On January 16th, HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced a new round of Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants. After a highly competitive process with over 50 applicants, targeted federal investments of up to $500,000 were awarded to neighborhoods in: Flint, MI; Gary, IN; Louisville, KY; Mobile, AL; North Las Vegas, NV; and St. Louis, MO. These awards are the first step in transforming neighborhoods of distress into neighborhoods of opportunity. The strides made by the existing Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grantees show the transformative power that a small federal investment can have on local communities.
Choice Neighborhoods grants enable communities to revitalize struggling neighborhoods that have distressed public or HUD-assisted housing. While Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grants put plans into action, Planning Grants enable local leaders, residents, and other stakeholders to create a Transformation Plan that will guide the revitalization of the distressed housing and the surrounding neighborhood. Planning Grants represent a critical resource that many cities and towns have not had access to until recently. These grants provide the opportunity to not only develop effective strategies, but also to build and strengthen the partnerships necessary to implement neighborhood change. Since 2010, 63 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants have been awarded to urban and rural neighborhoods around the nation.
A recent report from the 2014 Choice Neighborhoods Grantee Conference showcases how several Planning Grantees are laying the groundwork to profoundly impact struggling neighborhoods:
- In Columbus, Ohio, the City, Housing Authority, and The Ohio State University, created a dynamic coordinating entity called “Partners Achieving Community Transformation” or PACT. Together, these stakeholders developed the Blueprint for Community Investment for the Near East Side neighborhood. Because of their high-quality strategies and partnerships, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority was awarded a FY 2013 Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant to realize their plan, which includes redeveloping the distressed Pointdexter Village public housing into 449 mixed-income housing units. The planning and implementation efforts have leveraged more than $180 million in public and private sources – including a $34.5 million commitment from the City of Columbus for homeownership finance programs, significant infrastructure improvements, small business loans, and a new state-of-the-art aquatic center.
- In Springfield, MA, the 2011 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant process positioned the City of Springfield to help secure a 2013 Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Planning and Implementation Grant. This award is enabling Springfield to replicate a highly successful, local, community-oriented policing model in the South End neighborhood. This community-oriented policing model is already working to reduce crime by 67 percent in another Springfield neighborhood.
- In Spartanburg, South Carolina, the City, the Housing Authority and 14 other key stakeholders came together to transform the declining Northside neighborhood. In 2012, these partners secured a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant. Through the Planning Grant process, the City Council approved targeting over a quarter of its CDBG funds to this one neighborhood; the Housing Authority dedicated $1.2 million of their Housing Replacement Funds; and, in response to the City’s $250,000 commitment, the partners in this small city committed $3.5 million.
Kyleen and Christina are Neighborhood and Community Investment Specialists in the Choice Neighborhoods Office, Office of Public Housing Investments, Office of Public and Indian Housing.