Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the National Association of Regional Councils Conference

By:  Shaun Donovan
Date: Feb. 12, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Thank you, David, for that kind introduction and your leadership.

It's a pleasure to be back at NARC and to see so many members and leadership officials of regional planning organizations from around the country.

It's important for this Administration, and for HUD especially, to continue our ongoing conversation with you -- about what's working, what isn't, and how we can continue a partnership that has resulted in some significant achievements during very difficult economic times.

There are many encouraging signs in the economy -- housing construction is growing faster than at any time since 2008, 2012 was the strongest year of home sales since the economic crisis began, and rising home values have lifted more than 1.4 million families above water since this time last year.

Foreclosure starts are down, shadow inventory continues to shrink, and around the country unemployment rates continue to fall, putting families and communities on the road to recovery.

Despite these promising indicators our economy is still fragile and there's considerable work to be done -- including getting FHA back on firm footing, helping whole communities rebuild wealth, and recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

But we've had great success, in part, because of the work we have done together.

Before I hear from you today, I'd like to talk a little about how we can continue our work together to embrace smart, sustainable and resilient planning, and maximize our resources through efforts to increase regional economic competitiveness.

Sustainability

We're all here because we believe that we can create resilient communities through sustainable planning principles and design strategies -- creating communities that plan for change, adapt and embrace the future.

It's no coincidence that the places that suffered most during the economic crisis often had the most distressed housing, poorest performing schools, least access to transportation, and far too little economic opportunity.

Despite the one-size fits all approach of Urban Renewal a generation ago, today we are dedicated to approaches that focus on economic and environmental sustainability geared to the individual needs of those communities.

Our work together is proof of that.

Using a planning grant, the Northern Maine Development Commission has begun a regional planning process focused on job creation, infrastructure, and healthy, affordable communities in Aroostook and Washington counties.

Working with University of Maine's GIS lab, they are studying the effects of sea level rise and storm surge on their coastal communities -- because they recognize the connection between climate change, emergency management planning and economic sustainability.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, that's something more and more Americans understand -- and it's the kind of smart planning investment we need.

In Cincinnati we've focused our efforts on revitalizing the area around the streetcar route that is currently under development.

Using a city-wide Challenge grant with Choice Neighborhoods, and Good Samaritan Grants, HOME Funds, and programs to provide substantial rehab for affordable multifamily properties in the area, and coupled with investments from the local CDC, and private industry we're making a real difference in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood -- addressing issues of poverty, quality affordable housing, and access to transportation and supportive services.

Sustainability means very different things to different places -- and it's our job at HUD to ensure you have the tools you need to help your community realize your own locally driven vision for success, not Washington's.

And this Administration knows the resources we provide are vital to that success.

Maximizing Resources for Regional Competitiveness

I know many of you are concerned about the limited availability of Federal funds as you make important planning decisions.

HUD is committed to continuing our support for those regions that have received planning grants from our Sustainable Communities Program as they head into their final year of funding and move from planning to implementation.

While our work on the budget is not yet completed, I can tell you that we are going to continue to fight for funding for our OSHC grants.

This Administration understands that it is vital to focus on building and strengthening whole communities, but some of the biggest challenges to that approach will be fiscal.

We're going to continue to rely on the coordinated Federal approach we pioneered with our Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

You've probably heard me say that China doesn't distinguish between Detroit and Troy, Michigan, or LA and Orange County, California -- they see a single region, a single economy, a single competitor.

And as local economies continue to become more interdependent and regional we must take that view as well.

The success of a region is tied not only to the success of individual cities within that region but to how the region manages its resources and addresses challenges as a whole.

We all understand that a big part of what will allow our communities to succeed is collaborating on a shared economic future by coordinating our transportation, building and land use planning efforts.

And one way we continue to encourage this place-based focus is by layering our investments and initiatives across agencies -- to get the "biggest bang for the buck."

Communities where the Partnership is working are recipients not just of a single grant, but a combination of Challenge, Choice Neighborhoods, TIGER, Promise Neighborhood grants, and multi-agency technical assistance -- this layering approach allows us to maximize our impact, and create lasting change, faster.

This type of coordinated effort allows us to address interrelated problems like poverty or homelessness more effectively -- rather than focusing on a single symptom, like increasing crime or vacancy rates.

Our most productive partners are those that espouse a similar approach -- by focusing on ways to leverage private capital and create partnerships that bring additional resources to the table.

It is more important than ever that HUD continues to invest in projects that have significant community support and will deliver multiple benefits -- to housing, to transportation, to the job market, and the environment.

That is why we will continue to work with you to deploy a full range of assistance as you implement these Sustainable Community plans. We see these plans as an indicator of a region's commitment to work with local stakeholders, make tough choices, and set clear priorities for growth.

The $250 million we invested in planning was an investment in a better future for our grantees. Your accomplishments--individually and collectively--have demonstrated that it was a very smart investment.

Now we need to double down on those investments to ensure we protect that future.

Planning for the Future

We are approaching a critical moment, not just for our OSHC grants, or the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, but for our larger economy.

The work you do to bring to jobs back to rural communities and increase access to transportation in urban areas has been an integral part of our recovery.

We need to remain committed to regional planning.

Committed to building strong communities -- not just housing.

To ensuring that we build communities that aren't just green, but economically sustainable and resilient as well.

That's why you need to make your voices heard and let Congress know just how important this funding is to your community, to your future.

We have many budgetary challenges ahead, and your support is critical to ensuring that we are able to continue these programs and this Partnership.

And I know I can count on your continued leadership and support.

Together we can, and will, build 21st century communities with opportunities and homes for all.

So again, thank you for having me. I look forward to your questions.