Menendez, Redd Tour Camden Neighborhood Revitalization Efforts, Decry Proposed Federal Funding Cuts to Urban Renewal Program

Menendez, Redd Tour Camden Neighborhood Revitalization Efforts, Decry Proposed Federal Funding Cuts to Urban Renewal Program

CAMDEN, NJ – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today toured Camden’s Mt. Ephraim neighborhood with Mayor Dana Redd and denounced Republican efforts to slash funding to a vital federal program that could further the city’s revitalization plan and lead to urban renewal and economic growth.

“As a former mayor, I have seen first-hand the benefits that housing and community development programs, like the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, can have on a neighborhood,” said Sen. Menendez. “Quite simply—these programs change lives. If we are going to truly transform our most distressed neighborhoods, we need a comprehensive approach that recognizes the need to connect affordable housing with good schools, good jobs, and good transportation.”

Republicans in both the House and Senate are pushing funding bills that would severely undermine the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Initiative that is designed to support locally driven strategies to address struggling neighborhoods in cities like Camden. The President has requested $250 million for the program in his budget, but the House GOP-majority wants to drive funding down to only $20 million.

“After decades of disinvestment, blight and failed urban renewal policies, our Mt. Ephraim neighborhood is on the upswing,” said Mayor Redd. “The Choice Neighborhoods Program provides critical resources to cities to further their revitalization efforts. It would be a shame to cut funding to such a worthwhile initiative that has shown that it can help successfully spur economic growth and development in neighborhoods across our country.”

Sen. Menendez is the lead sponsor of legislation to make the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative permanent and to ensure that it is adequately funded.

“Cuts of this magnitude mean fewer grants,” Sen. Menendez said. “They mean fewer dollars for fewer neighborhoods, and that means fewer success stories like we have seen in Camden and in cities across America.”

Camden is currently one of nine finalists for a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to advance the city’s efforts to transform the Mt. Ephraim neighborhood from an area with high poverty and struggling schools to a thriving, social and economic center. The Housing Authority of the City of Camden received a $300,000 Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Planning Grant in 2012 to design the plan.

If selected as a winner, Camden will receive an Implementation Grant to help fund the implementation of the city’s plan. Camden requested $30 million in grant funding from HUD, which will leverage and be supported by over $286 million in additional private and public resources.

“I am certain that if Camden receives this funding, we will be able to give Senator Menendez and our Congressional delegation all of the evidence they need to show that what this program needs is more funding, not short-sighted cuts,” Mayor Redd said.

The plan includes redevelopment of 460 housing units that will conform to green communities’ sustainability and energy efficiency standards, including two new transit-oriented developments adjacent to the PATCO station; new small businesses; park upgrades; public safety enhancements; and $50 million in committed Board of Education funding for two new schools.

“When all is said and done, this plan is about opportunity. It’s about Camden’s families. It’s about their safety, the quality of their housing, and smart-growth so they can find a good job and an easy way to commute to work,” Sen. Menendez said. “We need to stand together with Mayor Redd to make certain she gets what she needs to make it happen.”

Camden would be the first New Jersey applicant to receive an Implementation Grant, if selected. Newark and Jersey City have also received Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants.