On December 7th, 2017, HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced a new initiative called EnVision Centers. The goal of the EnVision Center initiative is to bring together programs and services for HUD assisted families to become self-sufficient and no longer need government assisted housing.
When talking about the reason for the EnVision Center Demonstration initiative, Carson claims that funding for HUD has increased over the last two decades, but the number of families served remain the same.
Communities currently participating in one or more “Federal place-based initiatives” such as The Promise Zones program; the Moving-To-Work Demonstration; Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program; the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program and the Resident Opportunities and Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) program, are eligible to apply. Most U.S. communities are currently participating in at least one of the programs named in the Federal Register Notice.
EnVision Centers plan to “leverage public and private resources for the benefit of individuals and families living in HUD assisted housing” and to “break down the silos of government, co-locate government services that lead to self- sufficiency.”
HUD will provide technical assistance, evaluation, monitoring, and access to online resources, including the EnVision Center mobile application. HUD will also provide access to stakeholder offerings and support from HUD’s many departments.
Ben Carson wants the first EnVision Center to be in his hometown of Detroit, with nine more demonstration centers to be located close to Public Housing developments, around the country.
The EnVision Center initiative is focused on four pillars of opportunity which are:
(1) Economic Empowerment
(2) Educational Advancement
(3) Health and Wellness
(4) Character and Leadership
The deadline date for public comment was February 12th, 2018. Comments came in from Public Housing Authorities, housing associations, charity organizations, private citizens and three anonymous writers.
Comments submitted to HUD include concerns about the lack of funding to properly implement the program, duplication of existing services and programs, and unease about the additional burden of reporting requirements.
The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles stated, ‘“The EnVision Centers as outlined in the Notice brings nothing new to the table, duplicates efforts already in progress, fails to provide financial support for these efforts, and adds an additional layer of evaluation.”
Other comments were more positive. The City of Phoenix Housing Department stated it “is excited about the opportunity to participate in the EnVision Center Demonstration.”
On February 26th, 2018, HUD invited eligible stakeholders, including Public Housing Authorities, to apply for the EnVision Center Demonstration initiative. The application requirements include the submission of a formal written commitment from the community’s mayor or “equivalent electected official.” Announcement of the sites for the first EnVision Centers will be made after March 5th, 2018.
HUD also published an EnVision Center Federal Register Notice FAQ, answering questions about the goals, definitions, and implementation of the initiative.