In our opinion, the best prize is always cold, hard cash.
And this year, that’s exactly what four cities are receiving from the federal government after competing for funding to support low-income communities. This year’s winners are using the money to rethink the potential of public housing.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded a total of $119.7 million (about $30 million each) to Norwalk, Connecticut; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for its annual Choice Neighborhood Initiative.
These four recipients bested 40 other cities that applied for the urban housing program. Each will combine the grant money with private funding to transform aging public housing and depressed neighborhoods into mixed-income, mixed-use communities, Next City reports.
“By working together, with local and state partners we will show why neighborhoods should always be defined by their potential — not their problems,” said HUD secretary Shaun Donovan. “Together, we will work to ensure that no child’s future is determined by their zip code and expand opportunity for all.”
Donovan, who led President Barack Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force, has made sustainable building a priority at HUD in the wake of recent natural disasters. The agency has collaborated with FEMA in redesigning recovery projects, which extends to Norwalk’s project: rebuilding a blighted public housing development devastated by Sandy.
New units will be built six-and-a-half feet above the floodplain and will be protected by FEMA-funded storm-proofing infrastructures. The new development will also include community gardens, fitness trails and parks with playgrounds and sports fields.
In Pittsburgh, officials will use the grant to redevelop two of the city’s low-income neighborhoods. Plans include a one-to-one replacement of 155 public housing units and development of the area surrounding the new, upscale Ace Hotel.

“It will be the most significant investment in low- and moderate-income communities in the East End in 75 years,” Councilman Ricky Burgess, who represents the neighborhoods, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

HUD began the initiative under President Obama’s order in 2011, awarding Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and New Orleans a total of $122.27 million in grants. Submission for applications for next year’s funding is slated to begin this fall.

MORE: What Cities Can Learn From San Francisco’s Newest Public Housing Project