Federal officials presented the District yesterday with the largest single public housing grant in the city's history--$30 million that Mayor Anthony A. Williams called a leap forward in his administration's efforts to revitalize downtrodden areas east of the Anacostia River.
The grant will be used to replace dilapidated public housing units with contemporary town houses and to assist residents with training, jobs and education. It's part of a series of grants worth $571 million that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding to 21 cities this year.
In the District, the money will be used to make housing available for 600 families and demolish 448 deteriorated public housing apartments--333 of which are occupied--at the Frederick Douglass and Stanton Dwellings developments in Southeast Washington.
"This is the single largest housing grant program that we run," said HUD Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo, who announced the D.C. grant during a news conference yesterday at the Frederick Douglass Community Recreation Center. "We are making public housing a launching pad to opportunity, jobs and self-sufficiency, instead of a warehouse trapping people in poverty and long-term dependence."
The receipt of such a large grant was symbolically important to Williams, who has vowed to reverse the city's penchant for squandering opportunities to receive millions of dollars in federal grants and other assistance each year.
The HUD grants were awarded competitively under a federal program designed to refresh the nation's public housing stock. The grants will be used to provide public, affordable and market-rate housing for 9,311 low-income families, and to demolish 9,134 units of severely distressed public housing.
HUD plans to change the physical shape of public housing by demolishing the worst public housing developments--high-rises and barracks-style apartments--and replacing them with garden-style apartments or town houses designed to be more a part of their surrounding communities.
The grant-funded new housing in the District will consist of 105 public housing units, 173 market-rate and affordable homes that will be made available for purchase and 120 units of privately owned, low- and moderate-income housing financed with the help of the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit.
The HUD grant for the District will be used to create housing in a variety of styles aimed at complementing the Anacostia area, and the homes will have front and back yards. Neighborhood recreational facilities will be upgraded, and a computer education center will be added to a local school.
The grant "brings more than hope, it brings the reality of new homeownership opportunities, new jobs and a new future," Williams said. "It is [a] major step in our effort to revitalize communities east of the [Anacostia] river."
Deborah Green, president of the residents' association at the Frederick Douglass public housing development, said the HUD grant offers residents a positive future.
"This is a . . . renaissance of a community," said Green, who has lived at the development for nearly 10 years. "The people who have lived here for years in dilapidated conditions will benefit. . . . This was a long time coming."
HUD will pay temporary relocation costs for those whose apartments are being demolished. Relocated residents in good standing will be given the first chance to move back into new units or will be given vouchers to subsidize their rents in privately owned units.
CAPTION: "We are making public housing a launching pad to opportunity," HUD Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo said of the grant.
CAPTION: Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton smiles at Cuomo before he announced the federal grant for the District, one of 21 cities to receive funds.