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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative?

 

The HUD Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) employs a comprehensive approach to neighborhood transformation. The program helps communities by revitalizing distressed public (and/or assisted) housing while investing and leveraging investments in:
 

  • Well-functioning services and public assets

  • High quality public schools/education programs

  • High quality early learning programs/services

  • Public transportation and mobility

  • Improved access to jobs
     

The CNI will ensure that current residents will be able to benefit from this transformation by preserving affordable housing or providing residents with the choice to move in to affordable and accessible housing in another existing neighborhood of opportunity.

The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is focused on three core goals:
 

  1. Housing: Transform distressed public and assisted housing into energy efficient, mixed-income housing that is physically and financially viable over the long term.

  2. People: Support positive outcomes for families who live in the target developments and the surrounding neighborhood, particularly outcomes related to residents’ education, health and recreation, safety, employment, and mobility; and

  3. Neighborhood: Transform distressed neighborhoods into viable, mixed-income neighborhoods with access to well-functioning services, high quality public schools and education programs, high quality early learning programs and services, public assets, public transportation, and improved access to jobs.

Where does Brownsville fit in?

The City and HACB are required to develop and implement a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy, or Transformation Plan. This Plan will become the guiding document for the revitalization of the public (and/or assisted) housing units while simultaneously directing positive transformation of the surrounding neighborhood. To successfully develop and implement the Transformation Plan, the City and HACB will work with Victoria Gardens residents, public and private agencies, community and philanthropic organizations, neighborhood residents, and other identified individuals and stakeholder groups to gather and leverage resources needed to support the strategic and financial sustainability of the Plan. The City and HACB previously collaborated on the successful Buena Vida CNI Plan, completed in 2018.

What happens now?

The planning process kicked off in December 2021, and will be completed in December 2023.

How is the International / Southmost community unique?

The International / Southmost neighborhood was selected for its tremendous opportunities and strategic location less than a mile from downtown Brownsville, and close to major anchor institutions including UTRGV and Texas Southmost College. The neighborhood includes a wide array of assets to build upon including Canales Elementary, Faulk Middle School, Lincoln Park School, Porter Early College High School, Tony Gonzalez Park, community gardens, and popular local restaurants such as Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que, Mota’s Tacos, Brownsville Coffee Shop #2, and the International Coffee Shop.

What do we hope to achieve with the Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant?

The grant will be used to bring the community and planning partners together to create a viable and actionable Transformation Plan for the International / Southmost neighborhood, which can be implemented utilizing a variety of local, state and national resources. The grant will also be utilized to develop and construct a catalytic early action project that will benefit all residents of the community. Victoria Gardens includes 46 units of low-income housing. The CNI Plan will seek to replace 100% of those housing units within the neighborhood, or in other areas of opportunity as part of new mixed-income developments.

What successes were achieved through the Buena Vida CNI Plan?

Over 50 meetings, events and activities have generated incredible excitement and momentum towards positive change in the Buena Vida Choice Neighborhood. What set the effort apart from many others was the intentional commitment to “doing while planning” to build implementation momentum. As residents identified service and improvement needs, The City and HACB went to work with its partners to secure the necessary implementation resources. The team led a number of neighborhood improvement initiatives as the CNI Plan took shape, including the revitalization of Edelstein Park. By implementing our “Taking back our Park” strategy, Edelstein Park is being used more and more frequently by local residents and now has a water fountain and free Wi-Fi. Another visible improvement to the neighborhood is the extension of the Belden Trail adjacent to the park.

Through the Plan, HACB was invited to participate in the Book Rich Environment Program in 2016. It is a tri-sector collaboration between nonprofit organizations, national governments agencies and corporate publisher that aims to infuse public housing communities across the county with a vibrant and accessible culture of books. In addition to this, The City and HACB were selected a Connect Home Nation Community in 2017, which is helping to secure the resources needed to close the digital divide for public housing residents. HUD designated the Brownsville EnVision Center at the Buena Vida Choice Community Center as part of an initiative that has an intentional focus on increasing self-sufficiency via empowering families with the tools, skills and connections related to economic, educational, health & wellness and character & leadership. As an initial phase of the Housing Strategy, HACB is developing the new $24 million Poinsettia Gardens at Boca Chica Apartments, which will house many Buena Vida Development families as further redevelopment occurs in the neighborhood.

How will we work with the community?

When residents are genuinely at the center of a planning process, a unique outcome unfolds. Relationships become the focal point of the work. This is because for residents, planning is personal – it’s about their children, their families, their homes, their neighbors and their streets. It is about making their day-to-day lives better in real time. As we envision, design, and seek to implement the investment and physical changes necessary to revitalize the community, local residents will be engaged from day one, so that they can help to assume a leadership role in the process.

How can this benefit the neighborhood in the short-term?

The planning team will dedicate approximately $150,000 to identify and build an “Early Action Project” in the Spring or Summer of 2022 that will have an immediate positive benefit for the community. We need your involvement to help come up with these important ideas!

Does the planning process include construction of new housing?

No, this process ONLY involves planning and the implementation of smaller “Early Action Projects.” Construction of housing, retail, and other larger improvements would happen later based on community input and available resources.

What is the CNI Implementation Grant?

Following completion of the CNI Plan, the City and HACB will be eligible to apply for a CNI Implementation Grant, which could provide approximately $30 million towards Housing, People, and Neighborhood Initiatives. HACB will also be exploring other funding opportunities through HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program.

Will there be resident hiring opportunities as part of this process?

Yes, we will be looking to identify a set of Community Ambassadors during early 2022 to assist with resident engagement, data gathering and Plan feedback. Ambassadors will be provided a stipend for their effort.

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