Office of Urban Affairs Blog

  • Strong Cities, Strong Communities Fellowship Program

    Ed. note: This blog is cross-posted from

    This summer, the Obama Administration announced the launch of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative.  This new interagency pilot initiative is designed to spark economic growth in local communities while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently.  SC2 will break the federal government out of its traditional roles to partner with local governments more effectively.

    As part of this initiative, a new fellowship program will select, train, and place early to mid-career professionals to serve multi-year terms in the cities of Chester, PA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; and New Orleans, LA and assist them in their economic revitalization efforts.  Up to 30 fellows will be deployed to one of these six pilot cities and will be integral to creating partnerships among local community organizations, anchor institutions, businesses, foundations and other government agencies, with the goal of helping to leverage federal investments and increase economic impacts.

    Today HUD announced the selection of the German Marshall Fund (GMF) as the recipient of a $2.5 million award to manage the SC2 fellowship program.  The funding is donated by the Rockefeller Foundation. GMF will be responsible for implementing and administering the fellowship program by:

    •  Identifying, selecting and recruiting qualified candidates for the fellowship program;
    • Coordinating with local organizations in each pilot city;
    • Working with each pilot city to ensure that fellows are well integrated within their pilot city and working on strategic projects;
    • Developing orientation materials for fellows entering the program;
    • Developing or applying existing training curriculum that will equip fellows with the fundamental knowledge, tools and skills they would need to be successful in the program; and
    • Identifying additional training and mentoring opportunities fellows may require as they progress through the program.

    Once selected and assigned to cities, the SC2 Fellows will take on strategic responsibilities and be immersed in the core operations of the pilot city; engage in peer-to-peer learning opportunities and become active leaders in their pilot city; and be intensely engaged and committed to the redevelopment of the city so that they remain working in the city after the end of the program.

    Erica Poething is Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Policy Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 


  • Ending Homelessness in New Orleans

    Yesterday, the New Orleans Homeless Services Working Group, an official Mayoral Advisory Committee, unveiled the strategic 10-year plan to end homelessness in New Orleans.  The Obama Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative played a key part in helping develop this cross-cutting plan.  A member of the SC2 team in New Orleans, the Department of Veterans Affairs, has partnered with the City to redevelop a portion of the downtown VA Hospital site into a Homeless Community Resource Center. This project is one of the cornerstones of the City's plan. To find out more about this announcement, please visit the City of New Orleans Web site.

    Derek Douglas is Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs.

  • Pilot Project Aims to Streamline Government Policies for Affordable Housing Developers

    On November 7th, Wisconsin and Michigan signed agreements as part of an Administration pilot initiative that would reduce regulatory burden on developers of federally-subsidized affordable rental housing and better coordinate intergovernmental oversight. As part of the Obama Administration's commitment to better coordinated federal rental policy, U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and Treasury are working with their housing finance agency counterparts at the state level in Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington, Minnesota, Oregon and Ohio to eliminate duplicative physical inspections of rental housing subsidized through more than one public funding source.   These agreements save taxpayers money, reduce unnecessary regulatory oversight, and ease the burden on low-income working families who must take time away from work to allow inspectors into their rental apartments.

    You can read more here: Reducing Regulatory Burdens on Affordable Housing Developers

    Derek Douglas is Special Assistant to the President on Urban Policy.

  • Federal Rental Alignment

    This July 27th, the White House’s Domestic Policy Council (DPC) is announcing the launch of two Federal ‘alignment pilots’ in a total of ten states to better serve low-income families that rent, while reducing regulatory burden on affordable housing developers and owners. At a Rental Alignment Conference at the White House, Federal, State, local, and private-sector stakeholders will kick-off these pilots and will discuss progress being made on a number of other administrative solutions to better align and utilize affordable rental housing programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Treasury.  The administrative solutions that are being proposed for implementation can be found here

    For owners, developers, tenants, and local communities working to create and preserve affordable housing, federal funds often make up a significant share of a property’s financing structure. However, owners and developers can be burdened by overlapping administrative requirements associated with those federal affordable housing programs. Having affordable housing programs supported and administered separately by different Federal Departments has generally been good for the rental housing field, as different programs respond to different needs. However, over time, developers and owners of affordable housing have become increasingly reliant on multi-layered finance and subsidy structures. But these programs have not always been designed well to work with each other. 

  • Obama Administration Announces New Grants to Support Community Development

    President Obama is committed to supporting American communities, helping them become more competitive, sustainable and inclusive and improving the quality of life for all citizens. But he also knows that every neighborhood, town, city and suburb is unique, and has its own vision for growth and development. That’s why the Obama Administration is working every day to find new ways to make our communities stronger by ensuring that the federal government is addressing real needs and supporting communities from the bottom up. As part of that effort, the Administration is proud that two new capacity-building grants have been announced – grants from the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative and the Partnership for Sustainable Communities that will support neighborhoods to develop and execute on their visions for growth and ensure that investments in the community are made strategically to maximize impact.
    Many communities around the country have already been touched by the important efforts of the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), a White House led partnership among the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Treasury. NRI supports the transformation of distressed neighborhoods into neighborhoods of opportunity where children can get a good education, adults can get good jobs, and families have access to decent quality housing, transportation, safe streets and clean air and water.  To continue this important work, the White House is excited to report that the Department of Justice recently announced that the new Building Neighborhood Capacity Program (BNCP) is now accepting grant applications for its principal Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator (TTA Coordinator). The BNCP focuses on the nation’s neediest neighborhoods, those that struggle with such issues as crime, poor health, struggling schools, inadequate housing, and access to employment, and seeks to assist them in comprehensive planning and development activities that will develop neighborhood capacity to begin and sustain the long-term process of rebuilding and revitalization.

  • Announcing the Urban Waters Federal Partnership: Helping Communities Revitalize Their Local Waters through Increased Federal Collaboration

    For those of us who are city dwellers, it may not be at the forefront of our minds to remember that our cities and towns are filled with tremendous natural resources and amazing natural beauty.  Our rivers, streams and lakes provide not only drinking water but a place for recreation and critical avenues for economic development and growth in our cities and towns. When our waters become unhealthy and polluted -- or we are cut off from local waterways by poorly placed roads, highways and industrial infrastructure -- we cannot take full advantage of the economic, environmental and social assets that our waters provide. President Obama believes that all Americans deserve access to clean rivers, streams and lakes, and that a community’s economy and health benefit from such access. He also believes that it is our job as the federal government to support communities as they develop visions for growth, development and use of natural resources, while coordinating federal investments so that we are getting the most out of every dollar.

    That’s why I was so proud today to stand with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as well as other Administration colleagues, Senator Ben Cardin, and local city partners to announce a new federal partnership that will reconnect urban communities, particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed, with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies and collaborating with community-led revitalization efforts.

    The Urban Waters Federal Partnership(UWFP) is comprised of 11 federal agencies and represents an innovative union of federal agencies that focus on both natural resources and economic development.  The idea is to increase collaboration across the federal government and with local partners on the ground to revitalize polluted urban waterways in under-served cities across the country, stimulating local economies, creating local jobs, improving communities and protecting American’s health in the process.

    Breaking down federal silos and creating stronger collaborations across the federal government and with local communities is not new to this Administration. Led by EPA, DOI, the Departments of Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development, and coordinated by my team in the White House Domestic Policy Council, the UWFP closely aligns with and advances the work of the White House’s other place-based efforts, including the Partnership for Sustainable Communities,in revitalizing communities, creating jobs and improving the quality of life in cities and towns across the nation. These programs deliver on a commitment by the Administration to ensure that federal dollars get invested wisely and strategically to maximize their impact and improve the lives of American citizens.
    The UWFP will focus its initial efforts on seven pilot cities – Baltimore, the Bronx, Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Northwest Indiana and Washington – that will each benefit from the interagency approach as they seek to revitalize their urban waters.   This morning, we visited Baltimore, MD and learned how the UWFP will support revitalization efforts of the Patapsco Watershed by planting trees around Baltimore to reduce run-off, repaving alleys and streets leading to the river to limit pollution, and putting together a Green Infrastructure Plan with the city government.  The 375,000-acre Patapsco River Watershed spans four counties, flows to the Baltimore City Harbor, and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay, one of the most important estuaries in the world, which means this effort will benefit not only Baltimore City but forested areas, rural areas, productive farms, and surrounding suburban, urban, and industrial areas as well.
    Ultimately, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership is about more efficient and effective federal investment in American communities. Through strengthened collaborations between local, state and federal governments as well as with businesses, NGOs and citizens, we know we can revitalize economies, protect health, and improve the quality of life of our communities.  

    For more information visit: