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Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative

HUD Releases “An Early Look at Choice Neighborhoods”

Collaborative, place-based planning for neighborhood revitalization in areas of concentrated poverty is certainly a common-sense idea with a lot of intuitive appeal. But what do the data say? The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is trying to examine just that with an ongoing, systemic evaluation of the Choice Neighborhoods program. Piloted in 2010, Choice Neighborhoods is HUD’s piece of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, a federal effort to implement integrative, cross-agency, place-based policy solutions for communities blighted by long-term concentrated poverty.
A new interim report, entitled An Early Look at Choice Neighborhoods, takes a qualitative and quantitative approach to monitoring the impacts of Choice Neighborhoods on five of the original implementation sites. The report includes a baseline measurement of community characteristics such as housing stock, demographics, poverty, unemployment, and violent crime in the five neighborhoods. This helpful baseline will be used to assess the impacts of Choice Neighborhoods.
The quality and thoroughness of the report is a promising sign for just how seriously HUD is taking the budding Choice Neighborhoods initiative. Ongoing monitoring will help to identify any problems at an early and hopefully minor stage. It also signals the interest in sustaining the impacts of the program long beyond the grant terms. Hopefully, the seriousness with which HUD and the Choice Neighborhood teams are treating the demonstration of impact is a sign of a sea change in community development policy; moving away from a quick-fix mentality informed by the latest ideology and toward holistic, long-term commitments better informed by the unique needs of neighborhoods.

More Details Emerge About President’s Proposed “Promise Zones”

In April, the White House released its FY2014 budget proposal which included a new neighborhood revitalization program dubbed Promise Zones. Few details emerged until recently, when HUD’s Office of Community Planning & Development posted more information, along with some helpful FAQs, online.
The interagency, place-based Promise Zones program is inspired by the existing Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. Communities suffering from intransigent, high poverty may propose projects and must “identify a set of outcomes they will pursue to revitalize their communities, develop a strategy supporting those outcomes, and realign resources accordingly.” Promise Zone projects must be individualized and responsive to local community needs. The role of the federal government will be to “partner with and invest in communities to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, expand educational opportunities, and improve public safety.”
Up to 20 communities will be selected for Promise Zone assistance over the next four years, including up to five communities this year. Promise Zone designees will also receive competitive preference in existing NRI grant programs, such as Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods, and Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation. For 2013, designees will be chosen to apply from a list of 75 existing grantees of NRI and similar programs. Based on the pilot application process, draft qualifying and competitive criteria for future Promise Zones competitions will be released for public comment later this year. For more information, email promisezone@hud.gov.

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).

Obama’s 2014 Budget Pushes for 20 New “Promise Zones”

The White House released its FY2014 budget proposal on April 10, 2013. Although different parts of the proposed budget have been lauded or criticized by different sectors, one thing that stood out was the President’s staunch commitment to neighborhood revitalization in the wake of the Great Recession.

The existing Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) integrated multiple place-based programs from multiple federal agencies in an attempt to bring coordinated change efforts to severely distressed communities and “tackle concentrated poverty.” Literature on NRI often references the Harlem Children’s Zone as a model practice of integrated, full-spectrum services helping to revitalize a lower-income community.

The budget proposal funds the creation of 20 new “Promise Zones” to be determined through a competitive application process. The proposed budget for the project is over $735 million, which is a significant expansion and more than double what was spent on NRI projects in 2012.

In the 2014 proposed budget, the White House goes on to describe these high need Promise Zones as, “high-poverty communities where the Federal Government will engage more directly with local leaders to break down barriers and help them access and coordinate the resources and expertise they need to create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, reduce violence, and improve educational opportunities.”

It is unclear exactly how the 20 new Promise Zones will be determined, or even what the final funding allocation will be. A New York Times article on a recent speech by President Obama states, “communities would be selected over the next several years, from urban and rural applicants that show persistent woes like high joblessness and crime rates, low rates of high school graduation and college attendance and health concerns among residents.”

Interested communities are encouraged to follow the grant announcements from the Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program, the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods program, and the Department of Justice’s Byrne Justice Assistance program. Interested applicants can also look up 2012 grantees for each of these NRI programs at the links above for examples of successful projects. We will post more information on this blog as it becomes available.

Funding Opportunity: HUD Releases NOFA for FY2013 Choice Neighborhoods Grant

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the 2013 Choice Neighborhoods grant. Choice Neighborhoods is HUD’s signature element of the White House’s place-based Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI). NRI “supports locally driven solutions for transforming distressed neighborhoods using place-based strategies to address the interconnected challenges of poor quality housing, inadequate schools, poor health, high crime and lack of capital.”

Choice Neighborhoods grants are meant “to address struggling neighborhoods with distressed public housing or HUD-assisted housing through a comprehensive approach to neighborhood transformation.” Eligible applicants are public housing authorities (PHAs), local governments, nonprofits, tribal entities and for-profit developers in partnership with a public entity. The purpose behind Choice Neighborhoods is to bring together diverse community stakeholders-- local leaders, residents, PHAs, schools, police, business owners, nonprofits, and private developers—to create locally driven strategies to help struggling neighborhoods.

The maximum grant amount is $500,000 and applications are due by May 28, 2013. Choice Neighborhoods grant-funded projects should help to revitalize the neighborhoods they serve and should be people- and community-focused. Additional project eligibility standards can be found in the full grant announcement.


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by Dr. Radut