This weekend, the National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein turned his eye to Chicago’s struggling Woodlawn neighborhood, a South Side community long saddled with “the full catalog of urban ills”: high unemployment, dilapidated public housing, deteriorating buildings with no commercial presence save a few beat-up salons and dollar stores, and a host of other interconnected burdens that perpetuate a cycle of decline in neighborhoods across the country.
But thanks to an infusion of $30.5 million in Choice Neighborhood funding from HUD, Woodlawn is poised to transform from a neighborhood of concentrated poverty into a thriving, mixed-income community where families are plugged into resources they need to prosper. Replacing three blocks of ’60s-era Section 8 housing projects will be 1,000 affordable homes, including units for low-income families who used to live the old, run-down buildings. Nestled among these houses will be a center where residents can access job training and other resources. The grant will also go to improving public safety and promoting reform in local schools.
Woodlawn’s Choice Neighborhood Implementation grant and the full-force renewal it will usher in show how this Administration and Department are embracing a holistic strategy to heal struggling communities, Brownstein writes:
[President Obama’s] strategy rests on the critique that, too often, Washington’s antipoverty programs have failed because they tried to treat one problem facing a community—housing, crime, education—without addressing the others. The White House is prompting federal agencies and local groups to develop more-comprehensive responses that attempt to simultaneously address all of the interlocked challenges that plague low-income neighborhoods.
For years, federal programs have aimed to revive poor neighborhoods like Woodlawn; HUD’s own HOPE VI program has helped communities revitalize severely distressed public housing with great success since 1992. But as Brownstein writes, quoting Secretary Donovan, what we’ve learned – and what this Administration has taken to heart – is that concentrated poverty is a challenge best addressed collaboratively and comprehensively:
This panoramic approach captures the goals of Obama’s urban strategy. It integrates policy across a broad range of challenges, concentrates federal resources, and demands that communities receiving aid build broad coalitions and leverage local investment. “It’s a much more comprehensive and holistic approach,” [Secretary] Donovan insists.
It takes a village to raise a child – and Choice Neighborhoods makes HUD a key player in making our most vulnerable villages stronger to raise children healthier, safer, and with more opportunities. By working across the government to comprehensively improve housing, education, employment, public safety, and transportation in the neighborhoods that need it most – and by pushing those neighborhoods to invest in revitalization and build partnerships to sustain it – we’re laying the groundwork for lasting renewal.