LA County Selected for HUD Business Registry Pilot Program
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer
Local and federal officials gathered at the Nueva Maravilla Public Housing Development in East Los Angeles last week to announce the launch of a six-month pilot program to test whether a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintained database could expand job opportunities to low- and very-low-income individuals or public housing residents.
Los Angeles is one of five locations across the country selected to participate in the “Section 3 Business Registry” pilot program, along with New Orleans, Washington DC, Detroit, and Miami, HUD officials announced Dec. 9.
Under the program, qualifying businesses will be allowed to post job openings on the registry, and public housing residents will be encouraged to use the registry to look for possible employment opportunities.
Depending on the success of the program, the initiative could be expanded nationwide, said HUD officials.
“This business registry is one of the key connecting points between jobs and housing,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “For businesses, there is an incentive to self-certify as a Section 3 business because contracts go to the companies that hire low-income and public housing residents. It’s a win-win situation for businesses and the residents in the community.”
The pilot program consists of an online searchable database registry that can be used by housing authorities, local government agencies, and contractors to award covered and non-covered construction contracts to “Section 3 Businesses” that give priority consideration to low-income individuals who live in the area where the funds will be spent.
Section 3 Businesses are those that meet one of the following criteria: a 51 percent ownership by Section 3 residents; employs public housing residents or low-income persons for at least 30 percent of its full-time, permanent staff; or provides evidence of a commitment to subcontract 25 percent or more of the funds awarded to Section 3 businesses, according to HUD.
The Section 3 provision of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 is designed to enhance the opportunities of low-income individuals and residents of public housing, Trasviña told EGP.
The provision has existed since 1968, but in light of the economic crisis, HUD and the Obama Administration want to make sure every tool available is used to advance both jobs and housing, he added.
U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-32) said she was encouraged that Los Angeles was chosen to be one of the five cities in the pilot program: “It shows that they are looking at the areas with great need and it will really benefit us right here,” she told EGP.
“This will really help because businesses will be able to register and be able to access all these contracts HUD provides,” said Chu.
Nueva Maravilla was selected as the site of the announcement because it is a model of public housing that works, Chu said, adding that she is impressed by the variety of programs offered, including job training opportunities.
During the press conference, Roberto Valdivia, a resident of Nueva Maravilla for just seven months, said taking a six-month training course helped him get a painting job at Maravilla.
Landscaper Manuel Cisneros, a former tenant of Carmelitos public housing in Long Beach, said he earned his certification as a master gardener, thanks to the Section 3 opportunity provided by The Growing Experience training program. Cisneros is now a general contractor and homeowner.
William D. Martinez, manager of Emerging Markets for Prime-Line Products, a hardware replacement company, called the registry an exciting opportunity for government to save money, and for businesses to make money.
HUD is one of the largest sources of federal dollars to public housing communities; Section 3 ensures some of the money stays in the community where the funds are being spent.
Recent data shows that in 2010, HUD’s investments led to 38,000 new jobs of which 47 percent went to low-income people and public housing residents. Over $475 million was awarded to Section 3 businesses during the same time frame, according to HUD.
The registry is also intended to make compliance easier for contract recipients and increase the visibility of their firms by giving them better access to contracting opportunities, according to HUD.
While preference can be given to Section 3 Businesses on the registry, participation is not an entitlement to contracts. Businesses will still be required to prove they are Section 3 eligible and have the ability to successfully perform the terms and conditions of proposed contracts. And a registry listing does not mean a business has HUD’s endorsement, since the agency does not verify the information submitted unless it receives a complaint. Businesses that misrepresent themselves as a Section 3 business will be removed from the registry and penalized, according to HUD.
The success of the program will be monitored with periodic surveys. HUD will also monitor the usage of the database and feedback from businesses and recipients.
The pilot program will run until fall of 2012. For more information visit www.hud.gov/Section3biz.Print This Post
December 15, 2011 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.