Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Housing experts offer support for Choice Neighborhoods at Senate hearing

by Clare Duncan, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future

NHC invites guest blog posters to write on important housing topics. The views expressed by guest posters do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.

Today, the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development held a hearing to discuss the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. Sandra Henriquez, Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spoke first, highlighting how Choice Neighborhoods builds off the successes of the HOPE VI program by using a comprehensive, place-based approach that leverages public and private resources to address not only the distressed housing but also the community blight that often surrounds failed housing developments. She stated that the program has already leveraged a combined $1.6 billion of other investments in the 35 neighborhoods who have been awarded grants, over 12 times their total grant award.

The second panel consisted of Maria Maio, Jersey City Housing Authority; Dr. Susan Popkin, Urban Institute; Dr. Anthony Sanders, George Mason University School of Management; Paul Weech, Housing Partnership Network [and NHC board member]; and Egbert Perry, Integral Development Group. All of the witnesses highlighted the benefits of the program, including making housing a platform for other services, except for Dr. Anthony Sanders. While he agreed with the merits of the program, he suggested accelerated depreciation as a way to encourage more investment in affordable housing beyond the comparatively small $350 million requested for Choice Neighborhoods.

Subcommittee Chairman Menendez introduced S 624, the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Act of 2011, last year, which would authorize the program but it has yet to move out of committee. This hearing was a critical first step towards authorizing this program.

While not yet authorized, the program has been funded through the appropriations process since FY 2010 and has been met with high demand. So far, HUD has received over 230 applications from public, private, and nonprofit sponsors to help fund the transformation of HUD-assisted housing and neighborhoods in 37 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. However, due to the limited amount of funding, only 35 Choice Neighborhoods projects were funded in 2010 and 2011. The Administration continues to stress the importance of this program and requested $150 million for it in FY 2013, an increase of $30 million from FY 2012.

Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future organizes the Choice Neighborhoods Coalition, a group of more than 30 public, private, nonprofit and for-profit organizations that advocates for the Choice Neighborhoods program, including NHC. For more information or to join the coalition, please contact choicecoalition@sahfnet.org.

Clare Duncan serves as Policy and Program Associate at Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future. Clare was formerly a policy associate at the National Housing Conference, where she convened NHC members on a broad range of affordable housing issues including foreclosure prevention and neighborhood stabilization, energy efficiency and the intersection of housing and transportation policy. Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) is a 501(c)(3) network of eleven social enterprise nonprofits. SAHF’s members provide high quality, affordable rental homes for over 97,000 households in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

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