What's Up with Choice Neighborhoods?

by Anon.
(Somewhere in the West)

Reviewed: June 4, 2024

Editor's Note: Obviously this question is a few years old, but the information in our answer is still pertinent.

Visitor Question:The Obama administration now is trumpeting a new program called Choice neighborhoods. They issued the NOFA rules today. It lets local government or non-profits become a partner with a housing authority to redevelop government assisted housing.

Doesn't seem like a very good choice to me to be living in public housing, whether it's in a big project or a small one. I think we should be getting people out of public housing altogether.

Editors Respond Belatedly:
Although this comment was sent and published on September 21 last year, it struck our eye when we were updating, sorting, and deleting obsolete material.

This attitude certainly is worthy of comment from us, which we don't think it received.

Actually we very much agree that the Choice neighborhoods program was a very weak response to the need to bring the energy and imagination of the non-profit sector, or third sector if you like that terminology, into the process of improving public housing.

We know of a couple of projects by now that have initiated a Choice Neighborhoods program so in a few years we will have empirical evidence to track the impact on low-income households.

Let's address your main point. Three out of the four of us agree that the big goal should be making all public housing into a public-private venture.

In this case the "private" may have to mean non-profits with a track record and good reputation, if private business doesn't want to seize the opportunity that low-income housing can present.

The step-by-step process to move away from public housing altogether would include:

1) Inventory of remaining public housing complexes owned by housing authorities

2) Determining what is physically viable and demolishing the rest, with the unfortunate side consequence of forcing some people to find other housing when public housing already is housing of last resort. However, point 3 below would tend to result in an increase in available low-income housing.

3) Changes in law and rule that would allow more non-profit ownership or ownership stake in public housing. The advantage here would be that non-profits can raise donation money whereas public housing as such must rely on legislative appropriation.

For much of the rest of our international community of visitors, we're speaking of what you call social housing. In the U.S. many people share the opinion of our visitor that public or social housing simply should be abolished.

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