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CAMDEN — U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge traveled to Camden Wednesday to meet with local leaders and to announce a $35 million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant awarded to the Housing Authority of the City of Camden and the City of Camden Cramer Hill Neighborhood.
This award will be used to redevelop severely distressed housing and spur comprehensive revitalization under HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Program.
Fudge was joined by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, and Camden Interim Mayor Victor Carstarphen.
“Since its creation, the Choice Neighborhoods initiative has transformed communities across the nation,” Fudge said in a statement released by HUD. “Today’s announcement will support the local vision in Camden for reinvigorating the community and increasing opportunity for its residents. I applaud Camden for its commitment to ensuring affordable housing serves as a platform for community innovation and individual advancement.”
The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative
The Choice Neighborhoods initiative supports the revitalization of communities through an emphasis on linking housing improvements with comprehensive social services and physical neighborhood improvements.
Local leaders, residents, and stakeholders, such as public housing authorities, cities, schools, police, business owners, nonprofits, and private developers, come together to create and implement a plan that revitalizes distressed HUD-assisted housing and addresses the challenges in the surrounding neighborhood. This year’s awardees were selected from a pool of 20 applications.
“This $35 million award we’re announcing today will help Camden realize its plan to replace distressed housing in the Cramer Hill neighborhood and ultimately improve the quality of life for the residents of Ablett Village,” Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Development Committee, said.
“The City and Housing Authority have put forward a visionary plan that includes building 350 new, energy-efficient units, including 21 additional low-income apartments; improving pedestrian infrastructure and access to mass transit; providing recreational opportunities, including a new community center, playgrounds for children, and walking trails; and even creating a garden for locally-sourced produce. These are exactly the kind of investments that will attract more businesses to the area and connect the residents of Cramer Hill to greater job opportunities,” he added.
Norcross said Wednesday’s announcement highlights officials’ collective commitment to ensuring residents of Camden not only have affordable, safe places to call home but have access to jobs, quality education and economic opportunities.
“Urban communities like Camden City have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and these vital funds will go a long way to ensure that Ablett Village can provide the services that residents need and transform this neighborhood for generations to come,” Norcross said. “I was glad to work with community leaders and residents to support this grant and congratulate the city on this major achievement.”
Carstarphen, who was elevated to the mayor position last month after the resignation of Frank Moran in April, said he was thrilled with HUD’s investment into Ablett Village and the surrounding neighborhood of Cramer Hill.
“We are also thankful to Senator Bob Menendez, Senator Cory Booker, and Congressman Donald Norcross for supporting our vision of a stronger community fabric here, one that includes beautiful homes for residents, safer and friendlier streets, and exciting economic opportunities for all. On behalf of all residents here in Ablett Village and Cramer Hill, I am incredibly honored,” he continued.
This federal investment in Camden comes after a Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant awarded in 2018, that brought together hundreds of public housing residents and local partners to create a comprehensive Transformation Plan for the Cramer Hill Neighborhood.
As a result, the Housing Authority of the City of Camden, working with Michaels Development, will create 425 mixed-income housing units on the original Ablett Village site in key locations throughout the neighborhood.
Off-site phases of housing development will populate vacant lots and make significant investments into the most distressed portion of the Cramer Hill neighborhood and strengthen housing around River Avenue, Cramer Hill’s, commercial corridor. Click here to see Camden’s grant project summary.
Ablett Village and Cramer Hill
“Today is a great day for the residents of Ablett Village and Cramer Hill, and for all of Camden, for that matter,” said Deborah Person-Polk, chairwoman of the Housing Authority of the City of Camden. “In fact, it was the longtime participation and perseverance of the community residents that especially made the approval of our HUD CNI grant application possible. And now we look forward to making their dream for a better place to call a home a reality.”
John J. O’Donnell, CEO of The Michaels Organization, said he is proud to have partnered with the City of Camden and HACC over the years to replace much of Camden’s affordable housing stock, and now we greatly look forward to transforming Ablett Village with the help of this HUD CNI grant.
“We have extraordinary plans for Ablett Village. These homes are going to be beautiful, modern, and energy-efficient, specially designed to meet the needs of all those living here,” O’Connell said. “But our plans include more than just brick and mortar; we intend to offer advancement opportunities consistent with those of our other housing communities, where we offer robust scholarship programs and professional development programs. And needless to say, we can’t wait to get started.”
Tracey Powell, president of the Ablett Village Residents Council, said since the early 2000s, when developers wanted to build a marina and a golf course in Camden, the residents of Ablett Village have lived in fear of being displaced.
“This is our home. This is where we want to be,” Powell said. “But up until now, we were never 100 percent sure that we couldn’t lose our homes. But thanks to this grant, we will finally have the housing security that we so desperately crave.”
The Choice Neighborhoods Program integrates area partners that provide funding and services essential to the program’s success. Camden’s Choice Neighborhood partners include Michaels Development, the Camden Redevelopment Agency, Camden City School District, Better Tomorrows, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, Ablett Village Resident Council, Cramer Hill Residents Association, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Camden County, Camden County Police Department, Camden County Workforce Development Board, New Jersey Housing Mortgage and Finance Agency, ResinTech, Inc., Rutgers University Camden, Salvation Army Kroc Center, St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society, and the State of New Jersey.
These partnerships will provide additional resources and funding estimated to leverage $67.27 million.
This is the second Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant awarded to Camden. In 2016, HUD awarded Camden $13.2 million, which revitalized the Mt. Ephraim South neighborhood and the dilapidated Clement T. Branch Village housing development.
The Choice Neighborhoods funding turned the old, distressed public housing development into Branch Village, which provided more than 200 homes for Camden families and seniors.
HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Program is focused on three core goals:
- Housing: Replace distressed public and assisted housing with high-quality mixed-income housing that is well-managed and responsive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood;
- People: Improve outcomes of households living in the target housing related to employment and income, health, and children’s education; and
- Neighborhood: Create the conditions necessary for public and private reinvestment in distressed neighborhoods to offer the kinds of amenities and assets, including safety, good schools, and commercial activity, that are important to families’ choices about their community.
HUD investments in the City of Camden are proof of HUD’s commitment to Camden residents. Recent HUD awards and funding to Camden include over $35 million in Choice Neighborhood funding, nearly $2 million in Jobs Plus Initiative, a Promise Zone Designation, 43 Emergency Housing Vouchers and over $130 Million in Home Investment Funding.
Camden was one of five awardees nationwide provided funding for Fiscal Year 2020. This federal funding will create nearly 2,700 new mixed-income housing units as part of their efforts to revitalize their neighborhoods.
Based on information provided in each community’s application, for every $1 in Choice Neighborhoods funding, the awardees will leverage an additional $10.60 in public and private resources for their project proposals.
The five cities named this years’ winners are: Camden; Cleveland; Detroit; Fort Myers, Fla.; and Lewiston, Maine. For each community’s grant project summary, click HERE.
“Today’s announcement of HUD’s major investment in the Cramer Hill neighborhood is welcome news and complements the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ own continuing work in rehabbing vacant properties, repairing homes, and improving parks, business districts, and community centers in Cramer Hill,” Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, said.
“DCA has long valued how a thriving Cramer Hill community uplifts the City of Camden as a whole and we appreciate HUD’s contribution to the neighborhood’s revitalization efforts. With all levels of government and stakeholders moving in the same direction, the future of Cramer Hill is extremely bright,” Oliver added.
“It’s moments like this that remind us what is possible when we come together as a team,” said Victor D. Figueroa, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Camden. “For years, HACC, the Cramer Hill community, and our many partners have been working around a shared vision for a more equitable future in Ablett Village, one that especially benefits its low-to-moderate-income residents.
“And now with HUD’s generous support, including the Jobs Plus Program which has been in place at Ablett for three years come this August, we are excited to put our carefully developed plan into action,” Figueroa continued.
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