Commentary: Federal Program Helps Detroit

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(Courtesy of The Detroit News)

Expanding opportunities for jobs and housing are two of the Obama administration’s highest priorities in Michigan and across the nation.

At the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, we are putting new energy behind a federal program, Section 3, that is specifically designed to increase job opportunities for low-income individuals and public housing residents and contracts for the companies that hire them.

In 2009, HUD invested $17.2 billion in Section 3-covered funding into local communities. These investments create new neighborhood developments, modernize roads and infrastructure and rehabilitate and revive our communities. Beyond the bricks and mortar, they produced 34,230 jobs in 2009 and put 18,154 low-income individuals and their families on the road to self-sufficiency.

We are doing more.

HUD has designated Detroit to be one of five pilot cities around the country to be the site of a Section 3 Business Registry. Through this registry, businesses that hire low-income individuals or are composed of low-income individuals will be able to have better access to information about contracting opportunities from cities, housing authorities and other government agencies. Local and state agencies receiving HUD funds are required, to the maximum extent feasible, to ensure that jobs and contracts reach public housing residents and low-income workers. The Business Registry will also make it easy for workers to find out about Section 3 companies that are hiring.

The registry is the latest initiative to promote jobs and contracting opportunities. Earlier this year, HUD made grants to 12 local and state agencies to hire a Section 3 coordinator who spends all of his or her time focused on reaching out to businesses, workers, apprenticeship programs, developers and other partners to promote Section 3.

Since 2009, HUD recipients have increased by 400 percent their reporting of Section 3 activities, and HUD has provided training to these agencies on ways to gain greater success in contracting and jobs.

Participation is key to the success of the Business Registry. HUD encourages all companies doing business in the Detroit area to learn more about Section 3 and to register if they meet Section 3 criteria.

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