The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Taylor Materio,
202-662-1530 x227;

NLIHC President Sheila Crowley Testifies on Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Proposal


National Low Income Housing Coalition President
Sheila Crowley testified before the House Financial
Services Committee today on the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI),
which is
the Obama Administration's proposal for the next iteration of the
controversial HOPE VI public housing program. As written, CNI is
intended to
transform neighborhoods with distressed housing, including federal
public or assisted
housing. However, it would ultimately provide little help to the
millions of
low and extremely low income people most in need across the country.

offered suggestions for improving the CNI proposal, but also renewed
her call for the Administration to secure $1 billion in funding for the
Housing Trust Fund and 250,000 new housing vouchers. Each would have a
impact on the lives of many more people with extremely low incomes, she

CNI is intended to transform neighborhoods with
distressed housing,
including federal public or assisted housing, into thriving communities.
CNI is
based on the HOPE VI program, which was developed in the early 1990s and
which NLIHC has been critical. While HOPE VI is credited by some with
"restored" communities, the program came with a very high cost. In
many HOPE VI projects, original residents were displaced, and the
demolition of
units helped to contribute to the shortage of rental homes that the
income people could afford.

Ms. Crowley testified
that in addition to CNI being rooted in the HOPE VI program, the
proposal has
its own flaws. Ms. Crowley made several recommendations to increase the
potential of the program. These include:

  • CNI grantees should be required to
    develop and adhere to a long term Affordability Plan, which would
    include an
    initial assessment of housing affordable to extremely low and very low
    households (both assisted and unassisted) in the neighborhood. It is
    that communities preserve and work to increase subsidized and private
    that is affordable to the lowest income people.
  • The proposal's one-for-one
    replacement of each unit of housing provision needs to be made
    stronger and clearer. The
    new proposal does not make any changes to the original CNI draft
    provision on
    one-for-one replacement, which NLIHC fears could potentially result in
    the loss
    of units, or strengthen CNI's resident participation requirements, which
    NLIHC recommends.
  • The funds provided for resident
    participation and services should be realistically based. The proposal
    place restrictions on the use of CNI funds: no funds could be used to
    or rehabilitate a school; not more than 15% could be used for supportive
    services; and not more than 15% could be used for non-housing
    activities, such
    as parks, commercial facilities, and public transit.

Ms. Crowley concluded her testimony by stating
that the affordable
housing crisis has reached a critical tipping point. The Administration
Congress must act now if a real solution to help those in dire need of
assistance is to become a reality.

"The Obama Administration and Congress should tackle the macro problem
the shortage of homes that are affordable to the neediest of our
citizens. We
urge that an agreement be reached soon on how to provide the initial
capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund," said Ms. Crowley.
"This should be followed quickly by agreement on long term revenue
sources to allow the program to go the scale needed to actually change
supply side of the supply and demand equation for housing that the
income people can afford. Revenue sources need to be sufficient to reach
goal of 1.5 million new homes over ten years."

at the hearing include: Shaun Donovan, Secretary, U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development; Orlando Cabrera, former Assistant
Secretary for
Public and Assisted Housing, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
and CEO, National Community Renaissance; Sheila
Crowley, President and CEO, National Low Income Housing
Coalition; Edward Goetz, Director, Center for Urban and Regional
University of Minnesota; Nancy Rockett Eldridge, Executive Director,
Square Corporation; Jill Khadduri, Principal Associate, Abt Associates;
Ramirez, Executive Director, National Association of Housing and
Officials; and Kristin Siglin, Vice President and Senior Policy Adviser,
Enterprise Community Partners.

full testimony is available at:

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to ending America's affordable housing crisis. Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, NLIHC educates, organizes and advocates to ensure decent, affordable housing within healthy neighborhoods for everyone. NLIHC provides up-to-date information, formulates policy and educates the public on housing needs and the strategies for solutions.