The first five Promise Zones are located in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
The areas will take part in a comprehensive effort to improve their communities, including enhancing housing, schools, and job opportunities.
President Obama announced the Promise Zone Initiative during last year’s State of the Union Address, as a way to partner with local communities and businesses.
The five selected communities have each prepared a plan on how they will leverage federal partnerships and resources to improve their communities. In exchange, they will be able to access federal investments to help achieve their goals.
“Promise Zones represent a sharp departure from the federal government’s community development approach of the past,” said Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in a call with reporters. “Too often in the old days, Washington would swoop into communities and plan for them rather than with them. It also tended to address problems in isolation one by one.”
For example, new housing developments would be built, but they would be surrounded by unsafe streets, poor schools, and few jobs, he said.
In contrast, Promise Zones will take a holistic approach to revitalizing a neighborhood, with federal agencies working alongside local leaders.
HUD will help ensure families in the Promise Zone neighborhoods have access to quality affordable housing. “This is key because home is the foundation of all our lives,” Donovan said.
He was joined on the call by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Promise Zone communities will have an advantage in the competition for 25 different programs across many agencies.
In addition, the administration is calling on Congress to enact a tax credit for businesses investing in Promise Zones or employing Promise Zone residents. This proposal is based on the model of Enterprise Zone tax credits.
The neighborhoods selected had to have an overall poverty rate of at least 20 percent, and at least one census tract within the neighborhood had to be at 30 percent.
With the first Promise Zones, federal officials also wanted to select areas that had momentum and are taking part in other key community development programs. For example, San Antonio recently received a Choice Neighborhood grant from HUD.
The Obama administration plans to designate 15 more Promise Zones in the next three years.