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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

HOPE VI Reauthorization Act of 2006

August 5, 2009
Floor Statement
Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA]: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5347, the HOPE VI Reauthorization Act of 2006. I am one of the original cosponsors of the legislation, and I want to take time to congratulate the distinguished chairman, Mr. Oxley; Ranking Member Frank; Mr. Watt; and Mr. Shays for sponsoring this important legislation.

The members of the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Affairs, of which I am ranking member, have worked tirelessly to overcome obstacles to extend HOPE VI. Indeed, there is a strong possibility that the HOPE VI program would have expired at the end of this fiscal year without the strong leadership displayed on this bill.

HOPE VI is a valuable program, but not a perfect program. Some of the criticisms include displacement of tenants, delays in development of projects, and a built-in bias toward large urban areas. As with any major Federal program, there are lessons to be learned, and in the case of HOPE VI, many of the challenges that have been identified were addressed in prior reauthorization bills. We also must understand that these concerns must be understood within the context of the different communities that have utilized the HOPE VI program. This might explain why HUD has evaluated HOPE VI grantees on a case-by-case basis, rather than on the basis of formal program requirements.

One major issue compounding HOPE VI is the fact that in many communities the supply of available and affordable housing is not adequate to accommodate those who become displaced. Secondly, the development process related to HOPE VI is far more complicated than what was envisioned by the architects of the program, and many delays are attributed to the needs of the many stakeholders in the community, including tenants.

According to the 2003 GAO report entitled "HOPE VI Resident Issues and Changes in Neighborhoods Surrounding Grant Sites," the Tucson, Arizona, Housing Authority submitted a revitalization plan for a site to the Tucson City Council for approval only after the residents had voted to approve it. This type of deliberative democratic process adds time to the development approval process, whether it is a HOPE VI project or not.

Thirdly, some fear that there is a bias to urban areas under the HOPE VI program requirements. In my view, that is not really a fair criticism because this is merely a program outcome. I see no reason why we would not want to make sure that HUD targets nonurban areas as we move forward to determine HOPE VI works. I have said on numerous occasions that the housing needs of the urban communities are not drastically different than the housing needs of nonurban communities.

Both GAO and CRS provide important findings on the HOPE VI program.

As of June 2004, 56,221 households had been relocated by HOPE VI revitalization grantees. Of these households, 48 percent were moved to public housing, 32 percent were given section 8 vouchers, 6 percent evicted, 19 percent moved to revitalized units, and 13 percent made other housing choices.

The neighborhoods in which 1996 HOPE VI sites are located generally have experienced improvements in indicators such as education, income and housing.

And mortgage lending activity increased in HOPE VI neighborhoods compared to other neighborhoods.

These strong findings are, in part, why I support the HOPE VI reauthorization bill. The bill has strong bipartisan support, and HOPE VI would be reauthorized through 2007, although we had originally intended for the bill to be extended through 2011. Importantly, the factors used to assess grant applications for the programs include need, capacity, quality and leveraging. So perhaps as we move forward, it is more appropriate for the detractors of the program to measure the track record of the HOPE VI program's use of these new criteria and not base the success of the program on individual project outcomes.

By some estimates, HOPE VI has leveraged between $5 billion and $8 billion of private investment in communities across the Nation. The demand for HOPE VI grants in communities throughout the country continues to exceed the available resources. HUD receives three applications for every HOPE VI award made.

The need to revitalize distressed public housing is precisely the reason that HOPE VI was conceived. Communities throughout this country with old, decaying and abandoned public housing stock often located on prime land needed to seek ways to improve the quality of life in their communities. HOPE VI provided one answer to addressing these conditions in its early stages; and with improvement in the way the program will be operated in the future, even greater progress will be made in meeting needs.

Absent the bipartisan support that HOPE VI enjoys today, the elimination of the program was a near certainty. By changing the criteria to evaluate grantee applications, including evaluation of the capacity of the grantees to undertake HOPE VI projects, support for the program should broaden. HOPE VI is an extremely competitive program that reflects success. Communities should be able to include this Federal resource in their revitalization planning efforts immediately and in the future.

I would urge my colleagues to support this bill.