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Cleveland's $35M Choice Implementation Grant Award: What Made the Difference?

Posted August 11, 2021 in Articles

Cleveland's $35M Choice Implementation Grant Award: What Made the Difference?

Author: Purpose Built Communities

In 2018, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) received a two-year Choice Neighborhood Planning grant for a robust community engagement process and community needs assessment that would be used to develop a holistic neighborhood transformational strategy: the Woodhill Transformation Plan. When the opportunity arose in May 2020 for CMHA and the City of Cleveland to apply for the FY2019 Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant, CMHA was still in the process of finalizing the Woodhill Transformation Plan. Though one of five national finalists, CMHA did not ultimately receive the funds. Kimalon Dixon, Senior Project Director for CLE PBC and Woodhill Choice community partner shared, “We continued the work, even after we got notification that we had not received it.

Kimalon added, “What seemed to be really bad news after not getting the award that first time was an opportunity for introspection. During the first site visit with HUD, we were given really good feedback and asked questions that pointed to weaknesses in our proposal. After not receiving the FY2019 Implementation Grant, our starting point was answering those questions and focusing on our areas of development.” CMHA and the City of Cleveland reapplied for the FY2020 Choice Implementation Grant and were successfully funded with $35M, in addition to the local funding match requirements.

Kimalon’s foremost advice to other Network Members considering the same path: “Coordination is key, especially with the multiple community partners required through Choice Neighborhoods. It is essential to clearly define partnerships and explain relationships between community partners—avoid haphazardly throwing together unconnected strategies or partnerships. You must show HUD that it all fits together, you’ve thought it out, and it will result in a smooth service delivery and transition process for our residents, who are our highest level of accountability. When we can show we have fully coordinated on our end, it gives HUD the confidence that this project is life-changing for the residents who will benefit from redeveloped housing.”

Kimalon points to improvement in three areas, all powered by increased coordination, as key to CLE PBC’s success in ultimately securing the Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant dollars:

Governance and Sustainability

When CMHA and the City of Cleveland first applied for Implementation dollars, partnership roles were still being determined among the various groups all working toward neighborhood revitalization within the same footprint, including Cleveland’s city-led initiative, the Mayor’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (MNTI) and CLE Purpose Built Communities. As the Woodhill Transformation Plan was just being completed, the partnerships around the community needs and vision that had come out of that planning process hadn’t yet been solidified. CLE PBC continued its planning and resource/partnership development after that unsuccessful attempt. In their second application, CMHA highlighted its high-performing Community Development Corporation partner, Burten Bell Carr Development Corporation, as the community quarterback for their Choice Neighborhood and positioned CLE PBC as the vehicle for long-term sustainability beyond the five-year Choice grant term. Two questions that guided this process were:

  • How can we balance HUD’s requirements while remaining community led and aligning with the Purpose Built model?
  • How can we turn those geographic and programmatic areas of overlap into assets, to be able to compound benefits and maximize opportunities?


Education was a top priority for CLE PBC. “Our focus on the education pipeline was the value add that we brought to the Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant Proposal. Even though HUD has identified education as one of the areas they want to see in the proposal, there’s not much weight within the point distribution. Most of the points are around case management and housing. But we know education is important, especially in this identified area, as we had been working hard to construct an education pipeline to support this neighborhood.”

In their second application, CLE PBC solidified their partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). Fully identifying their role, CMSD signed an MOU to serve as Education Lead for the Choice grant in partnership with CLE Purpose Built Communities. Kimalon shared, “We were able to uplift the innovative programming the school district is already doing with Say Yes to Education (support services in the schools) and their progress in closing the achievement gap. CMSD is a Choice districtparents choose where their children will attend school. Our resident target children attend more than 60 schools citywide. So we expanded our focus from solely on neighborhood schools to adding a focus on supporting parents and youth to have successful educational experiences wherever they attend school. Although this is a deviation from the Purpose Built model, we had to show that we were being responsive to the needs in our community.” Our partnership with community partners, CMSD, and resources from Choice will give us this reach.”

Case Management and Housing

In response to feedback from HUD, “we increased the mix of legacy residents and higher income levels by both building more total units (scale of new construction) and planning for more Project Based Vouchers for families who chose to move to a different neighborhood,” shared Debbie Wilbur (Assistant Director & Research Associate, National Initiative on Mixed-Income Communities, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University). HUD also wanted to see a smaller case management ratio to ensure a smooth relocation and transition process.

Congrats to the Cleveland team! Reach out to Kimalon Dixon with questions.

Original Article: https://pbconnections.org/wp-login.php