Federal housing funds should be used to improve schools

iStock_000001519996SmallBecause good schools are often found in good neighborhoods, a new Urban Institute report says that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Education should work together more closely in redevelopment projects.

“The federal government can and should actively encourage local efforts to link housing and neighborhood revitalization investments in school quality,” says the report, “Vibrant Neighborhoods, Successful Schools.”

“When HUD awards funding for the redevelopment of federally subsidized housing developments, it should give priority to proposals that include actionable plans for improving the schools that children living in these developments attend.”

Among some of the strategies that could be used: Expand affordable housing options in communities with high-performing schools and create new elementary schools in distressed neighborhoods. In Atlanta, Georgia Tech sponsored a new public school and a neighborhood-based foundation sponsored a charter school as part of redevelopment projects, says the report. In Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania sponsored a public school in a distressed neighborhood. HUD dollars could also be used to increase family stability with vouchers since student mobility is linked to lower achievement in school.

Among the report’s other recommendations are that HUD require that competitively awarded housing redevelopment projects show how they will coordinate relocation and re-occupancy plans with local school systems.

The report had its source in an informal roundtable held at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in March 2009 to identify opportunities to more effectively link federal housing and education initiatives.

“Vibrant Neighborhoods, Successful Schools,” by Margery Austin and Alan Berube, The Urban Institute, July 2009. http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411927_vibrantneighborhoods.pdf


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