Linda Picone, Editor Southwest Journal
June 26, 2000
Despite the finger-wagging of just a few months ago about how the Neighborhood Revitalization Program had "failed," an evaluation of the first phase of the 20-year program concluded that to a large degree, NRP has done what it was intended to do:
- Improved residents' sense of Minneapolis as a city in which they want to live.
- Increased citizen participation.
- Improved the housing stock in the city.
- Encouraged redesign of public services.
- Provided opportunities for intergovernmental collaboration.
The evaluation, done over a two-year period at a cost of $280,000 by TEAMWORKS, a San Francisco consulting firm, indicated that NRP had been an important part of the change from Minneapolis as a place middle-class residents would "flee," to a city where there is real competition to buy homes (and resulting higher prices).
"Somewhat to our surprise," said Neil Mayer, one of the consultants who did the evaluation, "NRP is doing just the kind of neighborhood stabilizing that was a central goal of the program."
In recent months, NRP has come in for criticism from some areas because few neighborhoods have addressed a need for affordable housing and because of some concerns that more money was not directed at low-income and minority residents - many of whom are not homeowners.
Bob Miller, NRP executive director, frequently points out that providing affordable housing was not a goal for the program when it was first established, and that the state law setting up NRP "doesn't target specific populations within neighborhoods."
In fact, the evaluation showed, low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods with higher proportions of minorities received considerably more in NRP funds than neighborhoods overall. Neighborhoods that had the greatest level of need got about 2.5 times the amount of money per person of those considered in the best condition, the evaluation concluded.
Within neighborhoods, however, people who actually got NRP assistance tended to be "a little more well-to-do than average for those neighborhoods," said Mayer.
The evaluation said that citizen participation had increased through NRP, and that residents believe that citizen participation is important. "Citizens continue to believe in the efficacy of citizen participation," said Mayer.
The legislation establishing NRP requires that 52.5 percent of the total amount allocated be spent on housing or housing-related activities. During the period evaluation, about 46 percent had been spent on housing and 15 percent on economic activity. Most of the projects done by neighborhoods were for things that would benefit homeowners, such as rehabilitation loan programs.
The evaluation was positive overall, but pointed out areas where NRP had fallen short of expectations. Although NRP had encouraged the redesign of public services and collaboration of government agencies, these two areas were weak, the evaluation said.
There was considerable friction between NRP representatives from neighborhoods and the MCDA staff, said Renee Berger, president of TEAMWORKS. "There has to be a greater sense of partnership between NRP and MCDA," Berger said. She said top leadership of both organizations would have to make that a priority for it to occur.
Collaborations between neighborhoods, schools and parks have occurred and "NRP staff was critical in making these partnerships work," said Candace Campbell, another consultant who worked on the evaluation. She gave as an example, gyms developed by the Park Board but attached to schools that "often wee better than schools could have afforded" and what have more programming for the community than the Park Board could have done. But, she said, "there are still challenges about whose facility it is and under what rules" that continue to cause friction in some cases.
The evaluation was presented to the NRP Policy Board on June 19 and at a barely attended public meeting on June 20 (the evaluation team, NRP Policy Board members and staff made up about half the audience of less than two dozen people).
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