Two Little Rock Public Housing Sites to be Revitalized

Don Babers, HUD

(KATV) Little Rock is one of 13 communities in the U.S. chosen for a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant. It's intended for two public housing sites affected by high crime and abandoned homes.

Metropolitan Housing Alliance didn't get the $300,000 dollar check by accident or luck; it was all through a lot of hard work by them, the local HUD office and their community partners.

The goal is to turn a distressed neighborhood into a choice neighborhood.

Sunset Terrace and Elm Street Public Housing cover a two square mile area near the fairgrounds where there's high crime and the vacancy rate is 3.6% times higher than the county rate.

During the press conference Tuesday, Don Babers said, "We can't get anymore land, but we can fix the land that we have."

Babers lived a few blocks from the locations in the 1970's; during a time he says the community was thriving. He is now the HUD Regional Administrator and wants to reclaim the neighborhood. "We also would like to see some job creation, transportation as well as health and safety concern."

To help with that vision, HUD gave Metropolitan Housing Alliance a $300,000 check they called a late Christmas present.

Ken Richardson has done gang intervention for 20-years, he wants to address public safety through community building because gangs and crimes are strongest where a since of community is weakest. Richardson says, "So while we are pleased we have money available to rebuild homes and houses and streets, we also want to have a commitment to rebuild the people who live in this community."

The rental houses will be new and energy efficient, but built to look like the existing neighborhood and that means job creation.

Unfortunately it's not going to happen overnight. A committee will be created and consist of HUD staff, their partners along with surrounding businesses, faith groups and the community. The planning process is expected to take 18-months.

Babers says studies have shown that you can look at a zip code and get a good idea of what the future of a child is going to be whom lives in the area and it's time to level the playing field.

For more details see the press release below.

HUD Awards $3.6 Million among 13 communities in Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants, Little Rock gets $300,000

HUD Press Release: Today, it was announced 13 communities across the U.S. will receive $3.6 million in Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants.

(See attached list and project summary for this all of the grantees.)

"All across the country, local planners are serious about rolling up their sleeves to transform distressed neighborhoods into choice neighborhoods," said Donovan. "These communities can now begin the comprehensive planning needed to turn distressed housing and long-neglected neighborhoods into viable and sustainable mixed-income communities that support positive outcome for families."

Building on nearly 20 years of success through HUD's HOPE VI Program, Choice Neighborhoods links housing improvements with a wider variety of public services including schools, public transit and employment opportunities. The program is a centerpiece of the Obama Administration's interagency Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, a collaboration between HUD and the Departments of Education, Justice, Treasury and Health and Human Services. With support from the White House Domestic Policy Council and White House Office of Urban Affairs, the interagency partnership supports local solutions for sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods with the affordable housing, safe streets and good schools all families need.

As a result of partnerships like these, the Obama Administration is making it easier for local leaders who are working to redevelop neighborhoods to also access support for cradle-to-career educational programs through the Education Department's Promise Neighborhoods initiative, public safety strategies through the Justice Department, and community health center improvements through the Department of Health and Human Services.

HUD received 71 submissions for FY 2011 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants from communities across the U.S. Successful applicants demonstrated their intent to transform neighborhoods while leveraging outside investments and other federal dollars to plan for high-quality public schools, outstanding education and early learning programs, public assets, public transportation, and improved access to jobs and well-functioning services. HUD is focused on directing resources to address three core goals - housing, people and neighborhoods.

The communities awarded the planning grants announced today will build the capacity needed to undertake a successful neighborhood transformation and create a choice neighborhood. These grants enable communities to create a comprehensive Transformation Plan, or road map, to transform distressed public and/or assisted housing within a distressed community. This Federal support provides a significant incentive for the local community to take critical steps to create viable neighborhood transformation.

Recently, HUD announced, an innovative online platform to spotlight comprehensive information about grantees and top-tier applicants with the hope that others will consider providing resources. This web portal is intended to provide information funders and other local stakeholders can use to support applications that HUD deemed promising, but was unable to fund. The site also offers communities greater access to similar work happening around the country and provides best-practice models that might help shape their efforts. Today's 2011 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant recipients and the eight competitive runners-up, will be featured on next week.

Congress approved the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative with the passage of HUD's FY 2010 budget, and in FY 2011 authorized HUD to use $65 million to provide competitive grants to assist in the transformation, rehabilitation and preservation of public housing and privately owned HUD-assisted housing. Congress recently appropriated $120 million for Fiscal Year 2012. Choice Neighborhoods builds on the successes and lessons of HUD's HOPE VI program and widens the traditional pool of eligible applicants beyond public housing authorities to include local governments, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit developers (who apply jointly with a public entity).