Flint – January 16, 2015 – Building on a commitment to help local communities redevelop distressed public housing and transform neighborhoods, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced seven new Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant awards, including $500,000 to the City of Flint. These awards will help grantees craft comprehensive, locally driven plans to revitalize and transform distressed neighborhoods. Part of the Obama Administration’s effort to build Ladders of Opportunity to the middle class, HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative promotes a comprehensive approach to transforming neighborhoods struggling to address the interconnected challenges of distressed housing, inadequate schools, poor health, high crime, and lack of capital.
“These Choice Neighborhood grants will spark the creation of community plans for progress,” said Castro. “We look forward to working with local leaders to breathe new life into struggling neighborhoods, transforming them into places where residents can flourish and dreams can thrive.”
The City of Flint and the Flint Housing Commission are partnering to address the historic challenges facing the Atherton East public housing development and the surrounding community. The neighborhood immediately surrounding Atherton East has a poverty rate of 80 percent and the broader South Flint target area has a poverty rate of nearly 40 percent. Like much of the City, South Flint has experienced a declining population resulting in increased blight and large tracts of vacant land. The area around Atherton East also has significant crime, highlighted by the tragedy of three murders in recent weeks.
However, the South Sagninaw Corridor also has key assets. The Imagine Flint Master Plan identifies the South Saginaw Corridor as a priority area for the development of a neighborhood plan. The South Saginaw Task Force has been instrumental in convening community partners and identifying opportunities for improvement within the community. The neighborhood is also home to Diplomat Pharmacy, one of Flint’s largest and fastest growing employers.
Choice Neighborhoods is HUD’s signature place-based initiative and its vision builds on the work that has been done by the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, an interagency partnership between HUD, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and Treasury, since 2009. Choice Neighborhoods is focused on three core goals:
With this new grant, the City, Housing Commission, and HUD will work with residents, local leaders, schools, business owners, nonprofits, and private developers to create a plan for transforming Atherton East and addressing the challenges in the surrounding neighborhood. Current funding will not cover hard costs of construction, but the resulting Transformation Plan will put the City and Housing Commission in a strong position to pursue additional funding, such as a Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant that can be as large as $30 million. Developing this plan is expected to take two years, and community members and residents of Atherton East will be engaged throughout the process. The property could be renovated, or demolished and rebuilt on-site, or demolished and rebuilt elsewhere in the neighborhood. While many decisions must be made during the planning phase, the City and Housing Commission are committed to replacing 100% of units and providing current lease-compliant residents with the right to live in the redeveloped property.
The Imagine Flint Master Plan prioritizes social equity and specifically calls for work to improve opportunity for residents of Atherton East. Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said, “Decades ago Flint made the mistake of putting its public housing in some of the most isolated parts of the city, and now we’re seeing the results – high crime, concentrated poverty, and limited economic opportunity. In just the past few weeks, we’ve seen three murders at Atherton East. This grant gives us the opportunity to work hand in hand with the Flint Housing Commission and residents to break the cycle and reconnect families to opportunity.”
This new funding is one indicator of the importance of the federal government’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative. This is the first Choice Neighborhoods grant issued in the State of Michigan, and the SC2 team played an instrumental role in helping the City and Housing Commission build a stronger partnership and explore innovative funding opportunities to implement the Master Plan’s vision.