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Housing Project Groups to Get $25 Million

May 13, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration is making $25 million available to public housing tenants who want to cultivate community pride with their own job training projects, safety patrols or child care centers.

The money will be distributed to 300 resident groups through the Tenant Opportunities Program, which helps residents form social or economic programs. Applications are being accepted as of today.

Last year, about $5 million was awarded to 95 groups. There will be $60 million available in the 1995 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

″We want to make the program available to more than just a few resident leaders, but really use it to sharpen the skills and expand the reach of our tenant programs,″ Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros said Thursday.

Under the program, tenant associations can identify social service needs and develop programs to accommodate them. They also can take on some aspects of managing their properties, help residents launch small businesses or start job training programs.

″We don’t want a handout, but are willing to work hard ourselves,″ said Ann Clark, who heads the District of Columbia Resident Council Advisory Board. ″If you want to get rid of welfare, this is the way to go.″

Cisneros outlined the program in a briefing of his overall strategy for public housing, before representatives of about 30 public housing agencies. The strategy, Cisneros said, was drawn from the suggestions of residents and operators of public housing projects.

Those suggestions included, among other things, demolishing huge, high-rise projects and replacing them with apartments with aspects of privately owned homes: small yards, separate entrances and floor plans with personalized touches such as dining room space.

″We want to make it look like all American houses look like,″ said David Cortiella, executive director of the Boston Housing Authority. ″The goal is to make the housing look good ... so you can value the houses you live in.″

Cisneros already proposed putting $1 billion in public housing modernization money toward demolishing high-rises. He also suggested that residents be given the option of living anywhere else they choose and that unemployed residents be exempt from rent increases for 18 months after finding work.

Earlier Thursday, the secretary told the House Banking Committee that he needs greater flexibility in upgrading public housing because antiquated policies, coupled with deep social problems that have blossomed over the past decade, ″have transformed too much of public housing into warehouses for the poor.″

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