District of Columbia Housing Authority Executive Director Adrianne Todman recently joined affordable housing development and policy leaders in to discuss the importance of the Choice Neighborhood Programs.

Todman, along with American Planners Association Director of Policy and Communications James Jordan and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Carol Star, were panelists for an APA breakfast discussion on June 25.

Building affordable housing and planning entire communities complete with amenities has become a primary concern in the District, and the entire country as well, Jordan said.

Choice Neighborhoods is “the current administration’s centerpiece initiative” for seriously troubled neighborhoods, Star said. Choice Neighborhoods, on average, have a 25 percent or higher poverty rate. In the nation’s five funded Choice Neighborhoods – Quincy Center, Boston; Woodlawn, Chicago; Iberville, New Orleans; Eastern Bay, San Francisco; and Yesler Terrace, Seattle – only 31 percent to 54 percent of the community report any income. Violent crimes happen at rate of 17.1 to 22 incidents per 1,000 residents—200 percent higher than these neighborhoods’ respective cities, Star said.

These first five neighborhoods received five-year grants of up to $35 million to implement plans that will “redevelop these places into neighborhoods of opportunity,” Star said. These grants go beyond public housing authorities, like the HOPE VI grants, and encourages private investment and partnerships with institutions, she said.

DCHA has two Choice Neighborhoods, Kenilworth Courts and Barry Farm, however neither has received grant funding to redevelop yet.

“Choice, like HOPE VI, is nothing more than free money to build low-income, affordable housing,” Todman said. “Everything else wrapped into it depends on the value orientation of the housing authority and the city where it resides … Here in D.C., there always has been an emphasis on starting with the residents first.”

Todman said DCHA has done seven large-scale redevelopments and involved the community in each one. She said despite all of the teaching and involvement, residents are wary until they begin to see their neighbors returning to the new mixed-income community.

“Many clients I serve may not compete well in the private sector. There is a place for this thing called public housing,” she said. “Our focus is on the neighborhoods. We want housing available to as many persons as possible.”

She said residents wanted a grocery store and pharmacy and that is what is being built at Capitol Gateway. At Capper Carrollsburg, residents wanted a grocery store and amenities, and the neighborhood’s demand created that and more, she said. The focus now is growing the community as a whole and getting the lower and higher income neighbors to get along.

The advocates at APA are focusing on sustaining previous levels of funding while aiming for more, said Jordan. The program currently is an executive order, but needs to made a law, he said. The fiscal 2015 Choice program received $80 million. The current house bill only provides $20 million, the Senate’s is $65 million.

“This gives you some sense of the level of difficulty this bill faces,” he said.

He continued, “The problems go deeper than Choice. Maintaining the voucher program is eating HUD alive. When you don’t grow the program overall…it pits these programs against each other.”


APA's James Jordan, DCHA's Adrianne Todman, and HUD's Carol Star
Last modified: 6/30/2015 10:29:24 AM