Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan On a Conference Call Announcing Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thank you for joining. I'm pleased to announce the second round of Choice Neighborhoods planning grants to 13 different communities around the country.

This is an important moment. Today, more than 10 million people live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty -- surrounded by disinvestment, failing schools, troubled housing, and, worst of all, virtually no path to opportunity for themselves or their children.

In fact, research shows that one of the most important factors in determining whether or not children will do better financially than their parents is whether or not they grow up in one of these high-poverty neighborhoods.

The fact that we can predict health, economic, and educational outcomes of children based on zip code is a tragedy. And it's not who we are as Americans.

That's why the White House has pursued an interagency Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative that supports local leaders who are working to transform distressed communities into the sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods with the affordable housing, the safe streets and the good schools that every family needs.

At the center of this initiative is Choice Neighborhoods, which builds on the HOPE VI public housing revitalization program pioneered by my predecessors at HUD, Secretaries Jack Kemp and Henry Cisneros.

With strong bipartisan support, HOPE VI created nearly 90,000 homes in healthy, mixed-income communities that were once troubled by distressed public housing -- leveraging twice the federal investment in additional private development capital and raising the average income of residents by 75 percent or more.

HOPE VI was one of the great housing successes of the last generation. And with Choice Neighborhoods, including the $3.6 million planning grants we are awarding to 13 communities today, we intend to help communities bring that model of success to neighborhoods across the country.

With Choice Neighborhoods, local leaders can use the same mixed-finance tools HOPE VI used to transform not just public housing in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty, but privately owned affordable housing as well.

Not only that, but because we tied Choice Neighborhoods to the Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods initiative, we are ensuring that at the center of these neighborhoods are good schools and quality learning opportunities, from cradle to career.

For instance, in Washington, DC, planning efforts funded by this grant will build upon the area's existing Promise Neighborhoods plans which are focused on improving educational and developmental outcomes for children in the Parkside-Kenilworth neighborhood.

We see other connections between housing and education as well. For instance, Ohio State University is partnering with the City of Columbus, its housing authority and a nonprofit housing developer to address housing and education, health, jobs and economic development, and public safety issues in the Near Eastside neighborhood.

In community after community, we've seen that the correlation between successful housing and good schools is not just theory -- it's practice. And by connecting Choice Neighborhoods grants to partnerships that put quality education at the center of efforts to fight poverty, we are taking that practice to communities across the country.

Now, I was extremely pleased that, even in a very tight budget environment, Congress funded Choice Neighborhoods at $120 million for FY 2012. Indeed, today's planning grants will help bring the right local leaders to the table to begin outlining the vision for their community, while implementation grants to be awarded later in the year will help realize these kinds of plans.

But even still, as we saw with the first round of Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants, demand has once again far outpaced funding -- meaning it wasn't possible to fund every application that showed promise and potential.

That's why HUD recently announced an innovative online platform to spotlight comprehensive information about grantees and top-tier applicants called

This tool will connect the applicants of these promising proposals to funders, philanthropies and other local stakeholders communities need to realize their vision -- even in the absence of Choice Neighborhoods funding.

It will also offer communities greater access to planning efforts happening around the country and best-practice models that might help enhance their efforts. Information on today's grantees and the runners-up will be posted online by early next week.

So, this is a very exciting moment. Today, we are also publishing the FY12 notice of funding availability for Choice Neighborhoods implementation grants -- and the planning grant NOFA will follow in the coming months.

As the President said last week, as long as he is in office, he will do everything he can to make sure every American has the chance to get ahead -- whoever they are...and wherever they live.

That's what creating pathways to opportunity like these is all about -- it's what these grants are all about. And it's why I'm so proud to announce them today.

And with that, I'd love to take your questions.


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