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Choice Neighborhoods

White House staff have indicated that they are planning to integrate, to the greatest extent possible, the Promise Neighborhoods initiative with another run out of HUD, called Choice Neighborhoods.

Choice Neighborhoods is a $250 million initiative intended "to transform neighborhoods of extreme poverty into functioning, sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods with well-functioning services, schools, public assets, transportation, and access to jobs."

'Choice' neighborhoods to combat poverty cycle
Washington Times | Tuesday, May 12, 2009

By Christina Bellantoni

The Obama administration is proposing a new program that aims to transform the nation's poorest neighborhoods from head-to-toe: taking 10 urban centers with high concentrations of public housing and improving it while adding day care centers and even farmers markets, sidewalks and parks.

The $250 million proposal is a planning experiment and one of the most progressive proposals under consideration for the next budget year, building upon the Hope VI program, which over the past 17 years has torn down nearly 100,000 of the worst public housing projects in the country.

The initiative, if approved by Congress, will operate in the same way by redeveloping public and assisted housing, but it will include community development, and applicants will have to prove the transformation would be catalytic, said Bruce Katz, a senior adviser to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

HUD estimates 10 cities would be granted the funding after a competitive process, and to qualify, at least 40 percent of a neighborhood's residents must live below the federal poverty line of about $22,000 for a family of four.

The communities awarded the "choice" grants will need to provide matching funding from state or local authorities or from private funding. If the money is approved, HUD will craft guidelines for using the funds that will spell out how the money can be spent and metrics for measuring how the grant recipients are performing.

The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative also aims to partner with the proposed Promise Neighborhoods effort in the Department of Education budget. That program, which President Obama wants to fund at $10 million, is modeled after one in New York's Harlem and offers community organizations grants to improve low-performing school districts with day care centers and college-training programs.

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The Harlem Miracle

New York Times columnist David Brooks has written a column about the Harlem Children's Zone. Brooks cites the work of a new report by Harvard economists Roland Fryer and Will Dobbie, whose work suggests that HCZ charter schools are closing the black-white educational achievement gaps, substantially outperforming other New York City schools.

According to Brooks, "These results are powerful evidence in a long-running debate. Some experts, mostly surrounding the education establishment, argue that schools alone can’t produce big changes. The problems are in society, and you have to work on broader issues like economic inequality. Reformers, on the other hand, have argued that school-based approaches can produce big results."

Brooks argues that the results in Harlem support the reformers. We at UNCA, however, are less convinced. It is not one or the other, but both. There are many charter schools around the nation, but HCZ is unique precisely because of the central role that integrated social services play.

Brooks' column is here.  The preliminary Harvard report is here.

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Report: More Jobs Moving Away from Inner Cities

Brookings has released a new report on the changing nature of employment in the inner city. The press release and a link to the report follow below.

Job Sprawl Revisited: The Changing Geography of Metropolitan Employment

Elizabeth Kneebone, Senior Research Analyst, Metropolitan Policy Program

April 06, 2009 — An analysis of the spatial location of private-sector jobs in 98 of the largest metropolitan areas by employment reveals that:

  • Only 21 percent of employees in the top 98 metro areas work within three miles of downtown, while over twice that share (45 percent) work more than 10 miles away from the city center. The larger the metro area, the more likely people are to work more than 10 miles away from downtown; almost 50 percent of jobs in larger metros like Detroit, Chicago, and Dallas locate more than 10 miles away on average compared to just 27 percent of jobs in smaller metros like Lexington-Fayette, Boise, and Syracuse.
  • Job location within metropolitan areas varies widely across industries. More than 30 percent of jobs in utilities, finance and insurance, and educational services industries locate within three miles of downtowns, while at least half of the jobs in manufacturing, construction, and retail are more than 10 miles away from central business districts.
  • Employment steadily decentralized between 1998 and 2006: 95 out of 98 metro areas saw a decrease in the share of jobs located within three miles of downtown. The number of jobs in the top 98 metro areas increased overall during this time period, but the outer-most parts of these metro areas saw employment increase by 17 percent, compared to a gain of less than one percent in the urban core. Southern metro areas were particularly emblematic of the outward shift of job share with a 2.6 percentage-point decline in urban core job share and a 4.8 point gain in the outermost ring, outpacing the 98 metro average (a 2.1 point decline and a 2.6 point gain, respectively).
  • In almost every major industry, jobs shifted away from the city center between 1998 and 2006. Of 18 industries analyzed, 17 experienced employment decentralization. Transportation and warehousing, finance and insurance, utilities, and real estate and rental and leasing showed the greatest increases in the share of jobs located more than 10 miles away from downtown.

Amid changing economic conditions—expansion, contraction, and recovery—during the late 1990s and early 2000s, employment in metropolitan America steadily decentralized. The spatial distribution of jobs has implications for a range of policy issues—from housing to transportation to economic development—and should be taken into account as metro areas work to achieve more productive, inclusive, and sustainable growth and, in the near term, economic recovery.

Full Report (pdf)

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by Dr. Radut