Thirteen communities have been selected to receive $3.6 million in Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the grants Tuesday, saying it is an important moment as 10 million Americans live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.

“We can’t leave anyone on the sidelines,” Donovan said.

Building on the HOPE VI program, Choice Neighborhoods aims to turn around distressed housing and neglected neighborhoods by linking housing improvements with other key services, including strong schools and job opportunities. It widens the traditional pool of eligible applicants beyond public housing authorities to include local governments, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit developers (who apply jointly with a public entity).

Demand for this year’s planning grants far exceeded the availability, with HUD receiving 71 applications.

Ohio was the only state to receive multiple awards, with Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus each receiving grants.

Donovan pointed out that the state and other areas of the Midwest have suffered as manufacturing has declined in those areas, and jobs and people have moved to other regions. At the same time, these areas have been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis.

Ohio has shown a very aggressive response to the problem, with strong leadership at the state and local levels and different partnerships to address housing issues, Donovan said.

Grants were also awarded to housing authorities and organizations in Little Rock, Ark.; Meridian, Miss.; Opa-Locka, Fla.; Rockford, Ill.; Sacramento, Calif.; Savannah, Ga.; Springfield, Mass.; Suffolk, Va.; Washington, D.C.; and Wilson, N.C.

The communities will develop a comprehensive approach to revitalizing troubled public housing projects and improving the greater neighborhood while leveraging outside investments. For example, the grant will allow the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, the Community Building Institute, and other partners to develop a plan to transform the city’s Fairmont neighborhood, where nearly half of the population lives below the poverty line, and long-term vacancy rates are almost three times that of the county, and the neighborhood public school has until recently been in “academic emergency.” The team will create a plan for 70 acres where the English Woods housing project stood prior to its demolition six years ago.

Donovan noted that 13 universities are partnering with the grantees. School districts, hospitals, and police departments are also among the different partners.

HUD also announced the availability of $110 million in Choice Neighborhoods implementation grants. Applicants have until April 10 to apply for the fiscal 2012 grants. HUD anticipates awarding four to five grants with a maximum individual award of $30 million in December.