WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate’s housing subcommittee, today heard directly from New Jersey mayors whose communities have benefited from federal investments through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) before meeting with HUD Secretary-designee Dr. Ben Carson. Sen. Menendez will question Dr. Carson Thursday during confirmation hearings before the Senate Banking Committee.
“I want to get a view of Ben Carson’s vision of what HUD’s mission is and his list of priorities and management style,” Sen. Menendez said. “Specifically, how is he going to lead an agency after making comments while running for president that are diametrically opposed to HUD’s core mission?”
The senator sat down in his D.C. office with Dr. Carson to begin the process of vetting him for HUD Secretary.
“As a former Mayor, I know how absolutely vital HUD is to the housing and community development needs of your municipalities,” said Sen. Menendez. “Smartly designed and well-implemented federal funding is absolutely essential to address a range of issues—from creating and preserving affordable and safe homes and communities, to rebuilding from disasters or preparing for the next big storm, to addressing foreclosures and abandoned properties.”
Earlier, Sen. Menendez was joined on a conference call by Mayors Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, Ras Baraka of Newark, Dana Redd of Camden, John Ducey of Brick and Mike Venezia of Bloomfield—geographically representative of both urban and suburban communities that have utilized HUD programs to spur economic development, grow jobs, rebuild after Superstorm Sandy, tackle homelessness and increase affordable housing options for their residents.
To listen to a recording of the senator’s discussion with the mayors, call: (800) 475-6701; Access Code: 415137.
After Hoboken suffered severe damage from Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Zimmer stressed the importance of a $230 million grant awarded through HUD to advance the city’s resiliency and flood mitigation plan.
“It is critical that we keep this project moving forward to protect our citizens and critical assets,” said Mayor Zimmer, whose city has also received HUD funding to help house homeless veterans. “We’re totally exposed if we do not get this project done.”
Mayor Baraka noted high demand for affordable housing options in Newark, with more residents living in public housing than any other city in New Jersey and a waiting list 20,000 people deep.
“It’s really important to have someone competent and connected to these cities [leading HUD],” said Mayor Baraka, who cited the need for additional federal funding to replace Newark’s old housing stock with new and more affordable options.
HUD disaster recovery assistance to Brick protected residents from a massive property tax hike after the Jersey Shore community suffered over $100 million in ratable property loss following Superstorm Sandy, according to Mayor Ducey. Additionally, HUD provided more than $100 million in grants for Sandy victims to repair and elevate their homes.
“The new HUD secretary has to be ready before these storms happen,” Mayor Ducey said. “These storms are more prevalent. He has to have plans and be ready to follow through with those plans when a storm comes.”
Camden was recently awarded a $13.2 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant to advance the city’s efforts to transform the Mt. Ephraim South neighborhood from an area with high poverty and struggling schools to a thriving, social and economic center.
“We have concerns with federal priorities under the new administration. What will the Department of HUD look like in the future, and how will that affect us mayors as we try to serve our constituencies,” asked Mayor Redd. “I’m hoping the incoming secretary takes a thorough look at the agency and the impact it has on cities across the country.”
Bloomfield recently leveraged HUD financing to create a public-private partnership to build an 82-unit home for seniors.
“It’s a misconception of the incoming administration that HUD only helps urban areas,” said Mayor Venezia.
Sen. Menendez said he plans to use the discussion with the mayors to inform his questioning of Dr. Carson during this week’s confirmation hearing.