About the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative
The Washington Village/South Norwalk Choice Neighborhoods Initiative was initiated in 2012 when the Norwalk Housing Authority received a $500,000 CNI Planning Grant to fully develop a strategy and Implementation team. In partnership with the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, a Request for Qualifications process was initiated to retain a consulting group capable of putting together the required elements of the Transformation Plan and acting as a facilitator of the public process. After a series of interviews and the review of proposals the EJP Consulting Group was selected. In addition to completing an assessment of community needs and resources, a Development Team needed to be identified to assemble the financial resources, undertake the housing development and provide the case management services required for the residents along with relocation support.
A second Request for Qualifications was solicited to identify a housing developer with the experience and access to capital necessary to undertake a construction project of this scale. Ultimately Trinity Financial was selected and the planning and permitting process for the housing component of the CNI was initiated.
Finally a selection process was conducted to find an organization that could manage the resident assistance strategy including the temporary relocation of residents during the construction process. Housing Opportunities Unlimited was retained due to their extensive experience with tenant engagement and relocation assistance.
In collaboration with the Housing Authority and the Redevelopment Agency, the development team created a Transformation Plan with strategies for Educational Assistance, Human Service (People) Support, Housing Development and Neighborhood Improvement. This was accomplished with the generous support and involvement of the local human service community, the City of Norwalk, and the residents of Washington Village and the South Norwalk community. The CNI Implementation Grant application and $30,000,000 award was successful as a result of the quality of the planning process, the involvement of the community and the demonstrated capacity of the Development Partners.
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The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and supports locally driven strategies to address struggling neighborhoods with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing through a comprehensive approach to neighborhood transformation. Local leaders, residents, and stakeholders, such as public housing authorities, cities, schools, police, business owners, nonprofits, and private developers, come together to create and implement a plan that transforms distressed HUD housing and addresses the challenges in the surrounding neighborhood. The program is designed to catalyze critical improvements in neighborhood assets, including vacant property, housing, services and schools.
The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is focused on three core goals:
- Housing: Replace distressed public and assisted housing with high-quality mixed-income housing that is well-managed and responsive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood;
- People: Improve educational outcomes and intergenerational mobility for youth with services and supports delivered directly to youth and their families; and
- Neighborhood: Create the conditions necessary for public and private reinvestment in distressed neighborhoods to offer the kinds of amenities and assets, including safety, good schools, and commercial activity, that are important to families' choices about their community.
To achieve these core goals, communities must develop a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy, or Transformation Plan. This Transformation Plan will become the guiding document for the revitalization of the public and/or assisted housing units, while simultaneously directing the transformation of the surrounding neighborhood and positive outcomes for families. To successfully implement the Transformation Plan, applicants will need to work with public and private agencies, organizations (including philanthropic organizations), and individuals to gather and leverage resources needed to support the financial sustainability of the plan. These efforts should build community support for and involvement in the development of the plan. Implementation Grants support those communities that have undergone a comprehensive local planning process and are ready to implement their "Transformation Plan" to redevelop the neighborhood.
Since 2010, Choice Neighborhoods has awarded competitive grants to 12 Implementation Grantees and 63 Planning Grantees across the country. Demand for Choice Neighborhoods has far outpaced supply. Choice Neighborhoods has been able to fund only 10% of Implementation Grant applications and 17% of Planning Grant applications. During Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011, Choice Neighborhoods was funded as a demonstration program within HOPE VI at $65 million each year. Choice Neighborhoods has been funded in place of HOPE VI since then at $120 million in Fiscal Year 2012, $113.7 million (due to sequestration) in Fiscal Year 2013, $90 million in Fiscal Year 2014, and $80 million in Fiscal Year 2015. The President's FY16 Budget includes a request for $250 million for the program. Choice Neighborhoods awarded a new round of Planning Grants in January 2015 and recently announced nine finalists for the Fiscal Year 2014 Implementation Grant competition.
Choice Neighborhoods is a central part of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), an interagency partnership between HUD and the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Treasury to support locally driven solutions for transforming distressed neighborhoods.
~ Visit the HUD Choice Neighborhoods website ~
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