Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Project Rebuild Act
Mr. President, I introduce the Project Rebuild Act today, and I thank Senators Durbin, Schumer, Leahy, Akaka, Sherrod Brown, Whitehouse, Merkley, Begich, Franken, and Blumenthal for joining me as original cosponsors of this bill.
Rhode Island, like America, is facing a foreclosure crisis. The bill we are introducing offers an opportunity to address this crisis--tackling foreclosures and affordable rental housing at the same time.
Building upon the successful, proven, and bipartisan Neighborhood Stabilization Plan, NSP, which has helped put Americans back to work stabilizing neighborhoods, the Project Rebuild Act could provide $43 million for Rhode Island to help create jobs and overhaul distressed neighborhoods and commercial properties.
Nationwide, about $10 billion would be directed to States and local governments through a formula modeled after NSP, and $5 billion would be distributed through new competitive grants.
We are facing a challenging budget environment, but this is the right time to make smart investments in strengthening our communities, putting more construction workers back to work, and bolstering the economy. This initiative will provide a flexible source of funding to help local communities leverage federal dollars to effectively address vacant and blighted properties.
In communities across Rhode Island and the country, we have seen how the foreclosure crisis has affected not just those who have lost their homes, but also how it has impacted entire neighborhoods.
I helped ensure that Rhode Island would receive additional NSP funding to assist communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis. Based on my visits to many NSP sites in Rhode Island, the State's NSP allotment of $26 million is making a difference in neighborhoods all over the State. This crucial investment in Rhode Island has not only begun to help reverse the fallout from foreclosures, but has also provided families with affordable rental housing.
But more needs to be done. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, despite three rounds of NSP funding, ``there is unaddressed high need in more than 76 percent of high need census tracts across the country.'' According to the Federal Reserve's recent housing white paper, the number of new homes that will have completed the foreclosure process could be as high as 1 million properties per year in 2012 and 2013.
We need to act to gain traction in our housing market so that we can firmly anchor a sustainable economic recovery that actually reaches and touches all Americans.
The Project Rebuild Act takes us in the right direction towards gaining this needed traction by making important enhancements to NSP, such as broadening eligible uses to include commercial vacancies.
It would offer new grants for fixing up vacant commercial properties, complementing the abilities of private developers.
It would also increase support for ``land banking.'' Land banks work with communities to buy, hold, and redevelop distressed properties as part of a long-term redevelopment strategy. Our bill would help more communities utilize successful land bank models and provide additional resources for Rhode Island Housing's Land Bank.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, estimates Project Rebuild could create over 190,000 jobs and renovate 150,000 properties nationwide.
Just as NSP was supported on a bipartisan basis, I hope we can build bipartisan support for this effort to help revitalize neighborhoods, create jobs, and accelerate economic growth.
I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this bill and other efforts to address foreclosures and bolster our nation's recovery.