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Connecting a Bright Future with a Long History

On the heels of the 2013 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference last week, the future looks bright for policies focused on comprehensive, place-based, and resident-centered community redevelopment. Researchers, policy-makers, thought leaders, and practitioners presented and discussed the latest successful programs and models, delving into both anecdotal and empirical evidence suggesting that holistic and highly localized efforts can have huge impacts on persistent, intractable, concentrated poverty. The movement has grabbed the attention of federal policy makers, sparking continued investment in programs such as the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, Strong Cities Strong Communities, and Promise Zones. A lot of energy is coalescing around neighborhood building that encourages resident participation and leverages the strength of informal networks. These kinds of programs are trendy, which begs the question: if it’s such a good idea, why has no one thought of it before?
The short answer is that they have. In fact, this type of work has been going on continuously (if out of the spotlight) for a long, long time. At its core, “place-based policy” is essentially the same as the settlement house movement: local programs braiding together different funding streams and leveraging the strengths of the neighborhood to provide comprehensive wrap-around services to adults, children, and families in the community. A renewed interest from academics, politicians, and economists only lends quantitative evidence to what settlement houses have known and practiced for decades (in some cases, more than a century): where you live matters.
Far from being the antiquated relics from the time of Jacob Riis and Jane Addams, settlement houses (and their various iterations—neighborhood centers, community centers, etc.) are just as relevant in communities today as they were among the tenements 130 years ago. In fact, many settlement houses have had such longevity because of their ability to evolve and adapt to changing communities—always prioritizing responsiveness to the needs of the neighborhood itself. As other trends in urban policy have come and gone from the conversation in Washington, at think tanks, and on university campuses, settlement houses have quietly continued serving their communities with much the same philosophy throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st.
Rather than continuing to muddle through, and waiting for the next sea change in social policy, settlement houses and neighborhood centers should seize the opportunity to galvanize community members and decision-makers around resident-centered neighborhood revitalization. Many settlement houses have been around for so long because the values remain relevant: meeting the needs of a community with neighbors and as neighbors. The future is bright for place-based policy not just because of new research and trendy, new jargon, but also because of a long legacy that should be harnessed to inform the future.

New Look for Building Neighborhoods Blog

Welcome to the newly revamped Building Neighborhoods blog! We hope you like our new look. All of the information from the old blog is still here, but we hope you find it more straightforward and just as easy to navigate. You can find out more about us in the tabs on the top of the page, and discover posts by topic or find more information on neighborhood revitalization via the links on the right-hand side of the page. Please explore our new blog layout and let us know what you think.


Register Now for the 2013 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference!

Time is running out to register for the 2013 Neighborhood Revitalization Conference sponsored by the United Neighborhood Centers of America in partnership with the Alliance for Children and Families. The Conference will be held June 27-28 in Washington, DC. Join colleagues, stakeholders, issue experts, government officials, and community practitioners, in the exploration of neighborhood revitalization efforts in communities across the country. Sessions will cover best practices, new approaches and strategies, new federal updates, and tactics to adapt in a changing regulatory and funding environment. This year’s featured keynote speaker is Rosie Rios, 43rd Treasurer of the United States.

Panelists will include representatives from the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative workgroup, the Aspen Institute, the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative at PolicyLink, LISC, the Urban Institute, the Annenberg Foundation, the US Department of Justice, Bridgespan, NeighborWorks America, FSG, and many more prominent thought-leaders and policy-makers. Additionally, panels will feature best practices and stories from the field with presentations by local, on-the-ground practitioners such as the United Neighborhood Houses of New York, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the Oakland Unified School District, the Rockford Housing Authority, United Way of Greater Atlanta, and many more.

Session topics include resident-centered community building, bringing data to life, creating effective partnerships, commercial corridor development initiatives, and other exciting and relevant topics in the field of neighborhood revitalization. View the complete conference schedule for more information. Register now!

Funding Opportunity: 2013 HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant Competition Announced

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced the FY2013 Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grant competition. Choice Neighborhoods is HUD’s “signature place-based initiative” and is a part of the interagency Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI). HUD plans to award approximately $109 million for the FY2013 competition, in the form of four grants of up to $30 million each. Eligible applicants are public housing authorities (PHAs), local governments, nonprofits, tribal entities and for-profit developers that apply jointly with a public entity.  Applications must present a plan to “revitalize a severely distressed public or HUD-assisted multifamily housing project located in a distressed neighborhood into a viable, mixed-income community.”  Applications are due September 10, 2013.

Choice Neighborhoods is about more than fixing up housing, though. The end goal is create sustainable, vibrant neighborhoods where children, adults, and families have the opportunity to thrive in integrative, supportive communities. NRI seeks to establish federal partnerships to foster place-based policies that are response to local needs and assets. A great deal of community partnership is required to meet these goals and examples of past grantees’ projects demonstrate the extensive community cooperation.

Ultimately, successful Choice Neighborhoods applicants must be able to demonstrate that their projects have created sustainable, accessible housing; high quality learning, employment, health, and other opportunities; and public-private investment in neighborhood amenities and public safety. Find out more about the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grant program, application process, and available resources from the complete Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).

Funding Opportunity: Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the grant competition for the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program for 2014. Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are non-profit organizations independent from the IRS that serve low income taxpayers involved in tax disputes with the IRS, or educate non-native English speakers about their taxpayer rights and responsibilities for free or for a nominal fee. For more information about LITC services, please see LITC criteria for assistance and this map to find LITCs in your area. The IRS will award a total of up to $6 million in matching grants to qualifying organizations. Each organizational recipient is eligible for up to $100,000 for a one- to three-year grant. Eligible applicants include public or private institutions of higher education and non-profit organizations with 501(c)(3) status. The application is open until July 12, 2013. Note that all grants will be matching grants. Details are available in the grant announcement. In February, 2013, the IRS published the first Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program Report along with an LITC infographic which details the valuable services that LITCs provide nationwide. For example, in just six months in 2012, LITCs helped their low income clients to secure more than $3.2 million in tax refunds and eliminate $16.2 million in outstanding liabilities, penalties, or interest. In the same span of time, more than 1,900 LITC volunteers contributed more than 36,500 hours of service. These pro bono tax services help bring lower-income families into compliance with tax law without burdensome or predatory fines or fees, and are a valuable component in creating financial literacy and security within communities.


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by Dr. Radut