HUD's Choice Neighborhoods Program Would Build on HOPE VI
(This entry summarizes an article in the November 13, 2009 edition of the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Memo to Members, http://nlihc.org/detail/article.cfm?article_id=6570)
HUD has proposed the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) as the successor to the HOPE VI program. Its FY2010 budget proposal seeks $250M for grants that HUD would competitively award. Only public housing agencies (PHAs) and distressed public housing are eligible for funding under the HOPE VI program; under CNI, local governments, HUD assisted property owners, for and non-profit developers, and other community organization, as well as PHAs could apply for funding, and that funding could be used to revitalize, demolish, or replace privately owned HUD assisted property as well. The purposes of CNI, as laid out in a HUD proposal circulated in early November, are:
- to transform neighborhoods of extreme poverty into mixed-income neighborhoods of long-term viability by revitalizing severely distressed housing, improving access to economic opportunities, and investing and leveraging investments in well-functioning services, educational opportunities, public assets, public transportation, and improved access to jobs;
- to grow communities and metropolitan areas by concentrating and coordinating federal funding for public transportation, education, housing, energy, supportive services, and environmental programs and initiatives; and
- to support positive outcomes for families, including improvements in educational achievements and economic self-sufficiency.
Besides having the characteristics and consequences of extreme poverty, a neighborhood would need to have the potential for long-term viability to get a CNI grant.
Required activities under CNI would include:
- the transformation of housing through rehabilitation, preservation, and demolition and replacement of severely distressed housing that incorporates energy efficient principles, and activities that promote economic self-sufficiency;
- activities that demonstrate that each resident who wishes to return to the revitalized on-site housing or replacement housing outside of the neighborhood can return and must be provided a preference in the new housing;
- replacement housing;
- fair housing activities;
- service coordination, support services, mobility counseling and housing search assistance for residents displaced as a result of revitalization of severely distressed projects;
- resident involvement in planning and implementation of the transformation plan;
- tracking of residents relocated during redevelopment throughout the life of the grant or until full occupancy of the replacement housing, whichever is longer; and
- links to local educational efforts.
Among the concerns about CNI are its lack of detail about resident participation at CNI sites and the right of residents to return to transformed housing. That several activities related to relocation are “eligible” rather than “required” is also a concern.
Replacement housing could be built on the same site or within 25 miles of it, as long it offers access to economic and other opportunities and services; if it is outside the neighborhood of the original site, it must not be in an area of minority concentration or extreme poverty.
Vouchers could be used to replace up to half of the units lost if the grantee can show a 80% success rate for vouchers issued over the last 2 years to comparable families in the area, a wide dispersion of existing vouchers across the area, and a relatively high vacancy rate for rental units with costs below the voucher payment standard.
Among the criteria for awarding grants would have to be:
- the ability of the applicant’s plan to further CNI’s purposes;
- inclusive local planning;
- coordination of multiple funding sources;
- data sufficient to demonstrate need, potential benefits and the neighborhood’s potential for long-term viability;
- incorporation of green building and energy-efficient design principles;
- availability of public transportation and other services;
- support for displaced residents, including assistance in obtaining housing in areas with low concentrations of poverty and minority populations;
- sufficient housing to accommodate displaced residents;
- assessment of, and plan to address, special needs for ongoing supportive services;
- the ability to leverage funds; and;
- replacement of units already demolished or disposed of pre-CNI.