For the first time, public housing authorities are being encouraged to incorporate early childhood education components into their HOPE VI projects.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said it is awarding additional points to agencies that implement such programs into their plans.

HUD announced this week that it has $113 million in HOPE VI funds available to revitalize the nation’s most distressed public housing projects. Housing authorities have until Nov. 17 to compete for the grants. It is estimated that five to six awards will be made.

In addition to announcing the opening of this year’s HOPE VI funding round, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan looked toward 2010 and the administration’s proposed Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

The initiative would be a new and expanded revitalization program. Under the fiscal 2010 budget proposal, the administration seeks $250 million for Choice Neighborhoods, double the amount available for HOPE VI this year.

“Even as we expand this mission, public housing transformation is still our priority at HUD,” said Donovan. He stressed that Choice Neighborhoods would expand the range of activities eligible for funding and bring in a range of participants, including local governments, nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, and public housing agencies.

Choice Neighborhoods would link housing more closely with school reform and early childhood innovation, according to Donovan, who spoke this week with former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros at a Brookings Institution event in Washington, D.C.