Monday, November 25, 2013

HUD Awards 2013 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants

Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded nine communities with planning grants through the Choice Neighborhoods program, a signature effort of the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. The grantees will develop plans to revitalize and transform public and other HUD-assisted housing, while seeking to improve outcomes on other interconnected neighborhood issues including public safety, education, health, transportation and employment.

The Choice Neighborhoods program emphasizes the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to neighborhood revitalization and “linking housing improvements with necessary services for the people who live there.” The grantees will develop their plans through a collaborative process that engages diverse stakeholders across sectors, including residents of the affected housing development(s) and the surrounding neighborhood, local government officials, service providers and business owners.

Since 2010, HUD has awarded 56 planning grants, totaling $16.9 million. For summaries of the 2013 planning grants, as well as past recipients, click here.

Policy for Results in 1 Minute and 36 Seconds

Why Policy for Results?

The Center for the Study of Social Policy is proud to present an introductory video to the new Policy for Results site! CSSP believes policymaking should begin with the concrete results we want to achieve and that using reliable data leads to better decisions and ultimately to improved outcomes for children, families and communities.

CSSP has expanded, refreshed and restructured the PolicyforResults website, which provides data, holds hundreds of resources and highlights our public policy agenda. is a streamlined and modern tool that features strategies, funding resources, policy papers, briefs, blogs and more authored by CSSP and other experts. The goal is to use the site to advance the policy field's knowledge of equity and create more results-based resources that lead to action.

Friday, November 22, 2013

New Report: Access to Healthy Food & Why It Matters

PolicyLink and the Food Trust have released Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters: A Review of the Research - a report detailing the latest research about how access to healthy foods has improved in recent years, as well as the impact that limited access continues to have for both individuals and communities throughout the nation.

The report highlights three primary findings:
  • Accessing food remains a significant challenge for many families, particularly those living in low-income neighborhood, communities of color and rural areas. The report suggests that an estimated 25 to 30 million Americans – roughly 9 percent of the population – live in communities with limited or no access to healthy food options. In New York City, for example, one-third of predominantly black census tracts lack walking or subway access to healthy food retailers.
  • Living closer to healthy food retail is among the factors associated with better eating habits and decreased risk for obesity and diet-related diseases. The lack of access to healthy foods – combined with other obstacles, such as limited transportation – pose significant challenges for families and can lead to several negative outcomes, including poor health. According to the report, nearly half of black and Hispanic children are overweight or obese. Ensuring that families have access to healthy food options is essential to creating communities that promote healthy lifestyles.
  • Healthy food retail stimulates economic activity. Beyond ensuring that families have access to healthy food options, food retailers can have a major impact on the local economy. According to the report, it is estimated that 24 new jobs are created for every 10,000 square feet of retail space. Thus, new retail opportunities in low-income communities and communities of color can be a critical piece of a neighborhood's revitalization strategy. In addition, government food benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provide a further economic stimulus when spent at local retailers. It is estimated, for example, that ever $5 in new SNAP benefits generates $9 in local spending at SNAP-accepting retail outlets.

Though there has been increased attention to the challenge of healthy food access in recent years, ensuring that communities have access to healthy food options remains a great challenge. The implementation of federal programs, such as the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, has stimulated both interest and action in communities throughout the country. However, increasing access to healthy foods remains a challenge that all communities – particularly those that are low-income – should continue to address.

Want to learn more? Check out the resources blow.
  • Check out the Investing in Community Change blog’s Healthy Food Access label (located on the right sidebar) to learn more about healthy food access, including reports, tools and funding opportunities.
  • Want to know where areas with limited access to healthy foods are located? Check out the USDA’s Food Access Research Map.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

3 Key Questions To Help Boost Youth Employment

In October, The Bridgespan Group, a consultancy for nonprofits and philanthropists, published a short paper urging organizations and individuals concerned about youth unemployment to consider several key questions. Entitled "Three Questions to Ask if You're Serious about Jobs for Youth," the piece begins by painting a stark picture of the employment prospects of young people in America. According to Bridgespan, 14 million young people ages 16 to 24, representing more than a third of individuals in this age group, face some sort of "employment challenge," ranging from a lack of connection to education or employment opportunities to working in a position that does not take advantage of their formal education. Approximately half of these young people are "disconnected" from education and employment, a disproportionate number of whom are black and Latino.

Through their interviews with a range of nonprofits, foundations, and large employers concerned about youth employment, Bridgespan identified three key questions that can help to guide the work of organizations interested in helping to combat youth unemployment:

1. Who are the employers most likely to hire youth in my region? - Bridgespan's interviews revealed the importance of connecting job training programs with the business sectors that are most likely to be looking to hire entry-level employees. This involves understanding which local sectors are growing and what types of skills are needed to obtain positions in those sectors. The article also notes that, while large companies, defined as those with over 500 employees, make up less than 1% of all employers, they employ more than 40% of youth who work in the private sector, suggesting that the potential payoffs of building relationships with these companies can be substantial.

2. How do I present employers with the business case for hiring youth? - One nonprofit highlighted in the article spoke about the importance of changing the mindset of both employers and youth about the value of youth employment. By providing young people with both technical and professional skills, and offering staff support to help deal with problems that might arise on the job, the organization is able to make the case that hiring youth has real value for a business. Most of the nonprofits interviewed were interested in hiring staff who had business experience or backgrounds that would allow them to better connect with potential employers. Some organizations Bridgespan interviewed worked with employers to determine the skills and competencies that they needed potential employees to have, and further engaged employers by having them teach portions of workforce development programs.

3. How do I tailor skills training to what employers really need?- A number of of organizations interviewed for the article described partnerships between workforce development nonprofits and employers that resulted in stronger training materials that better reflected the types of skills, such as conflict resolution and customer service, that are needed in the real world. In one case, a partnership with a local business association helped to identify an opportunity to develop a customized training program for youth to meet a need for employees in a local industry.

To read the full piece, please visit Bridgespan's website here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Location Affordability Portal Launched

The U.S. Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have launched the Location Affordability Portal (LAP) – a cost calculation tool that allows individuals to estimate housing and transportation costs in neighborhoods across the nation.

According to the LAP, nearly half of the average U.S. household’s budget is used to cover housing and transportation costs. Though housing costs, such as rent or a mortgage, are often easy to estimate, transportation costs are often less clear as they are likely to vary with changes in gas prices, public transportation rates, access to transit, street connectivity and other factors.

In order to help families make informed decisions about where to live and work, DOT and HUD have launched the LAP as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to provide information about how housing and transportation costs differ across potential residential locations. The LAP uses two tools to provide users with access to cost estimates – the Location Affordability Index (LAI) and the My Transportation Cost Calculator (MTCC). The LAI is a database of predicted annual housing and transportation costs for a particular area, while the MTCC allows users to customize data based on their household’s unique characteristics, such as income, travel patterns and the number of cars owned by a household.

Interested in learning more? Check out the Location Affordability Portal to begin calculating the cost of housing and transportation in your neighborhood!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Continuing the Conversation on What Works for America’s Communities

Last fall, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund published a compilation of essays from leaders across the public, private and nonprofit sectors: Investing in What Works for America’s Communities. The book examined what proven models and innovative ideas can help practitioners, policymakers and academics work together across disciplines and sectors to achieve better outcomes for families and communities.

In partnership with the Low Income Investment Fund, Citi Ventures and Citi Foundation are continuing the dialogue sparked by the book through the What Works Challenge. Readers are invited to submit ideas about how to “encourage collaboration and integration between those working to revitalize communities and improve opportunities for all.” Participants will be eligible to be selected as a guest blogger for the What Works Ideas Blog.

To learn more about Investing in What Works, watch the half-day summit recently hosted by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Low Income Investment Fund, and Citi Foundation.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Best Buy Black Friday Preview

Like Walmart, Best Buy just released their Black Friday Doorbusters Preview on the website. It seems like Black Friday now actually starts at 6pm on Thursday, 11/28. I quickly glanced through the advertisement, and noted a few interesting deals:

  • LG 55-inch 1080p 120Hz LED HDTV for $499.99
  • Apple iPad 2 16GB WiFi Tablet for $299.99
  • Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7-inch 16GB for $99.99
  • Insignia 24-inch LED (1080p) HDTV for $79.99
  • Sony Smart Wi-Fi Blu-ray Player for $54.99
  • Google Chromecast HDMI for $29.99
  • LG G2 for $49.99
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 for FREE
  • Microsoft Surface RT 32GB for $199.99
  • D2 Android Tablet 4GB for $39.99 (online only)

Did you see any deals you like?


Friday, November 15, 2013

National Endowment for the Arts Invites Proposals for Creative Placemaking Projects

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is soliciting proposals for creative placemaking projects that “contribute toward the livability of communities and help transform them into lively, beautiful and sustainable places with the arts at their core.” Through the Our Town program, the NEA will award a limited number of grants ranging from $25,000 to $200,000 to support projects that bring together arts and design organizations with local communities to improve quality of life, encourage greater creative activity, foster stronger community identity and revitalize economic development.

Creative placemaking includes a diverse array of arts engagement, cultural planning and design activities. For instance, in the 2013 round of Our Town funding, the Detroit Economic Growth Association received a grant to use vacant retail storefronts as sites for arts and creative entrepreneurship. The Groundswell Community Mural Project in Brooklyn, New York received a grant to engage young adults on probation in reclaiming vandalized walls. The Parks and Recreation Department of Laramie, Wyoming received a grant to create a public art plan.

While Our Town projects vary in focus, they are united in having:
  • A systemic approach to civic development and a persuasive vision for enhanced community livability. 
  • Clearly defined civic development goals and objectives that recognize and enhance the role that the arts and design play at the center of community life. 
  • An action plan aligned with the project vision and civic development goals. 
  • A funding plan that is appropriate, feasible, indicates strong and wide community support, and includes a well-conceived strategy for maintaining the work of the project. 
  • Artistic excellence of the design and/or arts organizations, designers, or artists involved with the project. 
To be eligible, Our Town proposals must come from a partnership with two lead organizations—a nonprofit organization and local government entity. One of the primary partners must be an arts or design organization. Additional partners from the public, private and nonprofit sectors are encouraged. Only one project per local jurisdiction can be submitted, and the application must include an endorsement level from the highest ranking official of local government.

Our Town applications must be submitted through no later than 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on January 13, 2014. A pre-recorded workshop on the Our Town grant guidelines can be found here. For more information on all aspects of the Our Town program, click here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Walmart Black Friday Ad

Walmart has just released their 2013 Black Friday Ad Circular on the website. While Black Friday is traditionally November 29th, Wal-Mart will be opening at 6pm on Thursday, 11/28. I quickly glanced through the advertisement, and noted a few intriguing deals:

  • Apple iPad mini Wi-Fi 16GB for $299 (Bonus free $100 gift card)
  • Funai 32-inch LED HDTV for $98
  • LG Blu-ray Player for $38
  • Furby Boom for $29
  • Straight Talk Galaxy Centura for $29
  • RCA 7" Dual Core Tablet computer for $49
  • Call of Duty Ghosts for $39.96
  • Xbox 360 4GB Console for $99
  • Xbox One System for $499

Did you see any deals you like? USA, LLC

Free Walmart Gift Card


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Improving Resident Engagement while Increasing Impact Webinar

Sponsored by Social Solutions, the Alliance for Children and Families will be hosting a webinar on Improving Resident Engagement while Increasing Impact on Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 2:00 PM EST.

The webinar will discuss innovative approaches to engaging communities, and each panelist will discuss how their commitment to improved data management has transformed their thinking around service delivery to improve the lives of the neighbors they serve.

Each member on the panel comes from public and nonprofit human services agencies and will have the opportunity to explain a unique program or population and how they have managed to improve resident quality of life by using data and data systems. Additionally, the panel will address the process of coordinating efforts to support relationship building with participants, beyond the transaction of services.

To register for the webinar, please click here.

Funding Available for Community Development Financial Institutions

Economically distressed communities in the United States often lack institutions that offer residents and business owners access to affordable and responsible financial products and services. Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) help fill this need by providing loans, investments, technical assistance and other financial services to under-served populations and communities.

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund in the United States Treasury Department supports CDFIs through a range of programs, including a certification process, monetary awards, technical assistance and capacity building opportunities.

Last week, the CDFI Fund announced the availability of funding for the following programs:
  • $144 million for CDFI Program awards; 
  • $35 million for Healthy Food Financing Initiative Financial Assistance awards; 
  • $12 million for the Native American CDFI Assistance (NACA) Program awards. 
The proposed funding is still subject to Congressional appropriations, meaning the total amount of funding may decrease.

The CDFI Program: Financial Assistance (FA) & Technical Assistance (TA) Awards
  • TA awards of up to $100,000 are available to certified CDFIs, as well as organizations working toward CDFI certification, to build their capacity to better address the needs of their target markets, expand into new investment areas or targeted population and/or become certified CDFIs. Awards may be used for diverse purposes, including “to purchase equipment, materials, or supplies; for consulting or contracting services; to pay the salaries and benefits of certain personnel; and/or to train staff or board members.” While both certified and non-certified CDFIs are eligible to apply, non-certified organizations must be able to become certified within two years of receiving a TA award.
  • FA awards of up to $2 million are available to certified CDFIs for financing capital, loan loss reserves, capital reserves, or operations. FA awards are made in the form of equity investments, loans, deposits, or grants and must be matched dollar-for-dollar with non-federal funds of the same type as the award itself. To be eligible for a FA award, CDFIs must be certified or submit a separate certification application. Applicants must have developed a comprehensive plan for: deploying credit, capital and financial services to make a measurable impact on community development within their target market(s); and/or expanding into new investment areas or targeted populations.
  • Those eligible for a FA award can also apply for supplemental funding through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to expand their healthy food-focused financing activities, providing residents with improved access to nutritious food through strategies including “grocery stores, mobile food retailers, farmers markets, cooperatives, corner stores and bodegas.” 
The Native American CDFI Assistance (NACA) Program
The NACA Program supports CDFIs that primarily serve Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities. Both financial and technical support are available for CDFIs “in various stages of development – from organizations in the early planning stages of creating a CDFI, to tribal entities working to certify an existing lending program, to established CDFIs in need of further assistance.”

Last year, 192 organizations received FA and TA awards totaling over $172 million through the CDFI Program, including 10 awards totaling more than $22 million through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. Additionally, 35 organizations serving Native Communities received $12.4 million through the NACA Program.

Applications for the CDFI Program (including the Healthy Food Financing Initiative) and NACA Program applications are due on December 23, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Application materials, including pre-recorded webinars with additional guidance, are available online for the CDFI Program and NACA Program. In addition, applicants can register for live webinars or an in-person workshop to be held in Washington DC on November 14, 2013. To locate a CDFI in your state, click here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Administration Releases Promise Zones Application

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the application for the federal Promise Zones designation. Initially proposed during President Obama's 2013 State of the Union Address, Promise Zones is intended to build upon the Administration's place-based strategies for strengthening some of our nation's highest poverty and most challenged communities. Specifically, Promise Zones is focused on supporting the creation of jobs, increasing economic activity, improving educational opportunities, reducing violent crime, and leveraging private investment in a defined geographic area of high need. The Administration anticipates designating 20 Promise Zones by the end of 2016, with as many as five designations being made this year.

Designation as a Promise Zone provides a community with access to federal technical assistance and support in taking advantage of existing federal programs, a competitive preference in competitions for signature Administration initiatives, including Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, and, pending action from Congress, tax credits to attract local investment and spur job creation. The Promise Zones initiative is a partnership of federal agencies that also includes the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Justice.  (For a quick overview of the Promise Zones initiative, check out CSSP's brief, which we released this summer.)

During this first competition, applications are restricted to communities that have been previously selected to participate in one (or more) of a related set of programs. Eligible applicants include: 
  • Urban areas with an active Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant, Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant, or Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation implementation or enhancement grant;
  • Rural areas with an active Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant or Stronger Economies Together grant;
  • Tribal areas with an active Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant, Stronger Economies Together grant, or Rural Jobs Accelerator grant.
The proposed Promise Zone must include the boundaries of the qualifying program (i.e. those listed above) and the grantees/partners of those programs are expected to be applicants or key partners in the Promise Zone application. Communities that are eligible to apply were notified by federal agencies in July 2013. 

The deadline to apply for the Promise Zones designation is Tuesday, November 26, 2013.

The participating federal agencies are offering a set of webinars to support applicants, which begin today. The webinars are divided into two series, one intended for "Urban" applicants and one focused on "Rural and Tribal" applicants. The schedule for each series is as follows:

  • Friday, November 1st @ 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST
    Topic: Webinar to discuss application materials
  • Friday, November 8th @ 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST
    Topic: Webinar to discuss application materials, specifically the mapping tool

  • Friday, November 15th @ 2:00-2:30 p.m. EST
    Topic: Conference call to address any applicant questions

  • Friday, November 22th @ 2:00-2:30 p.m. EST
    Topic: Conference call to address any applicant questions
Rural and Tribal
  • Friday, November 1st @ 3:30-4:30 p.m. EST
    Topic: Webinar to discuss application materials

  • Friday, November 8th @ 3:30-4:30 p.m. EST
    Topic: Webinar to discuss application materials, specifically the mapping tool

  • Friday, November 15th @ 3:00-3:30 p.m. EST
    Topic: Conference call to address any applicant questions

  • Friday, November 22th @ 3:00-3:30 p.m. EST
    Topic: Conference call to address any applicant questions
For complete details about the Promise Zones application process and applicant webinar series, including a regularly updated FAQ document, please visit HUD's website here.

For a quick overview of the Promise Zones strategy, check out CSSP's brief released this summer and other related posts from our blog.

Stay tuned to our blog for more details about the Promise Zone application process as they emerge.