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4 Factors for Success in Neighborhood Transformation Planning

In 2010 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched its Choice Neighborhoods program as a means of redeveloping distressed public and assisted-housing communities. The goal of the program is to replace and/or add additional housing as well as to develop transformation plans that help create a supportive environment for residents. 

Transformation plans are more encompassing than traditional housing plans because transformation plans outline how to provide greater access and more economic opportunities for residents in distressed neighborhoods. A transformation plan focuses on three key areas: housing, people, and neighborhood.

ICMA Senior Project Manager Cory Fleming, with assistance from former ICMA Analyst Hannah Wolford and supported by HUD funding, conducted three case studies in neighborhoods participating in the Choice Neighborhood program: Salisbury, North Carolina; Suffolk, Virginia; and Norfolk, Virginia. Their findings identified the following 4 factors in achieving success in neighborhood transformation planning:

  1. Addressing economic and social needs of residents. Recognizing that neighborhoods are comprised of more than bricks and mortar, transformation plans include strategies for addressing education, health and human services, public safety, and other social services needed by residents.
  2. Generating excitement and enthusiasm from all stakeholders. The more excitement that can be generated about a transformation plan for a neighborhood, the easier it is to extend the network of stakeholder and partners who will invest in those plans.
  3. Identifying the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders. With so many stakeholders involved in the development of transformation plans, a discussion of roles and responsibilities at the outset of the planning process helps establish lines of accountability.
  4. Identifying and agreeing on what performance measures to use. In all three case study sites, surveys of residents living in the public housing complexes provided crucial information to understanding residents’ concerns and issues.

After developing a transformation plan, it’s equally critical to agree on measures of program success. This lets you see whether the plan is enabling you to meet the program’s goals. 


To learn more about transformation planning download Evaluating the Role of Local Government and Project Stakeholder Engagement in Choice Neighborhoods Transformation Planning and Implementation.  


In the Know CTA

Douglas Shontz

Knowledge Network Research and Content Development Associate


Brian Silcott

Here in Goddard (almost pop. 5,000 w/ daytime pop 12,000) we are six months into a project that includes our police service, public works, and community development departments. We are calling the "Broken Window Theory" program POSA for "Problem-Oriented Service Activities." We want to do our part to give residents a neighborhood and community for which they can be proud. I believe this is a foundation of success that over time can be built upon and sustained.

The program has been a success so far reducing crime in our targeted areas. The best result saw crimes on one block alone drop from twenty-three (23) incidents in 2015 to one (1) year to date. We have another targeted neighborhood which reported ten (10) crimes in 2014 and is currently reporting four (4) incidents year to date. This trend line indicates an issue, and we are working to refocus service efforts within the area.

Our program coordinates service delivery efforts within a defined geographical area with the goal of reducing crime, improving the physical appearance of the area, and subsequently improving the quality of life for neighborhood residents.

Our efforts to reduce crime include our police service implements bicycle and foot patrols in the target neighborhoods and the immediate surrounding areas. The purpose of the patrols is more than establishing a police presence. We focus on informal face-to-face conversations and dialogue with residents. We have found that getting our officers out of the cars and on the same footing as the residents saw immediate results with tips that included actionable intelligence to prevent future incidents. Through conversations, officers determined that most residents were not locking doors and were leaving items in vehicles and out on porches. The City created flyers and utilized social media to educate residents and their children on being proactive in the security of their surroundings.

Public Works will target ongoing maintenance activities to ensure that curbs, gutters, and storm drains are free and clear of debris. We fill potholes, inspect streetscape trees for proper maintenance for translucence and canopy coverage. Crews check that street lighting is sufficient and if additional lighting is required that it is promptly installed. Staff reviews the condition, placement, and need for street signage and makes repairs as needed.

Goddard's Community Development Department oversees code enforcement. Our code enforcement officer gives the area thorough review. Problem properties are usually already known, but we take the approach that if a subject property falls into the "gray area" we create an active case.

Line staff (patrol officers, code enforcement, and public works crew leads) meet weekly on the POSA areas. The Chief of Police, Director of Community Development, Director of Public Works, and I meet monthly to review scorecard, discuss action items and after action review of successful actions taken.

Our goal is to practice the "Golden Rule" in all facets of the program. In other words, if I were a resident that cares about my community, how would I want my neighborhood to look? On the flip side, if I were to receive word that my property is substandard how would I want to receive this word of this deficiency? We assume the property owner is unaware, and, therefore, we provide a "you may not be aware" phone call that is followed up with a letter describing the violation and asking that it be mitigated within a week. We also provide a name and contact number for follow up questions. During this period, we empower our staff to work with the property owner to create a work plan for mitigation. The work plan sets reasonable timeframes for remediation and states that the formal code enforcement process will start if the goals are not met. Additionally, we partner with churches and community groups to assist in the clean up for indigent or residents in need due to age, infirmity, or disability.

This year is our inaugural event for "Neighbors United" where our community comes together to match volunteer labor with residents in need to clean up properties. The City, school district, area churches, civic clubs, and individual citizens volunteer their labor to improve the community. We have had success in matching several problem properties that qualify for assistance from within this POSA areas. We are always prepared for a meeting with area residents when needed, having a positive relationship with residents greatly reduces tension for all parties in emotionally tense situations.

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