March 20, 2014

Creating Equal Ladders of Opportunity in Baltimore

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Yesterday I traveled to Baltimore, MD to tour the renovated housing units in the Barclay neighborhood and to announce HUD’s initial award of Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, to the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC). I also brought additional good news in that HUD was awarding more than $1.8 billion in capital funds to public housing authorities in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to make major large-scale improvements to the nation’s 1.1 million public housing units. HABC would be receiving more than $17 million of that funding. I was joined by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Ray Skinner and HABC Commissioner Paul Graziano.

The housing models we toured were great examples of what can happen when public-private partnerships come together to create quality, affordable housing. Telesis, the developer of the project, has been working closely with the city of Baltimore for years to rehab hundreds of units and their work is nothing short of remarkable.  Many units in that neighborhood had not been renovated in over 40 years, so to see the updated models is a true testament to why we need to invest more money in updating our nation’s housing stock. 

Under RAD, HABC will be able to convert more than 4,000 units of its housing inventory to the Section 8 platform.  This will allow the housing authority to use the proven Section 8 model to harness new resources, such as debt and equity financing, to preserve and recapitalize public housing. Based on the extent of need in Baltimore and a successful initial application, Baltimore and HABC are receiving one of the largest awards in the country and we expect they will lead the way in showing how RAD can preserve and improve vitally important public housing properties.With this authority, HABC will be able to tackle well over a third of the $800 million in needed repairs over the next 2-4 years. Without the authority, it would take HABCmore than 60 years to come up with the same amount of repair funds not to mention, conditions in those properties will continue to grow worse. So far nearly 400 Public Housing Authorities have applied for RAD authority to improve more than 1,000 public housing properties including 180,000 units- in need of repair. If these projects move forward under RAD, it could generate over $6 billion in additional funding taking down nearly a quarter of that $25 billion backlog in just a few years’ time. 

Unfortunately, our nation faces a backlog of over $25 billion in capital needs for public housing across the country.  If we do nothing to renovate our current stock of housing, this nation will lose approximately 10,000 units of public housing units annually. While Congress continues to provide some resources to preserve and improve our public housing properties, over the past few years it has simply not been enough to sustain for today, let alone for the next generation.  That’s why RAD is so important.

This is, as President Obama has said, is a make or break moment for the middle class and those striving to get there. The President has made clear that we must build an economy that works for every American because no matter where you grow up, you deserve an equal chance at a good life and to move up the ladders of opportunity.

 

 

March 18, 2014

Prevent Poisonings!

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National Poison Prevention Week: March 16 – 22, 2014

Do you know what poisonous substances are lurking in your home? Are household cleaners and prescription drugs out of reach of children? Poisoning is now the leading cause of death from injuries in the United States, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1 This recent report noted that the number of poisoning deaths in 2008 exceeded the number of motor vehicle traffic deaths for the first time since as far back as at least 1980.  It also showed that the number of poisoning deaths is rising significantly every year.preventpoison

Take some time during National Poison Prevention Week, March 16-22, 2014, to assess your home and protect your family against accidental poisoning. Below are some tips to help you and your loved ones stay healthy.

 Poison Prevention Tips

 * Program the toll-free Poison Help number, 1-800-222-1222, into your phone and make sure your children’s grandparents, caregivers, and childcare providers have it handy.

 * Always store pesticides and other household chemicals and products in their original containers and with their original labels. Never store them in bottles, cups, or other containers that can be mistaken for a drink.

 * Store all household medicines and vitamins up and away and out of sight of young children, and put them back after each and every use!

 * Close all household cleaning and laundry product containers immediately after use and store them out of children’s reach.

 * Read the label and follow the instructions on over-the-counter medications every time you take them or give them to a child. Call the Poison Help number if you have any questions about medications.

 * Install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors near or in your home’s sleeping areas and on every level of your home.

 * Never ignore a beeping CO alarm. Go outside and call 911 from there.

 * If you use portable generators, keep them outside the house and garage, never inside.

As soon as you think someone may have been poisoned, call the toll-free Poison Help number at 1‑800-222-1222 (TTY: 1‑888-244-5313) right away. Do not wait for the person to look or feel sick. Do not try to treat the person yourself. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 for an ambulance.

A poison is any substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount. For more tips on Poison Prevention and other Home Safety tips visit HUD.gov/healthyhomes

 

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.