Choice Neighborhoods – Transforming housing, neighborhoods and people.
Choice Neighborhoods is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that focuses on transforming distressed neighborhoods into thriving communities with quality, affordable housing and amenities that meet the needs of their residents.
In Atlanta, the Choice Neighborhood grant – and additional support leveraged by those funds – will be used to revitalize the former University Homes and three surrounding neighborhoods in the city’s Westside: Vine City, Ashview Heights and the Atlanta University Center neighborhood, collectively known as the University Choice Neighborhood (UCN).
In 2010, the City of Atlanta, with the Atlanta Housing Authority as the lead applicant, was awarded a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant in the amount of $250,000 to be used to develop a plan to transform an Atlanta community in need of revitalization. That plan, officially known as the neighborhood transformation plan (NTP), is a comprehensive set of strategies that pave the way for community revitalization – including new and rehabilitated housing, coupled with good schools, public assets (e.g., parks, retail outlets, social services agencies, etc.), transportation and jobs – in Atlanta’s UCN.
To inform the NTP, the UCN planning team held focus groups and community meetings to get residents’ ideas and input about the issues that impact their community – public safety, education, urban farming and the preservation of neighborhood history, to name a few. The feedback gathered during those meetings drove the NTP, which became the core of the 2014 Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant application.
Ashview Heights, Atlanta University Center and Vine City, along with a target public housing site, University Homes, were chosen for HUD’s signature placed-based revitalization initiative – Choice Neighborhoods. The site and neighborhoods, collectively referred to as the University Choice Neighborhood (UCN), are located just west of Atlanta’s central business district. Though the area has suffered from decades of decline, it is the cradle of the civil rights movement and home to great African American leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to a cluster of historically black colleges and universities that played a vital role in the national struggle for desegregation and equal opportunity.
With a 2010 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant, the City, AHA, a host of organizations and community residents, devised a Neighborhood Transformation Plan (NTP) to redevelop the target housing site and to create a vibrant and thriving UCN. In September 2015, AHA and the City were awarded a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant (CNIG) to revitalize the target site and catalyze the NTP strategies around three core goals: housing, people and neighborhood.
The Housing Plan focuses on the revitalization of University Homes, now Scholars Landing, the nation’s first federally-funded public housing for African Americans, completed in 1937. Residents of the deteriorating community were relocated in 2006, with demolition in 2009. The new housing plan includes 584 high quality units across five phases: Phase I, a 100-unit senior affordable independent living development, and Phase II, a 60-unit senior affordable personal care facility, both complete; Phases III and IV, including 391 mixed-income multifamily rental units with ground floor retail; and Phase V, including 33 mixed-income for-sale homes. The on-site historic Roosevelt Administration Building will be rehabbed as a community center with office, community and retail space.
The People Plan – grounded in a service delivery model that provides services and supports for the former University Homes families, residents at Scholars Landing and UCN families – prioritizes income and wealth building, health and wellness, high quality education and lifelong learning, community capacity building and engagement, and strengths-based case management facilitated by the UCN case management team and more than 20 well established community organizations and providers. The UCN case management team is located on-site at Scholars Landing to assist people of all ages and help them connect with resources, opportunities and current partnering providers.
The Neighborhood Plan builds on the neighborhood assets while addressing public safety, community services and amenities, vacant and blighted properties and access to quality, healthy food. Efforts to improve the neighborhood include assisting low-income UCN homeowners in making health and safety repairs, improving home exteriors and working in partnership with City Code Enforcement to demolish blighted properties to create quality, mixed-income housing and safe, thriving communities.
The work in connection with the CNIG builds upon initiatives underway in west Atlanta, including the Atlanta Falcons stadium, the Beltline and Friendship Baptist LLC’s proposed new YMCA and mixed-use developments. Invest Atlanta and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation have each pledged $15 million for initiatives in the Westside Tax Allocation District (TAD) which overlaps with the UCN area. Additionally in 2016, the City was awarded a Promise Zone designation targeting the UCN and Westside TAD neighborhoods (Westside Promise Zone) and has established the Westside Future Fund to raise private and philanthropic funds to transform the Westside.
Choice Neighborhood FAQs
Q. What is Choice Neighborhoods?
A. Choice Neighborhoods is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) signature place-based initiative that provides grants to support locally driven strategies to address struggling neighborhoods with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing through a comprehensive approach to neighborhood transformation with the focus on three core goals, including 1) Housing: Replace distressed public and assisted housing with high-quality mixed-income housing that is well managed and responsive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood; 2) People: Improve educational outcomes and intergenerational mobility for youth with services and supports delivered directly to youth and their families; and 3) Neighborhood: Create the conditions necessary for public and private reinvestment in distressed neighborhoods to offer the kinds of amenities and assets, including safety, good schools, and commercial activity, that are important to families’ choices about their community.
Q. Are there different kinds of Choice Neighborhoods grants?
A. There are two types: a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant and an Implementation Grant. The Planning Grant is used for the purpose of developing a comprehensive Neighborhood Transformation Plan for the targeted distressed public or HUD-assisted housing and the surrounding neighborhood(s). The Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant provides funding to support communities that have undergone a comprehensive local planning process and are ready to implement their Transformation Plan. Both grant opportunities require applicants to leverage other financial and in-kind resources to further support the Transformation Plan.
Q. Who is eligible to apply for a Choice Neighborhoods Grant?
Q. What is Atlanta’s Choice Neighborhoods Program called?
A. Atlanta’s Choice Neighborhoods Program is called Choice Atlanta. The Atlanta Housing Authority was awarded a 2010 Choice Neighborhoods Planning grant to develop a Neighborhood Transformation Plan (NTP) for the redevelopment of the former University Homes site and the revitalization of three Westside Atlanta neighborhoods: Ashview Heights, Atlanta University and Vine City. Those neighborhoods are collectively referred to as the University Choice Neighborhood (UCN). AHA and the City of Atlanta were awarded a 2014-2015 Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant (CNIG) to redevelop University Homes and catalyze the UCN Transformation Plan. You can access both the NTP and CNIG application under Documents Library (or wherever they will be located on the new site).
Q. What are the redevelopment plans for University Homes?
A. The former University Homes was demolished, and the site has been renamed Scholars Landing. The new housing plan for the site includes 584 high quality units across five phases of development. Phases I and II are complete and include a 100-unit senior affordable independent living facility and a 60-unit senior affordable personal care facility, respectively. Phases III and IV are multifamily rental phases that will collectively provide 391 mixed-income rental units. Phase III is slated to begin construction in June 2017 with completion in the fall of 2018. Phase IV is scheduled to begin in March 2019. Phase V will include 33 mixed-income homeownership opportunities with construction scheduled to begin in late fall 2019.
Q. I am a former University Homes resident; what do I do if I am interested in returning?
A. Depending upon qualifying information, you have the right to return. For more information, call the UCN Office at 404-541-5858 and ask to speak to a member of the UCN case management team.
Q. Will down payment assistance be available for the homeownership phase at Scholars Landing?
A. Yes, down payment assistance is planned for the seven affordable homes planned as part of Scholars Landing Phase V. For more information about general requirements on AHA’s down payment assistance program, please call AHA’s Homeownership department at 404-685-4346.
Q. What is meant by “affordable” as it relates to the Scholars Landing homeownership phase?
A. Households earning at or below 80 percent of area median income (i.e., $54,000 for FY 2016) are eligible to purchase an affordable home. Down payment assistance is also available to qualifying households to cover closing costs and the lender’s home loan down payment requirements. For more information, you can speak to the homeownership manager at 404-685-4346.
Q. How can I learn more about Choice housing opportunities?
A. As new housing opportunities become available as part of Choice Atlanta, AHA and its development partners plan to advertise and market using various methods to include this website, social media, and through community partners. Please check the site periodically for updates.
Q. How can I get involved?
A. For transformation to be successful and sustainable over time a great deal of time, commitment, comprise and working in unison with partners and stakeholders is essential. Start with reading the UCN Transformation Plan. If you live in the UCN participate in your neighborhood association as we work with these groups to carry out UCN activities. If you are would like to be contacted on upcoming UCN activities, events, or are interested in serving on our workforce, health, and education working groups (or other committees as they are established) please provide your information and interest through the “Contact Us” link
Q. Who can I contact if I have other questions or need additional information?
A. You can reach us through the “Contact Us