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HUD Lauds Chicago-area Program for Equitable Development

A recent article from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Policy Development and Research division focused on the importance of ensuring equity in communities’ smart growth plans. HUD’s definition of “smart growth,” in this case, included intentional thinking and planning to support “safe, healthy, equitable, and prosperous communities.” Regional collaboration in the Chicago area was specifically cited as a model of intentionally supporting equity in housing development.
 
The Chicago Regional Housing Choice Initiative (CRHCI) officially launched with the help of HUD in 2011, but has been working as a multi-sector collaborative effort to address affordable housing concerns since 1999. HUD supports the CRCHI pilot in part to demonstrate “if mobility counseling and the regional administration of local PHA resources can give families desirable location outcomes while reducing government costs and administrative burdens.” The Initiative consists of eight area PHAs, the Metropolitan Planning Council, HUD, and a non-profit partner.
 
These Chicago-area partners were motivated to address affordable housing and equity issues because of the region’s growing imbalance between jobs and affordable housing, and fears that these developments threatened the region’s economic competitiveness. Simply put: people could not find affordable housing on the incomes provided by the area’s fastest growing labor markets. The mismatch of jobs, labor needs, housing, and affordability meant that residents could often not afford to live near their jobs and neighborhoods became increasingly segregated by income.
 
To begin to address these issues, CRHCI encourages families to use Housing Choice Vouchers to facilitate access to different neighborhoods, spurs the construction of mixed-income housing, and provides mobility counseling to families seeking affordable housing. The pilot project has had successes—345 vouchers provide subsidies in 28 communities, with more than 1,700 apartments either in use or in development. CRCHI also uses data from HUD to map the region using an “opportunity index” which assesses neighborhood quality based on housing stability, job access, and transit access. The information helps CRHCI identify “high-opportunity areas” that may be suitable sites for ongoing affordable housing development.
 
CRCHI’s success demonstrates that with intentionality and planning, affordable housing development can be equitable and financially shrewd. Ultimately, creating a regional collaborative of partners helped keep housing affordable and convenient for many. Rather than isolating lower-income families, CRCHI’s efforts help to integrate all income levels into smart growth neighborhoods that are beneficial for both community building and regional economic competitiveness.

White House Announces Inaugural “Promise Zones”

Last week, coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, President Obama reiterated his long-standing commitment to neighborhood revitalization and community building by announcing the first five “Promise Zones.” Each community designated a Promise Zone will be targeted for comprehensive, interagency, cooperative assistance with projects aimed at fighting poverty and blight. Up to 20 Promise Zones will be designated in the next four years. The first five are: San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
 
The Promise Zones initiative grew out of the White House’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), meant to encourage place-based policy development and interagency cooperation for the purpose of creating “Ladders of Opportunity” out of poverty for some of the country’s most-blighted communities. Through NRI, low income neighborhoods were targeted for community-based housing, education, and public safety projects that prioritized local needs and resident-centered decision making. NRI and Promise Zones both acknowledge that every community is unique and so needs individualized responses to fighting poverty.
 
Eligible applicants were limited in the first round of Promise Zone designations to existing NRI grantees, but the next round will be open to any community that meets the eligibility criteria. The application may be available as early as February, 2014. For more information about each of the five new Promise Zones, read below.
 
Los Angeles, CA (Neighborhoods of Pico Union, Westlake, Koreatown, Hollywood, and East Hollywood): Los Angeles’ Promise Zone will work toward increasing housing affordability, expanding their existing community schools model, improving career and technical education opportunities, improved public transit infrastructure, and charging local political leadership with improving efficiency.
 
We are pleased to announce that Alliance member agency the Youth Policy Institute is a lead partner in LA’s Promise Zone. Dixon Slingerland, Executive Director of the Youth Policy Institute, said of the announcement:
 
“It was an honor for me to join Mayor Eric Garcetti at the White House last week for President Obama’s historic announcement that Los Angeles had been designated as a Promise Zone, one of only three cities selected in the nation. YPI is proud to be the lead partner with the City in this effort and to be the only agency in the country to have been awarded all three White House signature neighborhood revitalization initiatives — Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods, and Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation. YPI believes, as the President does, that a child’s zip code should never determine her destiny.”
 
San Antonio, TX (Eastside Neighborhood): San Antonio’s Promise Zone will focus on job creation and training, the establishment of high quality pre-K programs, improved college access and adult education initiatives, and improved public safety through better street lighting and demolishing abandoned buildings.
 
Philadelphia, PA (West Philadelphia): Philadelphia’s Promise Zone will focus on improved job skills training and adult education, small business development, building a supermarket in the West Philadelphia neighborhood to provide both jobs and better quality food, mentoring middle and high school youth for college readiness, and better community-based policing efforts.
 
Southeastern Kentucky (Kentucky Highlands): In the Kentucky Highlands, the Promise Zone will help to diversify the economy and make it more resilient by leveraging private sector funds to grow small businesses, training youth in entrepreneurship and leadership, and developing metrics to evaluate college and career readiness.
 
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma: The Choctaw Nation’s Promise Zone will focus on improved workforce training, investing in infrastructure, improving education through better data sharing, more parent supports, and early literacy initiatives, and pursuing economic diversification.

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by Dr. Radut