HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan was in Denver on Monday, where he said about 20,000 Colorado families in Colorado could benefit from $200 million in the $25 billion settlement reached with the nation’s five biggest banks regarding their practices for processing foreclosures.The big banks settled in the wake of widespread practices such as “robo-signing” of foreclosure paperwork, instead of having lawyers scrutinize the documents. Most of the $200 million is earmarked for interest-rate reductions and principal forgiveness. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney John Suthers joined Donovan for the announcement.
Donovan also was in Denver to help launch the Denver Regional Council of Governments’s sustainable grant. He spoke about bolstering the Rocky Mountain region’s economic competitiveness and support affordable housing. Nationwide, he said Denver “stood out,” as a leader in linking housing and jobs.
“It was a delight to have Secretary Donovan in Region VIII and to reinforce HUD’s commitment to regional sustainable communities grant funding,” said Rick Garcia, who heads HUD’s Region VIII, which includes Colorado and neighboring states.
“From the earliest days of the Obama Administration, we looked to partner with places across the country that understood the importance of connecting housing to jobs,” Donovan said. “And of all the remarkable work we saw at the local level—from Pittsburgh to Salt Lake City—Denver stood out.”
FasTracks, a national model
In fact, he said when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development forged the Partnership for Sustainable Communities with its partners, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, “we saw the work the Denver metro area was doing with FasTracks as a model – for the kind of collaboration, smart planning, and catalytic investment regions need to be successful.” FasTracks, the $6.7 billion light rail and rapid-bus development underway, was the largest transportation initiative in the country when voters approved it in 2004.
Last November, HUD awarded a $4.5 million grant to help DRCOG bring the Metro Vision regional framework to fruition, which Donovan said helps the Denver region plans for “the affordable housing and mixed-use, mixed income communities around these transit corridors that Colorado families need.
“It wasn’t just that this region— home to 57 percent of Colorado’s population and two-thirds of state’s economy—was building more than 100 miles of new light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit lanes, as extraordinary of an accomplishment as that is,” Donovan said. “It was also that you had leaders from the 32 communities surrounding Denver proper working together. Indeed, with the partnership of DRCOG, each of the diverse communities here understood that countries like China and India don’t see Denver and Arvada – they see a single region, a single economy, a single competitor.”
He said that is exactly the kind of attitude the federal government needs.
“That’s why we’ve awarded $270 million in Sustainable Communities planning grants since President Obama took office – helping communities and regions across the country undertake a new wave of housing, transportation, and land use reform.”
He said the grants “aren’t about telling communities what to do and how to do it – but rather helping them realize their own local visions for success and for creating jobs. Because when it comes to the way communities manage transportation, building and land use, it isn’t just federal barriers that get in the way – but the fact that every community and jurisdiction has a different set of rules and regulations.”
But Donovan said you can’t have a truly sustainable community if everyone doesn’t have access to the opportunities provided by them.
“Across the country, we’ve seen how rising costs in the communities around transit-oriented development too often prevent the families who need it most from being able to afford to live there. Indeed, with the Mile High Connects “equity atlas” Patrick Horvath (the director of the Denver-based Strengthening Neighborhoods Program) and others have created, policymakers in this region have a critical tool to see for themselves exactly how lives are affected—and even shaped—by the design and development of our communities. Indeed, efforts like these show why ensuring every member of this community has access to the jobs, good schools, and affordable housing the $6.7 billion expansion of FasTracks promises isn’t just the right thing to do for families.At a time of scarce public funds, it’s also the smart thing to do for our economy.”
“Making it possible will require the continued engagement of the business community – building on the extraordinary work the Metro Denver Chamber did to get the FasTracks system funded to ensure everyone in this region can benefit from it. It also will require elected leaders here to roll up their sleeves once again and make the tough decisions necessary to get the job done. ”