling costs were “important” or “very important.”

There has been a substantial increase in interest in energy efficient or green homes – as well as solar energy – in America.  Energy Star Certified Homes now account for as much as a third of all new homes and the number of homes built to such green standards as LEED for Homes, Enterprise Green Communities Criteria, the National Green Building Standard, and regional or local certifications, continues to grow.

With help from  Administration programs at HUD and the Department of Energy, the industry has been working to meet  this rapidly growing demand. Between 2009 and 2012, more than 1.25 million existing homes were upgraded to improve their energy efficiency.

We are also expanding the toolkits of consumers and the housing industry to make sure energy information is being shared. The Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score offers a “miles per gallon” type rating that can easily be applied to homes across the country. The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) has made significant progress in updating existing policy for its energy efficient mortgages. These steps include:

  • Making it easier to use the FHA PowerSaver program for home energy retrofit loans;
  • Updating the FHA energy efficiency policies, including solar and wind technologies, weatherization and the Energy Efficient Mortgage;

And the housing industry has also taken key steps to help homeowners better understand the quality of energy efficient homes. Qualified assessors now score homes on a scale of 1 to 10 and provide recommendations for cost effective efficiency improvements.  A  growing number of Multiple Listing Services include green data fields and toolkits in their markets.  Appraisers are also developing energy efficient appraisal reports, tools, and training that have the potential to catalyze the industry.

Early evidence is showing that these are not only smart investments for long-term cost savings and our environment, but they are also having “contributory value” for homeowners. A recent study by the University of North Carolina with IMT showed that loans on Energy Star Certified Homes are a good bet - foreclosure rates are one third lower than non- Energy Star homes.

The roundtable was also an important forum for assessing the barriers to accurate and reliable valuation of energy efficient or green homes, and identifying actions financial institutions, government agencies, builders, appraisers, and realtors can take to support these efforts. Working together with the housing industry, we can improve the way American’s buy their homes, save middle-class families money, and help preserve our environment.

Carol Galante Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner and Assistant Secretary for Housing and Harriet Tregoning is the Director of the Office of Economic Resilience

A Day in the Life: Field Policy and Management, Birmingham

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Welcome to another edition of our blog series, A Day in the Life, which will introduce you to HUD employees and highlight the important work they do.  Today we meet Hollis Wormsby who works as a Senior Management Analyst and is the liaison to the Field Office Director in the Birmingham, Alabama Office.

What is your typical day like? Working in the field with our local partners, we don’t really have a typical day per se.  Our jobs are very much response driven.  Some days or weeks we may have a pressing issue that requires a lot of our attention.  Once a year, we go through the process of creating and submitting the Operating Plan and during that time my typical day is devoted to that mission.

What is the overarching task of your position? My job is to support my Field Office Director.

Photo of Hollis WormsbyHow long have you been in your current role? While we have been through some re-organizations during the time frame, for the most part I would say I have been in my current position since 1997.

What is the most exciting part of your job? I love when we assemble a team to work directly with local communities to tackle a specific problem. especially when we’re able to offer solutions or suggestions that help to move that community in a positive direction.  Part of what makes my job interesting is that there is rarely routine, and I get to see the results of the work and investments we make.

What is the most challenging part of your job? I think the most challenging part of this job is that it is such an open-ended position, and you don’t have rigid milestones. More so than any other job that I’ve worked on at HUD, this job requires a great deal of flexibility and I have to operate within wide ranging goals challenging me to find creative ways to implement them.  This is very different from some of my earlier assignments where my task might be to complete a certain number of rent adjustments or monitoring reviews.

Where did you work prior to your position at HUD? Prior to working for HUD, I served as Minority Liaison/Field Representative for U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton.  I felt honored to be offered the position.  

Tell us something interesting about your life outside of HUD. All of my life I’ve been interested in creative writing.  In college, even though my major was Industrial Engineering, I studied theater and African American studies.  During my HUD career I’ve had the opportunity to host local radio public affairs programs, to write a column for a local weekly newspaper, and to produce several stage productions.  For example, last January, I produced a play I also wrote and directed called The Dream Lives as part of the Martin Luther King Holiday program. When my HUD career is over I hope to devote more time to these activities. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back next month for a new edition of A Day in the Life!

March 10, 2014

Making a house a home for one Veteran

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As we continue to wind down our nation’s military conflicts abroad, more and more veterans will need housing and job training.  Addressing this need will require the combined efforts of government at every level as well as the private sector.  Local communities throughout Michigan estimate there are more than 11,000 persons who are homeless on any given night – approximately 10% of those are veterans.  Calling veteran homelessness ‘a national disgrace,’ Secretary Donovan told the National Alliance to End Homelessness last November, “We cannot let these forgotten heroes slip through the cracks.  We’ve got to do everything we can to lift them up and help them rejoin the very communities they gave so much to protect.”

One community rising to the challenge of caring for and connecting veterans to vital support services and job training is the City of Taylor, Michigan.  Using HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the City decided to work with as many local companies and organizations to seek out veterans in need.  I recently attended one such event exemplifying how the City seeks to care for those selfless enough to give to their nation.

From left to right: Daniel Huyck, Chris Holcomb, his wife Darcy, and Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars

From left to right: Daniel Huyck, Chris Holcomb, his wife Darcy, and Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars

The Taylor Veteran Home Program selected 5-year Marine Corp veteran Christopher Holcomb and his family to have their prayers answered.  Chris served in Haiti and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.  Since his honorable discharge, Chris has struggled to find work and to house his wife and 3-year old daughter.  Wishing to assist Chris, who was born and raised in Taylor, to readjust to civilian life and provide him a stable future, the Taylor Veteran Home Program the City of Taylor reached out to local partners such as The Home Depot Foundation and The 313 Project to completely rehabilitate a vacant home with new electrical, plumbing, heating, drywall, paint, fixtures, appliances, cabinetry, and much more.   

Not satisfied with simply providing a rehabilitated home, Taylor also reached out to Helmets to Hard Hats, an organization which connects veterans with building and construction careers, who then accepted Chris into its program where he will ultimately become a certified carpenter.  Helmets to Hard Hats donated all the tools and equipment necessary for Chris’ training. Enchanted Makeovers designed and furnished the interior of the newly remodeled home, making it move-in-ready.  Meanwhile, the Schoolcraft Community College District has relieved every parent’s worry and provided Chris’ daughter with a four-year scholarship which, 15 years from now, will open doors of opportunity that otherwise may have remained closed.  Overwhelmed with gratitude, Chris said: “It’s amazing to have the community you grew up in reach out and help you, this is truly amazing.  Thank you!” 

As a fellow veteran, I understand how difficult the transition to civilian life can be.  Having become aware of the increased risk of unemployment and homelessness our veteran’s face, HUD and the VA have made efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, often through programs such as NSP and through the efforts of local communities such as Taylor.  These aggressive goals are achievable only through steadfast determination and by reaching out to each of our troubled veterans – caring for them one at a time if need be.  Watch an awesome YouTube video about the Holcomb’s new home!  

 Daniel J. Huyck works in the Detroit Field Office.




March 4, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear? HUD Marks March’s Deaf History Month

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March marks Deaf History Month and HUD is reaching out to those who are deaf and hard of hearing. Recently, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the Disability Independence Group produced twelve new short fair housing videos that are now available in American Sign Language. The videos provide key information about fair housing and fair lending rights under the federal Fair Housing Act.  Some of the topics include: “Your right to effective communication in buying or renting a home,” “How to complain about housing discrimination,” and “Fair housing and equal opportunity for the deaf.”

 In addition to the new videos, HUD also has videos on YouTube and Facebook educating deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers about housing counseling services, and loan programs offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

 In one video, a HUD employee uses sign language to tell his story of refinancing his home through FHA, the largest government insurer on mortgages. In another video, he explains that it’s illegal to discriminate in housing based on race, religion, sex, national origin, disability or family status. All videos encourage viewers to contact HUD by visiting its website, for help or more information.  Check out these videos and remember, if you have questions contact us no matter what language you use, we really can “hear” you.

 National Deaf History Month, March 13 to April 15, celebrates deaf history and promotes awareness and appreciation of deaf culture, heritage and American Sign Language to the general public.


February 18, 2014

HUD’s Recovery Act Programs

Five years ago, a little less than a month after taking office, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. At the time, the private sector had cut almost 4 million jobs and the country was experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression. Thanks to President Obama’s bold action, the Recovery Act improved roads and infrastructure helping long-term growth, temporarily cut taxes for 160 million working Americans, and saved or created 6 million jobs. You can read a full report from the Council of Economic Advisers on the effects of the Recovery Act here.

The Recovery Act included $13.61 billion for projects and programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Within 8 days of President Obama signing the Recovery Act, HUD had allocated nearly 75% of the funds. The remaining 25% of funds were awarded through a competitive process. Recovery Act investments in HUD programs generated tens of thousands of jobs, modernized public housing and private homes to make them more energy efficient and cost-effective, and provided relief and opportunities to the families and communities hardest hit by the Great Recession.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program

The Recovery Act appropriated $2 billion for HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which helped our hardest hit neighborhoods begin to recover from the economic recession by purchasing and redeveloping foreclosed and abandoned homes and residential properties. This funding, known as NSP2, was awarded in an innovative competition to state and local governments and non-profits.

To date, the fifty-six NSP2 grantees have already completed almost half of the 27,644 projected housing units that will be treated.   So far, 3,308 structures have been demolished; 5,409 units have been rehabilitated; 2,566 new units have been constructed; and 1,479 households have provided assistance to purchase a home. The NSP2 program created 25,100 direct jobs and has supported hundreds of contractors, suppliers, and other small businesses.

Homelessness Prevention

The Recovery Act appropriated $1.5 billion for HUD’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP), which helped over 1.3 million individuals and families avoid homelessness or obtain housing after becoming homeless.  Upon exiting HPRP, approximately 87 percent of households exited to permanent housing.  Because of HPRP, many communities improved local collaboration leading to more efficient service and better care.

Increasing Energy Efficiency

Through the Recovery Act’s $4 billion Public Housing Capital Fund, HUD was able to increase energy efficiency of the nation’s public housing stock and save billions in utility costs.  In total, 1,627 new energy efficient units were built, 22,428 energy efficient units were created and approximately 53,000 energy efficient units were completed by installing energy conservation measures.

HUD’s Green Retrofit Program (GRP) made $250 million in grants and low cost loans available to affordable housing property owners in 37 states.  Through GRP: 221 properties with over 19,000 affordable units were retrofit to be greener, healthier, and more efficient. The properties were projected to save 27% on utilities, on average, as a result of the retrofits completed.  So far properties participating in GRP have achieved savings in excess of 20% saving over $5 million annually in utility costs.

City Spotlights

Miami, Florida: Southern Florida, including Miami, was awarded $89.4 million in NSP2 funding from the Recovery Act. In addition, the Miami-Dade Public Housing Agency (MDPHA), the sixth largest housing agency in the nation, received more than $19 million in stimulus funds to improve the quality of life for its public housing residents.

Miami Dade County’s Homeless Trust received $7 million to assist homeless individuals and families needing emergency, temporary, and transitional housing. The Office of Community and Economic Development for MDC received $4.9 million for the CDBG program that funds infrastructure improvements; offering loans to small businesses; and providing foreclosure prevention services.

Denver, Colorado: Denver was awarded $29.3 million in NSP2 funds. The Denver Office of Economic Development received $19,000,000 and Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. received $10,200,000 to address residential foreclosure and to spur the revitalization of Denver neighborhoods heavily impacted by foreclosure.

In addition, the Denver Housing Authority (DHA) received $10,000,000 in Recovery Act competitive capital funds for plans that include increasing energy conservation, green building, and transit-oriented development (TOD) activities.  These funds were used, specifically, as part of comprehensive redevelopment of the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood into a sustainable, affordable, energy-efficient, transit-oriented development.

Columbus, Ohio: Columbus was awarded $23.2 million in NSP2 to help areas struggling with foreclosures and vacant housing.   Money from HUD’s Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP) allowed Columbus’s Community Shelter Board (CSB) to more effectively and efficiently serve homeless citizens in Columbus.