HUD Secretary Donovan Cites Successful DC Area HOPE VI Models for Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

At the Solutions for Working Families: 2009 Learning Conference on State and Local Housing Policy, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke about a few program proposals that are in developmental stages at the agency, including the recently introduced Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

In an effort to further address this issue, Donovan joined former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros at the National Press Club on July 14, in Washington, DC, to highlight the release of a new Brookings Institution book From Despair to Hope, which was co-edited by Cisneros.

The book recounts the history and rationale of HUD’s HOPE VI program, which was initiated in 1993 to redevelop blighted public housing projects and help revitalize the surrounding communities. The book also examines the successes and shortcomings of the HOPE VI program, providing an instructive look to the future for HUD’s redevelopment and community revitalization activities.

Donovan discussed how HUD could expand and improve upon HOPE VI, and how these efforts are reflected in HUD’s proposed successor program to HOPE VI, the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, which was introduced in May as part of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request.

The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative goes beyond the redevelopment of outdated, physically deteriorated public housing communities, which was the focus of HOPE VI. Choice Neighborhoods targets comprehensive community revitalization efforts that incorporate early childhood education, family economic self-sufficiency, green building and energy efficiency components. In addition to public housing, the Initiative will also target privately-owned properties assisted by HUD. The initiative includes a request for $250 million in the FY 2010 budget, which is a $130 million increase over the HOPE VI budget for 2009.

Donovan also emphasized how potential projects under the Initiative could be modeled after some of the most successful HOPE VI projects, which tended to take a comprehensive approach to revitalizing the surrounding communities – including the development of new, improved schools; creation of parks and other recreational spaces; and better transportation features that allow residents better access to jobs and services. “It’s not a coincidence,” Donovan said, “that the most successful mixed-income, mixed use projects looked beyond the front gates of the new development.”

While Donovan cited multiple model projects across the country, he went into particular detail about the HOPE VI revitalization efforts that have taken place in Washington, DC’s Washington Highlands neighborhood. These efforts represented both the success of the HOPE VI program and its limitations. Although some of the neighborhood’s distressed public housing communities were eligible for HOPE VI funding, other communities – demonstrating just as great a need – did not qualify for program funding, simply because they were subsidized by different programs at HUD.

Donovan commented on how this evidenced the need for an improved version of HOPE VI: “That’s why we’ve introduced our Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, to help public, private and nonprofit partners extend neighborhood transformation efforts beyond public housing – as they are already doing on their own, in spite of the fact that their government is often a barrier.”

To learn more about the model projects in Washington Highlands and other nearby Washington, DC, neighborhoods, please view the documents below. Additionally, we invite you to use the comment section below to share examples of other HOPE VI success stories that can serve as models for the new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.