Partners (Summer 1997)

Mother HOPE
by Hank Helton

Since 1937, the Federal government has invested an estimated $90 billion in the 13,741 public housing developments throughout the country. Suffice it to say, the results of this investment have been mixed. However in 1992, with the creation of HOPE VI, or the Urban Revitalization Demonstration Program, public housing authorities (PHAs) have the opportunity to revitalize public housing communities, build partnerships with other public and private sector entities, and blend public housing units into more diverse and mixed-income communities.

HOPE VI is a federal program administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to revitalize severely distressed or obsolete public housing developments. This initiative provides local PHAs with the funds and flexibility to raze and rebuild public housing units and empower residents through education and skills training, job placement, and other supportive social services.

The fiscal year 1997 allocation for HOPE VI is $550 million and is divided into four main areas - $447.5 million for reconstruction grants; $30 million in demolition grants; $70 million in Section 8 voucher program assistance; and $2.5 million for technical assistance for PHAs in their redevelopment efforts. Demolition, a requirement under the previous HOPE VI funding cycles, is not mandatory to qualify for the 1997 program.

Between 1993 and 1996, HUD used HOPE VI to fund 118 grants totaling over $2 billion to 52 PHAs throughout the country. As of September 30, 1996, HOPE VI funds had been allocated for the demolition of 44,384 public housing units, of which, 6,384 have already been razed. Approximately 24,000 units are expected to be renovated or reconstructed with the funds that have been awarded.

Eligible Applicants and Activities

Any PHA that owns or operates public housing developments is eligible to apply for funding. Under the 1997 program, eligible PHAs may submit one or two applications, for up to $35 million in combined funding requests, a reduction from previous funding cycles that awarded PHAs up to $50 million. Indian Housing Authorities were not included as eligible entities under the 1997 Appropriations Act, and thus are not eligible to apply. In addition, PHAs that administer Section 8 programs, but do not own or operate public housing developments, are not eligible for funding. Although this year's program application deadline was July 18, a second round of HOPE VI funds will be released in 1997 that can be used for demolition.

HOPE VI grants can be used to fund on-site or off-site replacement housing; the rehabilitation of existing units; new construction, demolition and other physical improvements; planning and technical assistance; and supportive services for residents. A community service component for PHA residents, a requirement of pre-1995 grantees, is no longer required.

The 1997 HOPE VI application selection criteria were based on the urgency of need for revitalization; the project's ability to lessen the isolation of low-income residents; creation of self-sufficiency among public housing residents; accountable property management and internal controls procedures; the impact of the development on the surrounding neighborhood; promotion of fair housing opportunities; community input into the planning process; the PHA's capacity to undertake the project; the efficient use of federal funds; feasibility and sustainability; and the overall quality of the proposal.

For an application to be considered for funding, four specific and one general program threshold criteria must be met. The four specific criteria are obsolescence, need for funding, the lessening of concentration, and Fair Housing. The general criterion is that an applicant must "score" at least some points on the selection benchmarks and must receive at least 15 of 25 possible points on the feasibility and sustainability criteria. If an application fails to meet any of these criteria, it will not be considered for funding.

HUD has also increased the emphasis on program management and accountability by requiring that selected grantees assemble capable development teams and carry out the proposed revitalization in a timely manner. Grantees must begin physical revitalization of the development within 18 months of the date of execution of the grant agreement or funds may be reclaimed by HUD. In addition, the physical development activities must be completed within four years. A PHA considering applying for HOPE VI funds should consider whether it has the capacity to meet these requirements.

Approximately 3 million people live in public housing communities throughout the country. The HOPE VI program, in conjunction with other HUD initiatives, offers PHAs an opportunity to better serve this population by breaking the cycle of isolation and concentration sometimes associated with public housing communities and building partnerships that provide educational and job training opportunities for residents. In addition, instead of replacing the developments as they were, PHAs are rebuilding these communities into mixed-income neighborhoods that include public housing units. Traditional public housing developments are being replaced by new developments with townhomes, garden apartments, and neo-traditional designs that incorporate a sense of community with sidewalks, porches, green spaces, and other amenities.

For more information contact Mr. Milan Ozdinec, Director, Office of Urban Revitalization, US HUD, (202)401-8812.

Public Housing Authority HOPE VI Awards
in the Sixth Federal Reserve District
PHA Site Amount Date of Award Type of Grant
Atlanta Techwood/Clark Howell $42.6 million 1993/1995 Implementation
Atlanta Perry Homes $400 thousand 1995 Planning
Atlanta Perry Homes $20 million 1996 Demolition and Revitalization
Atlanta Carver Homes $9.7 million 1996 Demolition Only
Jacksonville Durkeeville $400 thousand 1995 Planning
Jacksonville Durkeeville $21.5 million 1996 Demolition and Revitalization
Nashville Vine Hill Homes $400 thousand 1995 Planning
New Orleans Desire $44.3 million 1994 Implementation
New Orleans Fischer Development $400 thousand 1995 Planning
New Orleans St. Thomas $25 million 1996 Demolition and Revitalization
Ocala Forest View/N.H. Jones $1.6 million 1996 Demolition Only
Savannah Marcus Stubbs Tower $2.3 million 1996 Demolition Only
Tampa Riverview Terrace $873 thousand 1996 Demolition Only


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