Day 4: HUD's Cuomo Stops By

It's day four and crunch time in Habitat for Humanity's five-day house raising in Lothian, Md.

Home Improvement Contributor Bob Vila talks to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo about his agency's role in the project for The Early Show.


New owner Mary McGhee will be able to move in on Friday as planned.

And Housing and Urban Development Secretary Cuomo is partly responsible for that.

HUD has a very strong relationship with Habitat for Humanity. HUD's new Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program made the land available to McGhee that allowed her to afford the house.

"WeÂ're trying to work more and more with people who want to build or rehab their own home. We want to help them do it with their own two hands," Secretary Cuomo says.

The government funds operate as seed money, which leverage contributions from private sources to build Habitat for Humanity homes, he notes.

This year HUD is allocating Habitat for Humanity $25 million. That translates into "about 1,200 homes," Secretary Cuomo says. One house must be built for every $10,000 of HUD funding.

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Cuomo discusses another HUD program: the Healthy Homes Initiative, aimed at raising awareness of the hidden house dangers.

Some simple things can reduce the risk of injury, he says. "For example, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a must." They are being installed in this house within key halls outside the bedroom and bathroom areas.

He also cites the usefulness of "ground-fault interrupter circuit to make sure no one gets electrocuted when they may be working." So if a child should go and try to do something foolish, the circuit shuts off automatically.

Cuomo also points out the new home's cabinet safety latches: "They are simple to put in and very simple to operate. But they can keep a child out of places that they shouldnÂ't go in, maybe a drawer that has knives or a cabinet under the sink, where you may have chemicals you want to keep them away from them, he adds.

Secretary CuomoÂ's involvement with the Healthy Homes Initiative stems from personal experience, an accident with one of his daughters.

"I had to learn about this the hard way, so to speak," he says. "We had twins and, when one of them was young, about 9, 10 months, we actually had a serious accident in the kitchen area where one of them was burned," he recalls.

It was triggered by a kitchen water cooler with a hot water tap, he says. "Once we had a child, that tap now became very dangerous. And the child puled the tap and scalded herself."

This new house was designed with safety in mind: a triangular work area in the kitchen incorpating the refrigerator, stove and sink allowing someone to work without others walking through that area.

For more on this project from The Early Show, see

Building A House, Day By Day
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