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Public Statements

Hope VI Reauthorization Act Of 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


HOPE VI REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - September 27, 2006)

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Mr. WATT. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from California for yielding time.

I rise in support of H.R. 5347. It is necessary to extend this program, and we are extending it for 1 year, the reauthorization, and that is the best we can do. You may sense frustration in that statement, because there is a sense of frustration. I have been at this HOPE VI for a long time now, and I think we need to go back and trace a little bit of the history of how we got here.

HOPE VI is not a Democratic program. It was introduced under a Republican administration. It was the brainchild of Jack Kemp when he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. And the idea was that we were not going to make any progress on dealing with community issues as long as we had these tremendous numbers, thousands of people in dense public housing communities in various places throughout the country, and that the only way we could approach the problem effectively was to disperse poverty and create communities with mixed incomes, low-income people, middle-income people, and high- income people. And so HOPE VI was about community revitalization.

All of the complaints I have heard about it over the years make it sound like people don't understand how difficult it is to do community revitalization. Because every time somebody says, well, they didn't finish a project in a year, I say to them, you can do construction in a year, you cannot do community revitalization in a year. It takes time to revitalize a community.

Now, why am I so passionate about this? We have seen five communities in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, completely transformed as a result of HOPE VI. We have seen one community in Greensboro, North Carolina, in my congressional district, completely transformed as a result of HOPE VI. We have seen two communities completely transformed in the Winston Salem part of my congressional district as a result of HOPE VI. We bring a little bit of Federal money, private people come to the table, and you end up with a mixed community in terms of income, racially and otherwise.

And I can tell you, if you come into downtown Charlotte now, you will see a completely different story than you saw 10, 12, 15 years ago. You will see a beautiful community where a concentration of low-income public housing used to be. Now if anybody tells me that is not success, I say I do not know what success is. That was exactly what the program was designed to do.

And I don't understand how this President, on so many issues, including this one, will take a successful program and all of a sudden say this program doesn't work.

Now, coincidentally, most of the money is going into Democratic districts. That is really what the debate, the subtext of a lot of this debate, has been about. We knew where the public housing projects were. They were in most of our congressional districts. We set out to try to do something about those, and we have done something about those using HOPE VI. It has been the single most successful community revitalization and housing program probably that our Nation has ever seen, contrasted with the whole idea of warehousing poor people in concentrations of low-income communities.

So I am passionate about this. I am delighted we are extending this program for a year. But, at the same time, we need to recognize there is not but $99 million even in the appropriations bill that hasn't been passed and finalized. And every time we have had to fight this battle to reauthorize the program we have lost funding for the program, so it gets less and less and less effective at accomplishing its mission.

So I congratulate my friends for extending the program, and I ask for their support, all of our support, for extending a program that is a no-brainer. We ought to all be supporting this program.

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