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Choice Neighborhoods

Choice Neighborhoods Update

On June 3, the Choice Neighborhoods team at HUD provided an update on the program via webinar. The session provided an update on both planning and implementation grants, looking forward and back.

As we reported earlier, the FY 2010 competition drew 119 applications for planning grants and 42 applications for implementation grants. On March 18, HUD announced the 17 planning grant winners and 6 finalists for implementation grants. The 17 planning grant winners included as either leads or co-applicants: 13 public housing authorities, 4 local governments, 3 nonprofits, and 2 for-profit organizations. Two of the planning grant winners were associated with Promise Neighborhoods winners (one of which was in San Antonio, where the Eastside Promise Neighborhood is an UNCA member).  The Choice Neighborhoods planning grants were worth up to $250,000 each.

The 6 implementation grant finalists were located in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, and Tampa. The finalists just submitted follow up applications and the winners are expected to be announced in the "late summer" (which could be September). HUD today announced that funding from both FY 2010 (about $60 million) and FY 2011 (presumably about the same amount) will be used to fund at least 4 winners out of the 6 implementation grant finalists.

The Choice team also announced that the grant notice for the second round of Choice Neighborhoods planning grants should be released within days. There is enough funding ($3.6 million) for at least 12 new planning grants worth as much as $300,000 each.

During the webinar, the HUD staff reiterated that President Obama has requested $250 million for Choice Neighborhoods in his budget request for next year (FY 2012). They also noted that authorizing legislation has been introduced in the House (H.R. 762) by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and in the Senate (S. 624) by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

They also described further plans to solicit ideas and provide technical assistance to the field. They are seeking comments for the 2012 grant notice by July 15 and plan to hold listening sessions in Seattle and Washington, DC in June and July. They also hope to create a community of practice to share successful, innovative ideas from around the country. They plan to secure a technical assistance provider to help grantees with capacity building and a national program evaluator. Finally, they have invited all of the grantees to the Neighborhood Revitalization Conference in July and plan to hold a Choice Neighborhoods conference in the winter of 2012.

While those were the highlights, the team also answered several technical questions, which I have not summarized here but can be seen in the hour-long webinar. The webinar is available on the HUD web site here.  Look for the video dated June 3 and entitled "Choice Neighborhoods FY 11 Updates."

Choice Neighborhoods Webcast June 3

From HUD:

Dear Choice Neighborhoods Supporter,

On behalf of HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Deputy Secretary Ron Sims, I want to thank you for the support that you have shown for HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.  We are pleased that $100 million is included for Choice Neighborhoods and HOPE VI in the final Continuing Resolution for FY2011 Appropriations passed by Congress in April.

We invite you to join us as we discuss this appropriation and provide information on our FY2011 Planning Grant Competition during an upcoming webcast hosted by Sandra Henriquez, Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, and Carol Galante, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing.  The webcast will be held at 1pm EST on June 3, viewable on your computer at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/multimedia/videos.  Please RSVP for this webcast by replying to this message at choiceneighborhoods@hud.gov to confirm your intention to attend.  All those who RSVP will receive a reminder email including the website information.  Please also email your Choice Neighborhoods questions to choiceneighborhoods@hud.gov prior to the webcast.  We will address as many questions as possible during the webcast.

We also have limited seating for a live-audience showing. If you would like to attend as part of our live-audience please RSVP by replying to this message (to choiceneighborhoods@hud.gov) with the subject line “Live Audience”.  The showing will be held at the HUD Headquarters Brooke-Mondale A & B Auditoriums. Directions will be sent to those who RSVP.

In our first year, FY2010, we have been pleased to award $4 million in Planning Grants to 17 communities across the nation.  We have also announced six Implementation Grants finalists who are currently working on their final applications.  We will announce the 2-3 winners of these grants, totaling $61 million, late this summer.  These awardees and finalists were selected from over 150 Planning and Implementation Grant applications.  We were thrilled to receive so many strong applications.

Thank you for your continued belief in providing local leaders with the tools they need to transform distressed neighborhoods into sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods with the affordable housing, safe streets, and good schools every family needs.  The Administration believes Choice Neighborhoods is the right tool for local communities in difficult economic times, which is why President Obama requested funds for a number of place-based neighborhood revitalization strategies, including $250 million for Choice Neighborhoods, in the FY2012 budget.

Please don’t forget to RSVP for the webcast to be held at 1pm EST on June 3, and email choiceneighborhoods@hud.gov with any questions.

Thank you again for your support. We look forward to continuing and strengthening our partnership with you.

The Choice Neighborhoods Team

Choice Neighborhoods Allocated $65 Million

Choice Neighborhoods was allocated up to $65 million in the end-of year budget package signed into law by President Obama last week.

The final amount will be determined by HUD and drawn from the $100 million appropriated for the HOPE VI program. If HUD allocates the full $65 million to Choice Neighborhoods (which I expect), it will be the same as the previous year's funding level.

According to a HUD spokesperson:

This has been an incredibly tough budget debate. The Administration and Congress had to make some difficult choices and come together on a balanced approach to cut the deficit while growing economically to win the future. The allocation of up to $65 million for Choice Neighborhoods – while lower than our original request, reflecting budget realities – shows a deep Administration commitment to investing in innovative initiatives that challenge states and localities to create new opportunities for families. Even with many hard decisions on the table – and even as we take serious steps to reduce the deficit and provide a foundation for economic growth – it’s encouraging that all sides of the debate recognized Choice Neighborhoods as a critical tool for local leaders and communities in difficult economic times.

$30 Million for Promise Neighborhoods

Details of the budget deal just struck in Congress for the rest of the year are now trickling out. The measure includes $30 million for Promise Neighborhoods, an amount available through December 31, 2011. This would appear to provide enough funds for implementation grants and a second round of planning grants later this year. The official grant notice was expected within 60 days, though this timeline might conceivably be adjusted.

No further negotiating is expected. This is expected to be the final number for the year. Congress is expected to enact the underlying bill, HR 1473, by the end of this week.

My best guess is that the $30 million will include $10 million for another round of about 20 planning grants, $18 million or so for six 3-year implementation grants worth $3 million each, and about $2 million for technical assistance and the national program evaluation. That's complete speculation based on what was in the budget justifications earlier this year. We'll see.

It is not yet clear what the status is for Choice Neighborhoods and the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program. HOPE VI was cut from $200 million to $100 million. The Weed and Seed program at DOJ, which was to be replaced by Byrne, was eliminated.

The position of urban affairs policy czar at the White House Office of Urban Affairs was eliminated. It has been vacant since Adolfo Carrion left for a position at HUD last year.

Postscript: Stay tuned for additional announcements on the NRI Conference in Washington DC, July 21-22.

How to Evaluate Promise and Choice Neighborhoods

Robin Smith at the Urban Institute authored a brief earlier this month that explores the tricky task of evaluating comprehensive community change efforts, specifically Promise and Choice Neighborhoods.

Evaluating such efforts can be challenging for several reasons, including the varying levels of service delivered to different residents of the community, difficulty determining which results are due to which services, and the varying  program mix, which makes comparing one effort to another very difficult.

Smith recommends creating a high-quality performance measurement system that includes baseline information, the type and amount of program activities, and cost. Ideally evaluators should help design the database system. She also recommends a careful analysis of the initiative's interconnected parts to determine causality and effectiveness.

The full report, "How to Evaluate Promise and Choice Neighborhoods," can be found here.

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by Dr. Radut