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HUD sits with Choice Neighborhood Implementation grant partner, discusses boosting affordable housing in South Omaha
[(L-R) Canopy South Executive Director Cesar Garcia and Director of Operations Crystal Sierra walk HUD Great Plains Regional Administrator Ulysses Clayborn and Nebraska Field Office Director Kitty A. Amaya through the phased transformation of Southside Terrace in South Omaha on October 30, 2023 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo Credit: HUD Press Office Great Plains)]
(L-R) Canopy South Executive Director Cesar Garcia and Director of Operations Crystal Sierra walk HUD Great Plains Regional Administrator Ulysses Clayborn and Nebraska Field Office Director Kitty A. Amaya through the phased transformation of Southside Terrace in South Omaha on October 30, 2023 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo Credit: HUD Press Office Great Plains).

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Great Plains regional leadership team recently sat down with Canopy South, an organization deeply committed to establishing strong roots of social, educational, and racial equity in South Omaha neighborhoods disconnected from equitable access to opportunity. The meeting featured Great Plains Regional Administrator Ulysses “Deke” Clayborn, Regional Public Affairs Officer Brian Handshy, Nebraska Field Office Director (FOD) Kitty A. Amaya and other Omaha field office staff. Cesar Garcia, Executive Director of Canopy South and Crystal Sierra, Director of Operations, outlined their ambitious plans for leveraging the Choice Neighborhood Implementation (CNI) grant awarded to Omaha by HUD in September 2022 for $50 million.

Mr. Garcia presented a five-phase strategy designed to significantly increase the availability of affordable housing in South Omaha. The strategy begins with the construction of 92 mixed-income family housing units in Phase 1. It's noteworthy that this Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant will not only replace existing units on a one-to-one basis but will also increase the net stock of affordable housing in South Omaha – by approximately 674 units - after all initial phases are complete. The housing will also include unit configuration with 4- and 5-bedroom sizes to reflect the cultural needs of larger immigrant families with multi-generational mixes.

Of utmost importance, Canopy South's Transformation Plan aligns closely with the unique needs of the local community. They have established a strong physical presence within the neighborhood they seek to serve and have worked diligently to earn the trust and respect of their community. For instance, in anticipation of relocating households during Phase 1 construction many that rely on resources at local primary and secondary education buildings, Garcia explained how critical it has been to work with the local school district. Thinking through how relocation might sever ties critical to education and personal development due to local school district policies on residence and enrollment cannot be understated. Getting exemptions and ensuring students and their families have continuity of access and support services is as important, if not more, than the consideration of a safe, sanitary and secure roof over households’ heads during the transformation. That foresight is the hallmark of a truly invested partner under Choice Neighborhoods.

South Omaha has a rich history of acting as a gateway to immigrants since the early 20th century, and today, people from all corners of the world call this neighborhood home. Canopy South's commitment to this diverse and vibrant community is emblematic of their dedication to addressing the specific needs of the residents who call South Omaha home. This collaborative endeavor reflects a shared dedication by HUD and Canopy South and partners at the city of Omaha and the Omaha Housing Authority to meeting the growing demand for affordable housing and improving the quality of life in Omaha with a focus on the diverse and unique population of each community.

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