Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guest Blogger Sunia Zaterman: HOPE VI - Creating Communities of Opportunity

The Hope VI program has been hailed as the most significant federal housing initiative in the last half century – injecting $6.5 billion in public capital investment and leveraging three times as much in private investment in the most troubled and despairing neighborhoods in the nation. The neighborhood transformations are dramatic. But equally as important, HOPE VI has created a laboratory for innovation that will shape housing and neighborhood reinvestment policies for decades to come. The Obama administration’s Choice Neighborhood proposal is a testament to the impact HOPE VI has had on how we think about developing and sustaining communities.

The latest research on HOPE VI, a soon-to-be published MacArthur Foundation study entitled, “The Economic Benefits of HOPE VI”, finds that HOPE VI redevelopments have had significant economic and fiscal impacts on their surrounding areas. The HOPE VI neighborhoods in the study showed major drops in violent crime rates, increases in household income and rising home values. The study concludes that HOPE VI is a useful and cost-effective approach for catalyzing positive economic change in local communities.

These profound neighborhood improvements are a product of fundamental policy shifts -- acknowledging that the underfunded and archaic public housing system was producing and perpetuating physically, socially and economically isolated communities of concentrated poverty. Hope VI set out to repair the fabric of these neighborhoods, reduce the concentrations of poverty and improve the quality of life for residents. The policies and tools to accomplish these challenging goals evolved over time but have become standard practice for public housing authorities, who are now in the vanguard of community developers.

We have learned from HOPE VI the necessary ingredients for creating communities of opportunity:

• Targeted public and private capital investment;
• Regulatory flexibility that allows locally-driven housing strategies to address local market and economic conditions;
• Mixed-income housing that serves a broad range of incomes and provides a range of housing types;
• Partnerships with residents and the private, non-profit and local government sectors to address employment, education and supportive services needs; and
• New urbanism and green development patterns that create sustainable neighborhoods with a full range of services and amenities.

NHC Member Partner Sunia Zaterman has served as executive director for the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, or CLPHA, since 1994. She also serves on the board of trustees of CHF International, an international non-profit housing and community development organization.

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