In welcome news for both cities, Norfolk and Newport News will each receive $30 million from the federal government for public housing redevelopment.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Monday that it awarded both cities competitive grants, known as the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, which provide the cities with funding to carry out plans to reshape poverty-stricken neighborhoods with a high quantity of public housing.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson and local officials from both cities gathered together in Newport News to deliver the news.
Carson told the Virginian-Pilot that the goal is to revitalize the areas and “improve the lives and outcomes for the many, many families.”
Carson said the approach to developing neighborhoods must provide residents with not just housing, but resources and opportunities in order to become successful and self-sufficient.
Both cities intend to use the money to tear down aging and dilapidated housing and replace it with new, mixed-income developments. They also plan to pair that redevelopment with social, health and jobs programs to help the existing population.
In Norfolk, the grant is largely focused on Tidewater Gardens, an “opportunity zone,” and the first public housing neighborhood to be torn down and redeveloped as part of the city’s larger St. Paul’s area revitalization effort.
Norfolk housing officials expect to start knocking down buildings in Tidewater Gardens as soon as next year. The wide-ranging plan will see 1,700 units of 1950s public housing replaced with mixed-use, mixed-income developments.
As for the 4,200 people who live in the St. Paul’s area, the city plans for half of them to take vouchers and move into privately-owned housing, some of which might be outside of Norfolk, while a third of the 4,200 people who live in the St. Paul’s area are expected to be able to return to the subsidized housing rebuilt there.
The first residents are expected to move out of Tidewater Gardens this summer.
In Newport News, the $30 million grant will be used to further revitalize the Marshall-Ridley neighborhood. It comes on top of roughly another $270 million in city, private and development funding that is being invested into the area.
The city will knock down Ridley Place’s 259 units and build 487 new homes, including 133 moderate-income homes and 98 market rate homes. Carson promised that existing residents who’ve been in the neighborhood through its tough times would not be displaced.
Marshall-Ridley, which was a middle-class neighborhood during the World War II era, hit tough times in the 50s and 60s, prompting the construction of public housing. Today, 61% of homes in the Marshall-Ridley area are either public or Section 8 units, and the area has higher rates of poverty, unemployment and crime than the rest of the city.
The city has been working on redeveloping the area since 2016 and has implemented job training sources, brought businesses back into the area, taken over unused and blighted properties and improved public outdoor spaces. The $30 million grant will continue that redevelopment.
More details on both cities’ plans can be found here.