July 16, 2008

What's New about the 'New Communities Initiative'?

To help supplement previous and upcoming posts here is a brief overview and comparison of two programs we often mention: HOPE VI and New Communities Initiative.

1992- Present


  • Concepts inspired by ‘New Urbanism’, which has a vision for dense, pedestrian-friendly, and transit-accessible communities.
  • Revitalize America's most severely distressed public housing
  • Provide a flexible source of support for investments in public housing developments and for their residents
HUD’s 5 main objectives:
  • Change the shape of public housing: more aesthetically appealing townhouses/ apartments
  • Reduce concentrations of poverty: mixed-income communities
  • Employment assistance and counseling services
  • Higher standards of personal and community responsibility
  • Develop partnerships to plan and implement improvement
How it works:
  • Any Public Housing Authority with severely distressed public housing units are eligible to apply for grants
  • No one-for-one replacement requirements
  • Oftentimes leaves residents with the most critical housing needs with fewer housing options
  • Displacement of many residents because of loopholes in the legislation
  • Good at physically improving current developments
  • Many residents with very low income end up repeating the process of displacement through living in public housing HOPE VI seeks to eliminate, or replace with Section 8 vouchers
  • Low rates of return to improved development, among former tenants, because of FSS requirements
Current Criticism/Comments:
  • How HUD determines which areas deserve grants is very vague and misleading
  • Grantees often use the money to construct higher priced public housing and/or market-rate units
  • Sheridan Terrace project to be DC’s seventh HOPE VI project

New Communities Initiative:
Newest DC housing improvement program.


  • Partnership between the District, neighborhoods and other public and private stakeholders
  • Focuses on neighborhoods with older public housing developments & high concentrations of poverty and crime
  • Transform neighborhoods into mixed-income and mixed-use communities

Improvements on HOPE VI:

  • One-to-one unit replacement (reducing displacement after improvements)
  • High-quality housing options affordable to all income levels
  • Access to human services necessary to allow residents to take full advantage of new economic opportunities and changes in their community
  • Refurbishing parks, schools, and libraries
  • Targets ‘hot spots’ in DC
How it works:
  • A council of current residents and stakeholders is put together to draft what the community should look like
  • The council chooses the development plan they like, drafts the return protocol, and determines how many units of stratified housing there will be
  • The DC government typically views the council's decisions as suggestions and instead builds condos with the entitlement money

Current Criticism/Comments:

  • Neighborhoods listed for destruction: Lincoln Heights/Richardson Dwellings, Barry Farm/Park Chester/Wade Road
  • Is there a relocation assistance plan?
  • Enough residents involved to influence drafting neighborhood plans?
  • Website for NCI is not updated regularly, so how can residents learn the latest about current initiatives? (And how will residents get access to information if they don’t have internet access?)

New Communities Initiative addresses the main resident displacement issues surrounding HOPE VI through one-to-one unit replacement for affordable housing units and building new units before destructing older ones. NCI also mitigates management issues through increased resident participation in planning and managing the renovated communities.

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