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Housing Authority wins grant to plan community revitalization

The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority received a $250,000 gift from the federal government -- with possibly up to $30 million more to come.

Out of 119 applicants nationwide, the BMHA was one of 17 housing authorities to be awarded the money over a two-year period to develop a plan to revitalize public housing developments and the communities around them.

The planning grant is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Choice Neighborhoods initiative. A total of $4 million was awarded last week.

HUD will pare the list of 17 recipients to award subsequent grants to housing authorities for the implementation of their proposals.

Choice Neighborhoods is similar to HUD's Hope VI from the late 1990s, a $3.1 billion program to revitalize 83 public housing sites across the country. As a part of that initiative, Lakeview Homes on the lower West Side was transformed from 600 unattractive, barracks-style public housing units into single-family homes and doubles. It is now run by a private developer.

While Hope VI focused on the public housing developments themselves, Choice Neighborhoods also includes the surrounding communities, explained BMHA Executive Director Dawn E. Sanders.

BMHA partnered with the University at Buffalo's Center for Urban Studies and the City of Buffalo to write the Choice Neighborhood's grant and now will begin the planning process and start working on a comprehensive grant proposal.

The proposal will target three areas:

Commodore Perry Homes near downtown, the Larkin District and the Towne Gardens Apartments area.

Kowal Apartments on Sobieski Street near the Broadway Market.

Woodson Gardens, the Fruit Belt around it and City Honors High School.

BMHA will reach out to resident councils, community groups, service providers, businesses and government agencies during the planning process.

"Over the next two years, we'll be getting the community on the same page and moving in the same direction," Sanders said. "We'll have input from every level of community."

All of the proposals will include one-for-one replacement of public housing units in the targeted neighborhood.

The hope is to secure one of the subsequent HUD grants, estimated at $30 million each, Sanders said. She did not know how many of the larger grants will be awarded but said, "the pool will be much smaller and the competition will be more fierce."

Officials are encouraged about their chances because they did well in the planning grant phase.

"This was a huge competitive process. Out of a possible 75 points, we received 64. And we maxed out in four or five categories," Sanders said.


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