HUD awards Homeownership Zone grants
ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    MAY. 1, 1998
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced its second round of Homeownership Zone grants, awarding $18 million to five cities. After state, local and private funds are factored in, financing for these projects totals $184 million. Along with the Hope VI public housing redevelopment program (see January, 1998, New Urban News), the Homeownership Zones represent a dramatic shift in policy for HUD. Both programs adopt the new urbanist principles of creating mixed use, walkable neighborhoods based on traditional architectural forms and town planning. While Hope VI focuses primarily on public housing, the Homeownership Zone program seeks to create affordable, private housing in economically depressed inner-cities. The recipients this year were: Trenton, New Jersey; Indianapolis, Indiana; Flint, Michigan; New York City; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Projects approved last year are in the late stages of planning or early implementation in Baltimore, Cleveland, Sacramento, Buffalo, Louisville, and Philadelphia. Trenton’s $34.6 million Canal Banks project ($3.8 million federal grant) is designed to rejuvenate an area of about 30 blocks adjacent to downtown (see plan). Linear parks will be created along the historic Raritan Canal and an abandoned railway. A total of 177 new homes will be built, 73 homes refurbished and a “main street” commercial area developed. Fifty-one percent of homes will be sold to low-to-moderate income households. For the most part, Trenton will stick with its existing street grid, although there will be some new new streets created. The city will concentrate on restoring its urban fabric and creating quality public spaces. Like many of the Homeownership Zone projects, the housing will be heavily subsidized. High quality townhomes, with traditional materials and architectural features, will start out selling for about $65,000 — even though they cost $100,000 to $110,000 to build, says Bill Valocchi of the City of Trenton Department of Housing and Development. “We’re hoping that the values will increase over time if the market functions the way it should,” he says. With a total of $42.7 million ($4 million from HUD), the City of Indianapolis plans to build and rehabilitate 265 houses in the 50-acre Fall Creek area near downtown. Flint, Michigan, will utilize $50 million ($2 million from HUD) to build 212 single family homes and 97 townhomes. In New York City, 119 townhomes will replace vacant lots in the Mount Morris Homeownership Zone, bordering on 125th Street, Harlem’s “main street,” with $42.7 million ($4.65 million HUD grant). The Cantera Peninsula Homeownership Zone in San Juan involves the construction of 304 homes. The total project cost is $13.8 million ($3.5 million HUD grant). HUD’s proposed 1999 budget asks for $25 million for the Homeownership Zones program, enough to create five to seven more zones.