Jump to Navigation

Federal Urban Policy (General)

So Far, White House Listening Tour Emphasizes Infrastructure, Not People

Last Friday White House officials visited Seattle for another stop on the “National Conversation on the Future of Cities and Metropolitan Areas.” Adolfo Carrión wrote about it on the White House blog. As we reported after other trips to Denver, Chicago, and Kansas City, the White House office of Urban Affairs has made a point of highlighting innovative approaches cities are taking for environmentally and economically sustainable growth.

In Seattle, the leaders showcased science technology and green initiatives as national models for success. One development that the officials visited was a residence for senior citizens that included a green, vegetated rooftop equipped with sustainable technology. They also stopped by a biomedical research facility, where a panel of healthcare experts discussed the interconnectivity between jobs and infrastructure in the region.

While innovations like these are positive steps towards urban sustainability, their emphasis on infrastructure often ignores issues that have a more direct impact on local populations.  Greening rooftops is certainly a laudable initiative, but with the resources of the administration at its disposal, the White House Urban Affairs Office may be missing an opportunity to make a larger impact. So far, the office hasn't indicated that people will be at the center of its place-based development agenda, but perhaps we will see a shift in this direction once more of the administration's initiatives begin rolling out.

More Federal Dollars to Go Directly to Cities?

Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, spoke in Chicago last week about increasing direct federal aid to cities. She was joined by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. According to a Bloomberg .com story on the event:

The administration is looking for ways to reward successful programs, Jarrett said, and is considering sending more federal funding directly to U.S. mayors. “We’re going to make that kind of decision on a program by program basis,” she said.

This is consistent with other things that we have been hearing from the administration (despite the fact that cities were alleged to have been short changed in the stimulus package enacted earlier this year). Increasingly, it appears that the administration wants more aid to go directly to cities, bypassing states that typically take their own cut and do not always prioritize cities when they pass that aid to the local level. Much of the aid seems likely to be delivered on a competitive basis.

All of this is consistent with Promise Neighborhoods, which in the long run seems more likely to be about focusing, coordinating and integrating existing funding streams than generating new funding, particularly given current federal budget deficits. Changes of this magnitude will eventually require congressional approval, however, and Congress can be pretty picky when it comes to the arcane formulas they use to distribute federal money.

Department of Education's "i3 Fund": Opportunity for Promise Neighborhoods?

The Department of Education has recently announced the launch of a program that can serve as an important funding source for local effort based on the Harlem Children’s Zone. With the $650 million dollar “Investing in Innovation” grant program, Secretary Arne Duncan says that he is looking for “cutting-edge ideas that will produce the next generation for reform.” Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton of the Department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement hosted a webinar on the initiative, which has already attracted the attention of educators and community advocates across the country.

Recently dubbed the “i3 Fund," the program represents a portion of the $100 billion set aside for education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As opposed to the highly publicized Race to the Top Fund, which is operating on the state level, the i3 Fund will accept applications from local education agencies (LEAs) and nonprofit organizations working with LEAs or a consortium of schools. The purpose of the fund is to:

  • Improve K-12 achievement and close achievement gaps;
  • Decrease dropout rates;
  • Increase high school graduation rates; and
  • Improve teacher and school leader effectiveness.

These objectives all tie in with the Promise Neighborhoods initiative and local initiatives looking into federal funding may want to consider the i3 fund as an alternative. The grants are given out in three tiers, and local coalitions would most likely be eligible for the Fund’s $5 million “Development” grants. These awards will be given to local programs that have “reasonable research-based findings or theories,” and will be aimed at further developing and scaling up the efforts.

As organizations across the country consider applying for the initial round of twenty Promise Neighborhood grants, they should also keep their eye on this unique fund. Since its October 9 release of Proposed Priorities, the Department of Education has been receiving public commentary and will continue to do so until November 9, with a final notice scheduled for early next year. The rest of the timeline has not been finalized, but applications for “Development” grants are expected to be due in the late spring or early summer of 2010, with grant awards made later that year. We will keep you informed as more information and important dates are released from the i3 Fund.

Administration Officials Close Sustainable Communities Tour

A day after their trips to Chicago and Dubuque, administration officials visited Denver, where they were joined by Governor Bill Ritter and Mayor John Hickenlooper. The group held a community forum on sustainable communities after visiting Denver’s Union Station, a local transportation hub. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan highlighted the city as “a model for transforming neighborhoods to make them greener and more affordable to live, work and raise families.”
Later, he announced that HUD is awarding $300 million in competitive grants to 36 environmentally sustainable public housing revitalization projects across the country. Administrator Jackson also made a big announcement, unveiling a new EPA tool that is designed to help municipalities identify regulations that “can improve access to affordable housing, provide additional low-cost transportation options, preserve community character, and protect the local environment.”
The officials also released information about a number of new interagency endeavors and reiterated their strategy behind their partnership, which is operating in conjunction with the White House Domestic Policy Council. For a full report of the day’s events and details on these other announcements, visit HUD online.
A day after their trips to Chicago and Dubuque, administration officials representing the DOT-HUD-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities visited Denver to wrap up their three-city Sustainable Communities Tour. Joined by Governor Bill Ritter and Mayor John Hickenlooper, the group held a community forum on sustainable communities after visiting Denver’s Union Station, a local transportation hub. There, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan highlighted the city as “a model for transforming neighborhoods to make them greener and more affordable to live, work and raise families.”

Later, Secretary Donovan announced that HUD is awarding $300 million in competitive grants to 36 environmentally sustainable public housing revitalization projects across the country. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson also made a few big announcements, unveiling a new EPA tool that is designed to help municipalities identify regulations that “can improve access to affordable housing, provide additional low-cost transportation options, preserve community character, and protect the local environment.” She also mentioned that the EPA has released "This Is Smart Growth", its guide on sustainable development and economic opportunity, in Spanish.

Later, the officials released information about a number of new interagency endeavors and reiterated the strategy behind their partnership, which is operating in conjunction with the White House Domestic Policy Council. For a full report of the day’s events and details on these announcements, visit HUD online.

Choice Neighborhoods Appropriations Update

We’ve been keeping our eye on the Choice Neighborhoods initiative as it continues to make its way through the appropriations process. Choice Neighborhoods is an administration proposal to expand and revamp the HOPE VI public housing program and integrate it with neighborhood-focused programs, such as Promise Neighborhoods in some cities. As we previously reported, the White House has submitted a $250 million budget request for FY 2010. The House chose not to fund the White House proposal and dropped it from the appropriations bill that funds the program (HR 3288). The bill was passed by the House on July 23.

In its report on the bill, the House Appropriations Committee noted that Choice Neighborhoods has yet to be authorized and HOPE VI, the program it is set to replace, has existing incomplete projects. Accordingly, the chamber did not recommend any funding for the program based on the following rationale:

The Committee on Appropriations is not the appropriate body to authorize a new initiative of this scale, especially when the Financial Services Committee has worked diligently over the past several years to reauthorize HOPE VI. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the increased funding be appropriated to a proven program with more work to accomplish, until the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is properly authorized. Should the Initiative be approved by the relevant authorizing committees before the fiscal year 2010 budget is enacted, the Committee will adjust accordingly.

The administration’s Choice Neighborhoods request has been received more favorably in the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee included the full $250 million in its version of the bill. The Senate side-stepped the authorizing issue that concerned the house. According to the Senate committee report:
The Committee agrees that expanding HUD's ability to direct funds to revitalization efforts that reach beyond public housing will broaden the impact of the Department's community revitalization efforts. However, the Committee notes that the work to replace distressed public housing is not yet complete. Therefore the Committee has included language that stipulates that not less than $165,000,000 of the funding provided shall be awarded to projects where public housing authorities are the lead applicant.
The White House has thanked the Senate in a recent Statement of Administration Policy, stating that it “appreciates that the Committee provides the requested $250 million for Choice Neighborhoods, which will support the Administration’s broader effort to fight concentrated poverty and revitalize highly distressed neighborhoods.” We will continue to keep you updated as this measure continues through the appropriations process.
The administration’s Choice Neighborhoods request has been received more favorably in the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee included the full $250 million in its version of the bill. The Senate side-stepped the authorizing issue that concerned the House. According to the Senate committee report:

The Committee agrees that expanding HUD's ability to direct funds to revitalization efforts that reach beyond public housing will broaden the impact of the Department's community revitalization efforts. However, the Committee notes that the work to replace distressed public housing is not yet complete. Therefore the Committee has included language that stipulates that not less than $165,000,000 of the funding provided shall be awarded to projects where public housing authorities are the lead applicant.

The White House has thanked the Senate in a recent Statement of Administration Policy, stating that it “appreciates that the Committee provides the requested $250 million for Choice Neighborhoods, which will support the Administration’s broader effort to fight concentrated poverty and revitalize highly distressed neighborhoods.” We will continue to keep you updated as this measure continues through the appropriations process.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Federal Urban Policy (General)


Main menu 2

by Dr. Radut