- Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association (PCIA): Leveraging federal resources for comprehensive community change
Successful recovery implementation depends on building from successful community strategies. PCIA is a community development corporation dedicated to community building and revitalization of the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Atlanta. The Pittsburgh community was devastated by high rates of foreclosures and renter displacement. To address the foreclosure crisis and the rebuilding of the neighborhood, PCIA formed a strategic partnership—The Partnership for the Preservation of Pittsburgh—with Sustainable Neighborhood Development Strategies, Inc. a master planning and community development specialist. The partnership’s goal is first to imagine, then to rebuild Pittsburgh as a diverse, mixed-income neighborhood that is environmentally sound. This process will build upon the current development strategies such as the use of federal Neighborhood Stabilization dollars.
In the 2008 round of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) , PCIA applied for and received $2 million from the City of Atlanta. The Annie E. Casey Foundation then agreed to match this allocation. PCIA has begun to strategically land bank foreclosed and abandoned properties across the neighborhood for rehabilitation and eventual lease-purchase and long-term rental opportunities for low-income residents. PCIA also partners with the Casey Foundation’s Center for Working Families to provide training, educational, and supportive services for residents.
- Southface Energy Institute: Strengthening green building and energy efficiency in the Southeast
Based in Atlanta, nonprofit Southface promotes sustainable homes, workplaces and communities throughout the southeastern U.S. through education, research, advocacy and technical assistance. The organization focuses on developing long-term strategies to grow the energy efficiency and green building sectors regionally, while reaching out to assist low-income and underrepresented communities.
In 2009, the state of Georgia received a $124.7 million supplement to its existing funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which assists low-income residents in reducing their energy bills through weatherization and energy efficiency retrofits. Southface, in collaboration with other service providers, was awarded an ARRA contract to provide technical service for the state’s implementation of WAP. In this role, Southface offers curriculum, training, and technical assistance to weatherization service providers across Georgia. In October 2010, Southface opened the Southeast Weatherization and Energy Efficiency Training (SWEET) Center to support its efforts in weatherization, energy efficiency and green workforce development.
In addition, Southface is involved with:
- Neighborhood Stabilization Program fund implementation, assisting communities suffering from foreclosures and abandonment.
- The City of Atlanta’s “Sustainable Home Initiative in the New Economy (SHINE)” program, which provides incentives for residential energy efficiency retrofits.
- Residential and commercial energy code trainings.
- High Performance Building Best Practices through the Department of Energy’s Building America program
- Education Fund: Philanthropic advocacy holds decision makers accountable for improved educational outcomes.
As part of its' mission to expand the benefits of education to all people through education policy reform and practice, SEF has partnered with the Georgia School Funding Association to ensure that stimulus funds dedicated to education are spent to “improve and not just maintain the South’s low-achieving schools.” In late April, the organizations wrote letters and briefs to federal and state agencies in reaction to early state plans and budgets for the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds dedicated to education. The analysis found that the state assembly approved a budget that did not account for the entire allocation the state received in the first phase of State Fiscal Stabilization Funds. Among several issues, advocates are concerned that the state is leaving $178 million dollars on the table, unaccounted for, that could be well spent on local school systems and institutions of higher education throughout Georgia.
The Southern Education Foundation recently collaborated with the Foundation Center to host a workshop on how non-profit organizations and local school systems can apply for competitive stimulus funds. Nearly 50 organizations were represented. The information was new for many attendees and the information dispelled concerns that all of the grants would be only accessible to larger businesses. The training work of Southern Education Foundation demonstrates the importance of capacity building to help equity-focused groups access resources. The training also focused on closely tracking investments, holding decision makers accountable, using the media, and educating partners to make these investments count for schools in low-income and minority communities.
- Atlanta Regional Commission Addresses Transit Operating Crisis
Early in 2009, the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transportation Authority (MARTA) was facing a budget crisis that would mean drastic cuts to service that would negatively impact those dependent on public transit. In a creative partnership that advanced equity goals, the Atlanta Regional Commission (the metropolitan planning organization) dedicated $25 million of its stimulus funds to supplement MARTA’s operating budget—a use allowable under the preventive maintenance federal guidelines. This $25 million was in exchange for $25 million from MARTA’s capital improvement budget. The capital improvements have yet to be determined, but will be in the MARTA service area. This solution helps keep the public transportation system viable, connects transit-dependent populations to jobs, services, and amenities, and supports an inclusive regional economy.
- Atlanta Regional Commission Supporting Sustainable Communities
The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) is the planning agency for the metropolitan area. ARC is responsible for researching, planning, and implementing many of the infrastructure investments that will shape our region for generations to come. To support more environmentally and economically sustainable communities, ARC manages the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI).
- The Initiative provides communities with resources to plan for and implement projects that will:
- Connect mixed-income neighborhoods to employment and recreational opportunities,
- Provide access to all types of transportation including biking, walking, and transit,
- Improve sense of place and quality of life for all community members, and
- Incorporate and reflect community input.
Since its inception in 1999, over 100 communities, many of which include very-low income areas, have leveraged nearly $130 million for transportation projects and over $10 million for planning and area studies to prepare for projects. ARC typically uses one percent of the region’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and [25 to 30 percent of L230 funds in the RTP] to fund the Livable Centers Initiative.
This year, ARC was able to leverage funding authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support projects in several communities. ARRA effectively allowed ARC to complete more projects and allowed local governments to shift resources because ARRA did not require a 20 percent local match for projects. The pedestrian improvements of Greenbriar Mall Parkway in Southwest Atlanta, and the Simpson-West Peachtree and Georgia State University projects in Downtown Atlanta are three projects that will improve accessibility and safety for several low-wealth communities.
For example, the Greenbriar Mall Parkway will improve traffic circulation and pedestrian access in this predominately low income, African-American community that is adjacent to the struggling Greenbriar Mall. This project is aimed at revitalizing commerce in the community by increasing accessibility for pedestrians and vehicular traffic.