The purpose of the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant is to revitalize struggling neighborhoods with distressed public housing or HUD assisted housing. As an initial requirement, each project must concentrate on the rehabilitation of at least one housing structure. Yet there are much broader objectives to this program. Part of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), the grant is not only about the physical renovation of buildings, but also the transformation of communities into vital places to live and work. Unlike past efforts, which often focused on problems like economic insecurity in a vacuum, HUD is taking a "holistic" approach to help selected areas redefine themselves.
Since complex social issues need multipronged solutions, collaboration is a vital part of the strategy. In looking at recipients of past winners, one finds local governments and economic development corporations partnered with public schools, universities, nonprofits, religious groups, police departments, health care centers, and local businesses. Even more unique is the collaboration between multiple federal agencies. Nine Choice Neighborhoods are part of the Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods, which strive to offer “cradle-to-career” educational opportunities. Nine are also receiving funds from the Department of Justice’s Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant program to improve safety.
A wide variety of partners means a wide variety of new activity for recipients:
- The Dorchester area of Boston turned an abandoned two-acre meat factory into a food center that can accommodate 50 new small businesses.
- Near the French Quarter in New Orleans, Iberville/Tremé will see new mixed income, public and senior housing, as well as health programs and literacy support.
- In Seattle, the old Yesler Steam Plant is now a community center for job training, early childhood education, and youth development and Historic Washington Hall is in restoration.
- San Antonio’s Eastside neighborhood rebranded itself EastPoint with the advent of a new middle school, a 15 percent drop in chronic absenteeism and an increase in high school graduation rates from 45 to 84 percent.
- Other typical projects include expanded public transportation, enhanced public safety, community gardens, urban farms, nuisance abatement, parenting classes, financial coaching, cultural engagement, computer centers, internet access, and recreational activities.
The synergy created when many stakeholders come together may be paying off. According to HUD, every $1 the agency puts into Choice Neighborhood sites results in $7.50 leveraged in additional funding from other sources. In turn, those financial investments strengthen emotional investments and the sense of community needed for success.