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DR. BEN CARSON
SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
AT THE PUBLIC HOUSING TURNOVER
EAST ST. LOUIS, ILLINOIS
SEPTEMBER 21, 2017

 

As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.

Thank you. Good morning. This is a day of transition. And, it is a day of progress. Thirty-two years of federal receivership are over. There are a number of people who have worked tirelessly to make today possible. I want to thank Mayor (Emeka) Jackson-Hicks and the five members of the Board of Commissioners. And, I also want to thank Executive Director (Mildred) Motley for her patient and hard work. Let me also recognize Recovery Administrator (William) Tamburrino for his determination and commitment to finding the means to conclude this receivership. Thank you all.

This is a day some said would not happen, would never come. But you proved them wrong. All of you found a way to work with HUD to improve the Housing Authority and to make it more functional, safe, honest, and compliant for all the residents in over 2,000 units. It is a day to mark a rebuilding and restoration of infrastructure, services, and trust, to remain mindful of the past, and to look to the future. I am very proud and pleased to formally turn the Housing Authority over to East St. Louis after 32 years under federal receivership. Thirty-two years ago, under President Reagan, HUD had a duty to intervene. It was our first receivership in history. Happily, we now may pass control back to the city in what has been the longest receivership in history.

Our receivership has been involved and complex. For over thirty years the Housing Authority has been examined, challenged, re-examined, questioned, and tested. There has often been doubt and criticism and anger. And, it is important to acknowledge those problems. Let's learn from history, not re-write it. These problems necessitated HUD's intervention. And, we placed the Housing Authority in receivership to protect the residents.

Our concerns do not vanish with this transfer of authority. We must remain vigilant. The residents must have credible, honest, responsible, and frequent assurances that the Housing Authority is functioning as intended. Thirty-two years ago, there were deteriorating physical conditions, problems with meeting national standards, violations of the law, corruption, governance conflicts, financial mismanagement, and a lack of effective leadership. The residents were at risk.

Not anymore. The improvements have been substantial. Most deficiencies have been remedied. The physical facilities have been improved. And, some deteriorating high-rise towers will be demolished. The state and federal laws have been satisfied. Services are much better, equaling or surpassing HUD standards. There is a much stronger, better trained leadership in place. In June, 2017, HUD completed an assessment of the Housing Authority and determined that the Housing Authority had built sufficient capacity in governance and operations to function independently of HUD's direct control.

I should tell you that HUD is putting in place a two-year Enhanced Oversight Plan. The Board of Commissioners and the Oversight Administrator will provide support, manage HUD-provided technical assistance, and monitor the activities of the Housing Authority. The Board and Oversight Administrator will develop a long-term strategy to address the rehabilitation or replacement of aging units or infrastructure. They will be watching the financial health of the Housing Authority, and building its financial reserves. There will be oversight of the administration of the Housing Authority. They will also use a HUD grant to acquire or develop new public housing units.

So, today, let's look to the future. I want Public Housing to be the center of a new dynamic. I want that dynamic to empower residents, to make them better, to give them more self-sufficiency and freedom. Yes, we want to protect the vulnerable, the old, the sick, the disabled, children, and those who need our help. We must never compromise the mission and the promise of public housing. But, I want residents to feel that public housing is helping them back into the economy, to give them more control of their lives. I look at public housing like the center of a wheel, with spokes linking to job training, high schools, community colleges, universities, job placement centers, businesses, and services. Public housing should be a valuable and vibrant part of the city. And, today, by returning the Public Housing Authority to local control, we have given the city public housing that has momentum and vitality. And, HUD will be there if and when you need us.

Again, thank you.