Using the Web to Encourage Affordable Housing Investment
In the early 1990s, a group known as the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing was formed to develop a National Action Plan to repair public housing that was in desperate need of rehabilitation. From 1993 on, the program awarded millions of dollars in grants to aid in the revitalization and in some instances demolition and rebuilding of public housing. In 2010, in an effort to build upon and expand the success of what became known as the HOPE VI program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched a new initiative called Choice Neighborhoods.
HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program was created to expanding funding beyond public housing. It’s purpose is to encourage not just revitalization of public housing units, but of entire neighborhoods, through improvements in everything from infrastructure to retail space and schools. Each year, millions of dollars are awarded through Choice Neighborhoods. And while funding can help get much-needed revitalization projects off the ground, many projects need more money than what’s available. Rather than let projects just sit idle and unfinished, HUD has launched a new web-based tool in an effort to increase private investment in these projects.
The new tool allows potential investors to search, via an interactive map, for regional projects that submitted funding requests via Choice Neighborhoods. Grant recipients are listed, as are applicants which HUD considered “strong,” but for which funding was not available.
The website, Partner.Hud.Gov, includes detailed information about Choice Neighborhoods applicants, including contact information, the neighborhood or area targeted for development, and the amount of grant money received, if any. When a user clicks on the name of a grant recipient, he is redirected to a separate web page that generally includes a detailed map of the neighborhood or area for which the application was submitted, and a thorough description of the project, including key partners.
This year, HUD received over 150 applications, but was only able to grant funding to 22 projects. And even some of the projects that received grants need additional investment dollars because they didn’t receive their full funding request from HUD. HUD hopes that making applicant information available on an easy-to-use web platform will draw private investors who will help see these important projects through to completion.
No decision has been made regarding the web tool’s long-term status. A final determination will likely not be made until the site has been up and running long enough for HUD and Choice Neighborhood applicants to gauge whether or not it’s effective.