November 6, 2015

New Choice Neighborhoods Awards Bring Community Transformation Plans to Life

Photo: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramírez at the announcement of the Sacramento Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant award.

In Sacramento, CA, the River District-Railyards neighborhood, once the western terminus of the First Transcontinental Railroad area, was a hub for industrial, warehousing, and distribution activities in the region. As other modes of transportation became available, however, the area declined and was increasingly isolated for decades. But the community and local leaders have been determined to turn their neighborhood around. Supported in part by a FY 2011 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant, they built a strong coalition of stakeholders and a community-driven transformation plan.

On September 28, 2015, HUD awarded a highly competitive Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant to the Housing Authority of the County of Sacramento and the City of Sacramento to bring this plan to life. I traveled to Sacramento to announce the $30 million Choice Neighborhoods award, and I was touched by the sheer exuberance on the faces of those present as the announcement was made. This award and over $246 million in additional money leveraged, will enable the community to 1) replace a deteriorating public housing development with sustainable, mixed-income housing; 2) create opportunities for the families living in public housing; and 3) revitalize the surrounding neighborhood.

With us at the announcement was Decoe Gilmore, a 15-year resident of Twin Rivers, the public housing community located in the heart of the Choice Neighborhoods revitalization effort. Ms. Gilmore expressed how excited the community is to see the transformation take place, bringing public and private investments in new housing, access to transportation, and job opportunities, all to create “a neighborhood of choice.” With a number of schools and services for youth nearby, she was particularly pleased that this effort will result in safe routes for the community’s children to walk to these locations. “We can’t wait for the first knock-down day,” she said.

Sacramento was one of five communities from across the country who received Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grants that day. In Kansas City, Missouri, HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced the award to another excited crowd.

“The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is responsible for transforming what were once vacant lots, crumbling parks and storefronts and distressed housing into vibrant communities,” said Secretary Castro. “It has become one of our nation’s most important tools in the fight to ensure that every family – no matter where they live – has the resources and strong foundation to succeed.”

Meanwhile, more awards were made in Atlanta, GA, Memphis, TN, and Milwaukee, WI. Choice Neighborhoods grants give communities the tools they need to transform struggling neighborhoods with distressed public and/or HUD-assisted housing. Since 2010, Choice Neighborhoods has awarded 17 Implementation Grants, totaling more than $500 million, and 63 Planning Grants totaling more than $20 million. These grants collectively have or will replace a total of 13,359 public housing units.

The five new Implementation Grant awardees have proposed to replace over 1,650 distressed public housing units with more than 2,800 new mixed-income housing units, raise employment and education outcomes, and catalyze neighborhood improvements. To read summaries for the five new Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grantees, click here.

To learn more about Choice Neighborhoods and the early successes from earlier Choice Neighborhoods grantees, see the 2015 Choice Neighborhoods Grantee Report.

Lourdes Castro Ramírez is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public and Indian Housing.

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