Academic journal article Cityscape

Race, Segregation, and Choice: Race and Ethnicity in Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Applicant Neighborhoods, 2010-2012

Academic journal article Cityscape

Race, Segregation, and Choice: Race and Ethnicity in Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Applicant Neighborhoods, 2010-2012

Article excerpt


During the past two decades, concern about spatial concentrations of poverty and disadvantage has become an ascendant scholarly and policy issue, and research on the effect of neighborhoods on individual and family life chances has grown substantially. The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (hereafter, Choice), introduced in 2009, is a new federal program designed to address concentrated poverty. Choice, which is functionally the successor to the Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere, or HOPE VI, Program, provides competitive grants to fund redevelopment and revitalization in neighborhoods that have concentrations of poverty and publicly subsidized housing, with the goal of transforming them into neighborhoods of choice, thereby improving neighborhood outcomes. For the types of neighborhoods being targeted, little information beyond their having high rates of poverty is so far available. Drawing from the results of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded research on the characteristics of Choice Planning Grant applicants, this article presents findings related to race and ethnicity in these targeted neighborhoods. The findings show that Choice Planning Grant applicant neighborhoods are highly segregated by race and ethnicity and that this segregation is linked to differences in educational attainment, labor force participation, unemployment rates, and income levels. These demographics suggest that Choice, like its predecessor, is likely to have a disproportionate effect on minority racial and ethnic groups.


In 2009, the Obama Administration proposed a new program aimed at revitalizing neighborhoods marked by high poverty and severely distressed housing. Named the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (hereafter, Choice), this program would act as a successor to the long-running Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) Program. Choice is part of the Obama Administration's Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), a series of coordinated, place-based neighborhood revitalization programs extending across multiple federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Choice is administered by HUD and addresses the housing and built environment component of the NRI. Although the U.S. Congress has yet to authorize Choice, it has appropriated funds for the program each year since fiscal year (FY) 2010.

Like funding for HOPE VI, Choice funds are distributed through competitive grants. This investment is intended to leverage additional public and private resources and investment to plan for and subsequently reshape these areas into sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods in which individuals and families will choose to live. Employing an approach used during the first 3 years of HOPE VI, Choice provides two types of grants: Planning Grants and Implementation Grants.1 Planning Grants provide comparatively modest funds for developing Transformation Plans to guide neighborhood revitalization, and Implementation Grants provide larger sums to facilitate implementation of a Transformation Plan. This article focuses on neighborhoods for which Planning Grant applications have been made. Drawing from a more comprehensive report on the demographic, economic, and housing characteristics of the first three Planning Grant applicant cohorts (FYs 2010, 2011, and 2012), this article highlights one vital characteristic of applicant neighborhoods: their racial and ethnic composition.

Choice, again like HOPE VI, has the core mission to deconcentrate poverty. Exceeding a minimum rate for poverty or extremely low-income households, along with the presence of distressed, subsidized housing, is the key threshold neighborhoods must pass to apply for a Planning Grant. The racial and ethnic composition of these neighborhoods is not an essential consideration in applying for or receiving a grant. …

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