Thursday, September 10, 2009

Guest Blogger Carl Greene: Positive Outcomes Seen from HOPE VI Grants, but Program's Success Requires Restored Funding Levels & an Even Playing Field

HOPE VI has become a shadow of itself as the result of tremendous funding reductions over the last 10 years, almost to the point where it is now barely a program worthy of conversation. The program awards grants to only three or four housing authorities per year.

A major downside to the poor odds of being selected involves community relations. As part of the application process, a public housing authority (PHA) must get the community involved and excited over the plan. More often than not, the community works itself up only to be let down. That leaves the housing authority in the position of explaining the outcome to residents.

Fortunately, through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, we have been able to redevelop many more sites without the help of HOPE VI. Still, the remarkable results we have seen in Philadelphia – both in terms of on-schedule completion of projects and the economic benefits – argue for including a PHA’s HOPE VI history as part of the evaluation for the next grant.

Philadelphia has received five HOPE VI grants since the program’s inception. We have leveraged those dollars to bring significant neighborhood-changing impacts to the five communities affected. But those sites comprise only a small percentage of the properties we manage.

The only hope for a revival of HOPE VI is to increase funding to levels seen in the 1990s and to even the playing field in terms of preference so that older, larger PHA’s can compete. The current criteria favor “high-performing” housing authorities who aren’t saddled with aging inventories.

Carl Greene is executive director of NHC Member Partner the Philadelphia Housing Authority and has overseen an incredible transformation of the agency and an unprecedented building boom. About $1.3 billion dollars is being invested demolishing outdated high-rise towers and similar housing in the city and replacing it with modern low-rise high-quality homes.

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