The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has posted advance guidance for its new Choice Neighborhoods initiative.

The “pre-notice” aims to give potential applicants some details prior to the actual funding notice, which is scheduled to be published this summer.

The Choice Neighborhoods initiative aims to broaden and replace the HOPE VI program for revitalizing severely distressed public housing.

It will be a more comprehensive effort to transform areas of poverty into viable mixed-income neighborhoods by still revitalizing distressed public or assisted housing but going a step further and trying to link the housing with education reform and other key changes.

According to the pre-notice, a key requirement will be a one-for-one replacement of any public or HUD-assisted housing unit that is demolished or disposed of unless there is a valid, quantifiable reason.

 “Some communities may be eligible to receive an exception of the one-for-one requirement if HUD determines that the rental market has a long history of being ‘soft’ in such a way that provides access to quality affordable housing in neighborhoods of opportunity through use of a voucher for households similar to those served by the target public or assisted-housing development,” said the eight-page pre-notice.

In advance of the Notice of Funding Availability, HUD will provide a list of the communities it has identified where voucher holders are currently moderately to well-dispersed in areas of low poverty and with consistently high rental vacancy rates.

“In advance of submitting the grant application, Choice Neighborhoods applicants working in one of the relatively few eligible communities may submit a request for an exception, subject to also providing voucher success rates of the proposed voucher administering agency in the target market area,” said the pre-notice, explaining that the data must show a success rate of at least 80 percent.

In this pilot year of Choice Neighborhoods, up to $65 million will be awarded.

HUD expects to award about $3 million in planning grants, with an individual grant maximum of $250,000 each, and about $62 million in implementation grants, with an individual grant maximum up to $31 million. The fiscal 2010 competition will be conducted in two rounds.

Applicants may include local governments, public housing authorities, nonprofits, and for-profit developers that apply jointly with a public entity.

“The cornerstone of a successful neighborhood transformation initiative will be the strength of the community partnerships involved in implementing the vision,” said the pre-notice, which is signed by Sandra Henriquez, assistance secretary for public and Indian housing, and Carol Galante, deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing programs. “To that end, HUD intends to make Choice Neighborhoods grant awards to neighborhoods that have strong and effective partnerships.”