Office of Urban Affairs Blog

  • White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities Announces New Executive Director

    In March, President Obama established the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities to guide the coordination of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative (SC2), which launched in June 2011 and is aimed at creating new partnerships between federal agencies and localities to spark economic development in communities that have faced significant long-term economic challenges.  In addition to other components, SC2 embeds federal experts into the mayors’ teams in six pilot cities -- Chester, PA; Cleveland and Youngstown, OH (Northeast Ohio Region); Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; and New Orleans, LA—to help them execute their economic vision.  

    It has been a busy time for SC2.  Just last week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering in Orlando, the mayors passed a resolution supporting SC2 and calling for its expansion.  At the same gathering, the Administration announced $11 million in competitive funding to support additional distressed communities beyond the six pilot cities.  Of these new funds, $6 million will be used for an SC2 Economic Visioning Challenge—a groundbreaking competitive grant process led by the Economic Development Administration that will offer cash prizes for new solutions to spur economic growth and job creation in select communities. In addition, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has taken key steps to establish a National Resource Network (NRN), which will serve as an economic development resource center for communities to receive customized technical assistance, while also acting as a “one-stop-shop” on other policy and technical issues for many other communities.  The NRN will aggregate public and private resources to provide a broader set of cities, towns and regions with access to a single portal for national experts and federal resources.

  • Impact in Place: ED Releases Report on “Place-Based” Strategy

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Homeroom, the official blog of the Department of Education

    Place matters. And the Obama Administration has made it a priority to study just how much, such as how a community comes together to support residents, and how government, business and nonprofits can increase coordination to improve impact and effectiveness of investment.

    From this work, the Department of Education has adopted a “place-based” approach – recognizing that the federal government can support strategies to achieve better outcomes for students and families by taking into account where investments are made and how those investments interact with other resources, policies, and programs. On Friday, the Department released a report on these efforts titled “Impact in Place: A Progress Report on the Department of Education’s Place-Based Strategy.”

    The report explains how the Department is able to better align its work with other levels of government to address common challenges. For the first time, the Department is explicitly using “place” as the unit of analysis, not just the set of programs that the agency funds.

    Communities that struggle with underperforming schools, rundown housing, neighborhood violence, and poor health know that these are interconnected challenges and that they perpetuate each other. The place-based framework helps the federal government better support a community’s response to such challenges by coming up with solutions that tackle multiple problems.

  • A Model of Collaboration: White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities

    Last week, President Obama announced the creation of the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities —a new federal-local pilot that removes federal agency silos and allows federal government officials to work side-by-side with local leaders to create jobs, improve the business climate, and address local and regional challenges.

    The SC2 Council will further the pilot’s work to develop creative ways to improve the way the Federal government engages with and supports local communities.  By better aligning resources and engaging leaders across executive departments and agencies, communities across the country will have greater access to comprehensive, coordinated and customized technical assistance and planning resources to develop and implement their economic vision and strategies.

    Last week,  White House officials held a meeting with SC2 stakeholders to mark the six-month anniversary of teams operating on the ground in the six pilot cities, which includeChester, PA, Cleveland and Youngstown (Northeast Ohio Initiative), Detroit, Fresno, Memphis, and New Orleans. Local leaders, including SC2 Mayors Dave Bing, Mitch Landrieu, John Linder, Ashley Swearengin, and A C Wharton; city government staff; Federal agencies; members from SC2’s Community Solutions Teams; and our partners in the business, philanthropic, and non-profit communities, among others, compared notes and discussed their appreciation for the strong new federal-local partnership.

  • HUD Hosts Strong Cities, Strong Communities Fellowship Program Twitter Town Hall

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from The HUDdle, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Official Blog

    On February 28 at 3:30 p.m. EST, HUD Secretary Donovan and myself will host a Twitter town hall to launch the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Fellowship Program.

    Launched by the Obama Administration last summer, the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative is a new way the federal government is working with cities in a more responsive and collaborative manner.  Thirteen different federal agencies are working together with mayors and local governments across the U.S. to help them use existing federal resources more effectively to achieve their economic vision and goals. SC2 is at the heart of the Administration’s commitment to help revitalize and strengthen American cities, which have historically been, and continue to be, the backbone of our nation’s economy. Federal agencies engaged in SC2 work closely with local elected officials and leadership in the philanthropic, nonprofit and private sectors to improve the capacity of these cities to respond to immediate and future challenges.

    To pilot this new, collaborative approach, five cities and one region were selected to receive Community Solution Teams comprised of federal staff from multiple agencies. Over the last four months, these teams have worked on the ground with local governments and their partners to accomplish tangible outcomes in Chester, PA; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA, and the Northeast Ohio cities of Cleveland and Youngstown.

  • Building Neighborhoods of Opportunity

    Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $3.6 million in Choice Neighborhood grants to 13 communities across the country, which provides local leaders with flexible funds to transform high-poverty neighborhoods with distressed public housing into sustainable communities with mixed-income housing, safe streets, and economic opportunity.

    Choice Neighborhoods is one of the signature programs of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which supports innovative, holistic strategies that bring the right partners together to help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.  Millions of Americans currently live in neighborhoods of highly concentrated poverty where struggling schools, high unemployment rates, distressed housing, persistent and violent crime cause disproportionately negative outcomes for their residents. The interconnected challenges in high-poverty neighborhoods require interconnected solutions to address the compounding effects of the multiple barriers facing children and families who live in these neighborhoods—the Choice Neighborhood grants announced today do just that.

    The President’s approach to revitalizing neighborhoods of distress and providing economic opportunity focuses heavily on the link between housing and school improvements, recognizing that for neighborhoods to succeed they need high-quality educational opportunities. Just last month, the Department of Education announced the first round of Promise Neighborhood implementation grant winners and the second round of planning grant winners.  Promise Neighborhoods, modeled off of the Harlem Children’s Zone, is the sister program to Choice Neighborhoods and focuses on significantly improving the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in our most distressed communities, from cradle to career, and to transform those communities by creating great schools at the center.     

    A child’s zip code should never determine his or her life opportunities and through the work of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative’s flagship programs, Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Neighborhoods, we are providing the supports necessary to transform neighborhoods of distress into neighborhoods of opportunity. 

    Racquel Russell is a Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity in the White House Domestic Policy Council.


  • Improving Affordable Housing Delivery Across Federal Agencies

    Today, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development released the report “Federal Rental Alignment: Administrative Proposals” which lays out a broad vision for improving the delivery and operation of affordable housing across the country. The initiatives in this report – many of which are already being implemented - will streamline federal housing requirements to support more efficient delivery of affordable housing, and help state and federal agencies’ staff to better serve low-income families who rent their homes. The Administration's goal is to make government work better by reducing the unintended consequences associated with the reality of housing finance today – multiple overlapping public investments on a given rental property. 

    The report includes ten initiatives proposed by the Rental Policy Working Group that will more efficiently align rental programs across government agencies, including inspections, financial reporting, appraisals, energy efficiency standards, and fair housing compliance enforcement, among others. And every one of these improvements can be done without legislation or new funding, through a combination of education, outreach, issuing Agency guidance, and rule changes.

    This effort dates back to 2010 when the White House Domestic Policy Council created the interagency Rental Policy Working Group (RPWG) with the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and the Treasury. The RPWG convened several conferences at the White House with local and state housing agencies and property owners and developers to discuss best practices in affordable housing delivery.
    As we begin implementation of these initiatives, we look forward to sharing our progress with you and hope you will keep in touch with our efforts through the Domestic Policy Council Urban Affairs blog  and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's site

    Derek Douglas is a Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council