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5 big promises the White House is making now about housing

Government thinks it can fix struggling communities

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The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development joined the education and agriculture secretaries Thursday in a press conference to elaborate on what will be involved in President Obama's new "promise zone" initiative.

President Barack Obama announced that he is starting a new government program designed to help economically challenged communities.

The promise zone initiative, Obama said, will focus on attracting private investment to replace distressed housing with what they call "mixed-income" housing, reducing crime, providing tax incentives to stimulate economic growth, and promoting programs to help high schools retain and graduate students.

The first five locations will be San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The White House plans to announce 15 more promise zones over the next two years in blighted rural and urban areas.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said the effort will integrate housing, education and crime relief efforts, and bring together local community leaders with businesses through tax credits, coordinated by federal oversight.

"This is a sharp departure from the way the government provided aid in the past," Donovan said. "Washington would swoop in and impose solutions without working with local leaders to support their visions and strengthen all assets needed for communities to thrive."

"We want to bring together a wide variety of stake holders to better communities," Donovan said. "Home is the foundation of all of our lives. Now we are going to connect housing with other efforts to expand opportunity."

Donovan said that the tax credit component of the promise zone initiative is critical, especially for housing and job creation.

"Yes, these zones will work without tax credits, but no, not to full capacity," he said. "Those tax credits that will be proposed are critical in accelerating job creation and improving housing."

He added he believed the promise zones initiatives and tax credits will receive bipartisan support in Congress.

While secretaries on the call said the promise zone initiative was a unique approach, it echoes in both form and approach previous efforts for targeted, public-private partnerships like President Clinton’s empowerment zones, President George H.W. Bush’s enterprise zones and even President Roosevelt’s Tennessee Valley Authority.

Housing will be particularly a focus in the Los Angeles promise zone. HUD's initiative calls for Increasing housing affordability by preserving existing affordable housing and partnering with housing developers to increase the supply of affordable new housing to prevent displacement.

Details on the plans with regards to housing can be found on HUD's website.

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