Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose

Wilson Housing Authority, in partnership with the City of Wilson, was awarded a $200,000 planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under its new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. The Housing Authority and the City of Wilson each matched that grant with $100,000, bringing the total funding for planning to a robust $400,000.

Choice Neighborhoods grants transform distressed neighborhoods and public and assisted projects into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods by linking housing improvements with appropriate services, schools, public assets, transportation, and access to jobs. A strong emphasis is placed on local community planning for access to high-quality educational opportunities, including early childhood education.

HUD Director Michael Williams (left) and then-WHA President/CEO Edward Jagnandan (2012)

These grants build upon the successes of public housing transformation under HOPE VI to provide support for the preservation and rehabilitation of public and HUD-assisted housing, within the context of a broader approach to concentrated poverty. In addition to public housing authorities, the initiative will involve local governments, non-profits, and for-profit developers in undertaking comprehensive local planning with residents and the community.

WHA’s partnership with the HUD field office is perhaps its most important relationship. The agency maintains a close and productive working relationship, effectively navigating the regulatory environment and delivering excellent value to the taxpayers.

Our Grantee Profile:
Choice Neighborhoods Lead Grantee: Housing Authority of the City of Wilson
Choice Neighborhoods Co-Grantee: City of Wilson
Target Public Housing Project: Whitfield Homes
Target Neighborhood: Center City
Category Preference: Non-Metropolitan Area
Choice Neighborhoods Grant Amount: $200,000

Target Area Map

Key Partners:
TCG Development Services, LLC (Planning Coordinator), Wilson Community College, Barton College, St. Johns Community Development Corporation, Wilson Public Schools, Wilson Community Credit Union, Diversified Opportunities, JSL Development Center Inc., Bridgestone Americas, Salvation Army/Boys and Girls Club, Wilson County Partnership for Children/Smart Start, Imagination Station, J&L Summerville Academy, Families in Action, Upper Coastal Plains, Opportunities Industrialization Center, Carolina Family Health Centers

Project Summary:
The Housing Authority of the City of Wilson has partnered with the City of Wilson and TCG Development Services, LLC, to develop a Transformation Plan for the neighborhood around Whitfield Homes.  In the Center City neighborhood, Whitfield Homes is the only large multifamily public housing property and is isolated from the rest of the community.  Center City has a poverty rate of over 50 percent and an unemployment rate of 46 percent.  Despite the neighborhood distress, the area has several key assets including new residential and commercial developments, a planned park and greenway that will tie the Whitfield site to a major new recreational area traversing much of the city, the city Transit Center and Amtrak station, a recreation center, early education center, community college and the planned Whirligig Park.

The Choice Neighborhoods planning process will focus on establishing partnerships necessary to carry out neighborhood redevelopment, including the development of a financing plan and phasing model; reconnecting Whitfield Homes to downtown; strategies to make available community and supportive services to residents throughout the target area; creating momentum for the private sector to revitalize and rebuild downtown retail businesses; and establishing a strong early childhood education anchor institution that provides high-quality education to local children.

Next Steps:
WHA is constantly forming new partnerships in the community to increase the quality of life for our residents. We are partners with Wilson Medical Center and the Wilson County Health Department and are creating new programs to improve the health of our residents. We have partnerships with the Wilson County School system, Wilson Community College, Barton College, Employment Security Commission and Wilson County Department of Social Services. We are in the process of setting up new programs to educate our residents and get them prepared for employment in the rapidly growing pharmaceutical industry that has come to Wilson.