Thank you. Today, I'm proud to join Senator Menendez in announcing that HUD is awarding $5 million to Northern New Jersey to support more sustainable and economically competitive communities in this region.
Part of nearly $100 million in new grants we are making to communities across the country, these funds will ensure this region and 28 others across the country are connecting housing to jobs, providing transportation options for families, and generating the economic growth we need to win the future.
These awards come at an important moment, as communities continue to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression -- a crisis that was decades in the making as families were forced to move further away from job centers simply to find a home they could afford.
New Jersey families know all too well what I'm talking about. Despite living a stone's throw from the largest, most economically dynamic city in the world, for years families here have faced brutal commutes.
Families across the country spend more than 52 cents of every dollar they earn on housing and transportation costs -- and for New Jersey families in newer suburbs with less access to public transit, they spend even more.
Reducing those costs isn't just about improving the quality of life for New Jersey's families -- at a time when moving products on our roads costs five times as much wasted fuel and time as it did 25 years ago, it's essential to generating the economic growth we need to compete in the 21st century.
To help communities and regions tackle those challenges, HUD forged the historic Partnership for Sustainable Communities with the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency.
Last year, the Partnership awarded $170 million to support communities in working to ensure that all Americans can afford to live in communities with access to good jobs, schools, and transportation options -- and with today's announcement, we're bringing the total investment around the country these last two years to $270 million.
We estimate this year's grants will create nearly thousands of jobs nationwide.
Most exciting of all, we expect this $96 million investment to leverage $115 million in additional funding -- getting private capital off the sidelines and into our economy.
That smart government approach is why, for the second year running, we were inundated with applications from every state -- from central cities to rural areas and tribal governments.
We chose North Jersey's proposal because you not only had a great plan -- but the right local partners and a vision for success.
With this grant, creative local leaders--from the Bloustein School at Rutgers University to the state Office of Planning--will have the planning resources they need to ensure the "smart growth" strategies of 13 different counties are working together with precision to drive growth and create jobs in northern and central New Jersey.
By connecting public transportation with population and job centers, this coalition will bring down commuting costs for families and ensure families in distressed cities like Newark and Paterson have access to jobs and economic opportunity.
And by targeting workforce and economic development initiatives to places like Bayonne, Elizabeth, and the Jersey City waterfront, this grant makes sure the families and businesses of North Jersey can take advantage of this region's proximity to New York City and the second-largest seaport in the country.
Indeed, that work began with last year's $2.2 million award to Jersey City to create more affordable housing and transportation options -- and with this investment building on those efforts, local leaders will have the tools they need to unlock the economic potential of this region once and for all.
Unfortunately, despite the extraordinary demand for our Sustainability grants--and the bipartisan support for these tools we have seen across the country--Congress refused to fund our grant program in the coming year.
While we're disappointed by that decision--and will fight to restore that funding--we will keep working with grantees like you to realize your community's potential.
Because with partners like Senator Menendez, we've proven small investments can yield big results for our economy -- and that this debate isn't about government that's big or small. It's about government that's smart.
That's the approach Senator Menendez has championed from the very beginning -- not only introducing the Livable Communities Act to support grants like these, but just this past week winning the fight to bring choice and opportunity to some of our poorest neighborhoods through HUD's Choice Neighborhoods initiative.
He's an extraordinary partner to both me and to President Obama -- and I'm proud to introduce Senator Robert Menendez.