OPA-LOCKA (CBS4)- Thirteen communities across the U.S., including Opa-Locka, will split $3.6 million to use towards grassroots efforts to revitalize housing and their community, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Tuesday.

According to HUD, building on nearly 20 years of success through HUD’s HOPE VI Program, Choice Neighborhoods links housing improvements with a wider variety of public services including schools, public transit and employment opportunities.

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The Opa-locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC) was the grantee of the Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant, and they will receive $300,000. The other 12 cities include Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Little Rock, Arkansas; Sacramento, California and Washington, DC. The amounts ranged from $200,000 to $300,000. For the full list of cities and grant amount received, click here.

For the city of Opa-Locka, the OLCDC, working with EJP Consulting Group, will be embarking upon an 18-month planning process to determine how The Gardens housing development at 13180 Port Said Road in Opa-Locka  can be transformed to benefit the greater Nile Gardens community.

“All across the country, local planners are serious about rolling up their sleeves to transform distressed neighborhoods into choice neighborhoods,” said HUD secretary Shaun Donovan. “These communities can now begin the comprehensive planning needed to turn distressed housing and long-neglected neighborhoods into viable and sustainable mixed-income communities that support positive outcome for families.”

Currently, Nile Gardens struggles with high poverty and vacancy rates where 43 percent of residents qualify as extremely low-income and 10 percent of the housing stock has been vacant for more than 90 days, the grant’s report pointed out.

According to HUD, OLCDC will create a plan that will identify how to replace The Gardens with new mixed-income and energy-efficient units in an amenity-rich section of the neighborhood.

This effort will build off the planning efforts OLCDC led in nearby neighborhoods to expand the area of investment and opportunity and to emphasize the new opportunities for transit-oriented development in this community.

The program is a centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s interagency Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, a collaboration between HUD and the Departments of Education, Justice, Treasury and Health and Human Services. The interagency partnership supports local solutions for sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods with the affordable housing, safe streets and good schools all families need.

HUD received 71 submissions for FY 2011 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants from communities across the U.S.  Successful applicants demonstrated their intent to transform neighborhoods while leveraging outside investments and other federal dollars to plan for high-quality public schools, outstanding education and early learning programs, public assets, public transportation, and improved access to jobs and well-functioning services. HUD is focused on directing resources to address three core goals – housing, people and neighborhoods.

According to HUD, the communities awarded the planning grants will “build the capacity needed to undertake a successful neighborhood transformation and create a choice neighborhood.  These grants enable communities to create a comprehensive Transformation Plan, or road map, to transform distressed public and/or assisted housing within a distressed community.”

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The federal support provides a significant incentive for the local community to take critical steps to create viable neighborhood transformation.

Recently, HUD announced Partner.HUD.gov, an innovative online platform to spotlight comprehensive information about grantees and top-tier applicants with the hope that others will consider providing resources. This web portal is intended to provide information funders and other local stakeholders can use to support applications that HUD deemed promising, but was unable to fund.  The site also offers communities greater access to similar work happening around the country and provides best-practice models that might help shape their efforts.

The grant recipients and the eight competitive runners-up, will be featured on Partner.HUD.gov next week.

Congress approved the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative with the passage of HUD’s FY 2010 budget, and in FY 2011 authorized HUD to use $65 million to provide competitive grants to assist in the transformation, rehabilitation and preservation of public housing and privately owned HUD-assisted housing.

Congress recently appropriated $120 million for Fiscal Year 2012, HUD said.






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