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Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities Grant Program

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Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities Grant Program

Photograph of a single-story house.Benedict College, through its partnership with the Benedict Allen CDC, has raised nearly $12 million in federal and private funds and leveraged over $12 million in resources to implement its plan of community and economic development. Credit: Benedict College

In this column, Ophelia H. Wilson discusses the history of HUD’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Grant Program.

The Higher Education Act defines an HBCU as … any Historically Black College or University that was established prior to 1964 whose principal mission was, and is the education of Black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association. Most of the nation’s 102 HBCUs are in the south, and all are open to all students regardless of race.

During the 1970’s there were changes occurring in our social and economic landscape that negatively affected our communities, causing urban blight. To help address this challenge, in 1974, Congress enacted the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 which created HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which uses a needs-based formula to distribute funding to cities, counties, and states for projects that benefit low-income communities. Grant applicants could submit a letter to HUD designating an HBCU as a technical assistance provider that would offer seminars and workshops on their behalf. The federal government and HUD recognized then that HBCUs could help support community development work in low-income communities and serve as key partners in rebuilding communities.

Several years later, HUD Secretary Jack Kemp was instrumental in persuading Congress to amend the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1974 to allow HUD to make grants directly to HBCUs, from the fund appropriated/set aside each year in the CDBG Program Budget, specifically for the HBCU Program, to carryout eligible activities.

In 1980, President Carter signed Executive Order 12232, which established a federal program to overcome systemic discrimination treatment and strengthen and expand the capacity of HBCUs to compete and participate in federal programs. This order applied to all federal agencies, and provided HBCUs with expanded access to grant and contract programs.

Photograph of a commercial center next to a street.The CDC has made an impact on its community through utilization of commercial real estate development and small business development. Credit: LeMoyne-Owen College

This action also led to the expansion and formation of HUD’s HBCU Program. The HBCU Program moved out of the Secretary’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization to the Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD), and in 1991, CPD issued regulations for the HBCU program. The program was designed to help HBCUs expand their role and effectiveness in addressing community development needs in their surrounding communities, including neighborhood revitalization and community and economic development activities. All proposed activities had to meet one of the Community Development National Objectives (1. Benefit to low-moderate income persons; 2. Aid in the prevention or elimination of slums or blight; or 3. Meet a need having a particular urgency). All proposed activities also had to be listed as an eligible activity under the CDBG Eligibility Requirements. In addition to meeting these requirements the HBCUs were required to submit a letter from the chief executive officer of the unit of general local government in which they proposed to conduct activities, certifying that the proposed activities were consistent with the Consolidated Plan of the target jurisdiction. The HBCU Program is authorized under Section 107(a)(3) of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 as amended. It is governed by regulations contained in 24 CFR 570.400 – 404 and subparts A; C; J; K; and O as amended, revised or updated.

The objectives of the HUD HBCU program were as follows:

  • Foster a better relationship between HBCUs and their surrounding communities.
  • Give community organizations access to the expertise, experience, and resources of HBCUs as well as their students, who are eager to apply the lessons they learned in the classroom to community issues.
  • Encourage HBCUs to partner with local and national organizations and businesses to revitalize local economies, generate employment opportunities, and rebuild communities.

During the Clinton administration, HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros set aside total of $1.5 million to develop a partnership with the Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation (SEEDCO), a national community development intermediary, to provide assistance to HBCUs in community development programming; technical assistance and financing to HBCUs and partnering community-based organizations with the HBCUs to revitalize communities. SEEDCO held a competition among the HBCUs and selected HBCUs that had the capacity to develop a community development corporation (CDC) and the ability to work on behalf of the HBCU to execute eligible community development and economic activities. Several HBCUs successfully developed CDCs.

Photograph of a two-story building.Funding from HUD’s HBCU grant program was used for the development of the Business Support Incubator and Office Complex and the development of a community based office retail outlet. Credit: University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

When Andrew Cuomo became HUD Secretary in 1997, the responsibility of administering and monitoring the HBCU Program was shared between HUD CPD Headquarters staff and CPD Field Offices. Also during this period, the HBCUs developed partnerships with the following organizations: Enterprise Foundation; Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta; NeighborWorks; and Fannie Mae. These entities provided technical assistance; financing; and training opportunities to the HBCUs.

In June 2001, the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Policy Development and Research submitted a request to the Secretary of HUD requesting that the HBCU Program be transferred from the Office of Community Planning and Development to PD&R’s Office of University Partnerships. This request was then forwarded to the Assistant Secretary of CPD. The Assistant Secretary of CPD agreed with this request and the HBCU Program was transferred to PD&R’s Office of University Partnerships, (which was established in 1994) joining with other university-based programs that had already been transferred to OUP: the Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Assisting Communities Program, the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, and the Hispanic Serving Institutions Assisting Communities Program.

Although the move created some setbacks for the program, it also provided several advantages. The program lost the technical assistance, administration, and monitoring support of the CPD Field Offices; however, it gained support services and technical assistance through a contract OUP had with DONYA, Inc. The contract provided services to all the university-based programs housed in OUP, such as setting up conferences and workshops and reviewing of applications.

The HBCU grant program made technical assistance and training available to all HBCU grantees in such areas as grant administration and financial management, the fundamentals of construction management, basic housing and economic development, tax credits, CDBG rules and regulations, grant writing, deal making, strategic planning, and partnerships and resource development; HBCU Program partners provided training in additional areas.

During the time period from 1991 through 2010, $165 million was appropriated for grant to HBCUs to carryout community and economic development activities and provide training to HBCUs. HUD awarded 322 grants to 96 HBCUs ranging from $200,000 to $800,000 each, with a 3-year performance period, for activities such as the acquisition of real property, the rehabilitation of residential and commercial structures, direct assistance to homeowners, special economic development activities, eligible public services, assistance to CBOs, and the establishment of CDCs.

When Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005, numerous HBCUs worked with HUD to assist in the recovery efforts. They provided a range of services, including homeownership counseling, assistance with rebuilding and restoring houses and commercial buildings, operating daycare centers and summer camps, coordinating neighborhood cleanup projects, and sponsoring community health fairs.

Shortly after the program was transferred to PD&R, funding for the program became part of PD&R’s budget. The HBCU Program as it was previously designed — to carry out community and economic development activities — was last funded in fiscal year (FY) 2010. In that year, the program awarded 13 grants. These grants were officially closed out in FY 2014 and 2015, and the door was once again closed for HBCUs to participate in HUD-funded community and economic development activities. The HBCU Program as originally designed is no longer an active program.

During the next 3 years, however, PD&R’s senior policy advisor, and staff formed an interagency working group to increase the participation of HBCUs in all HUD programs. The group, consisting of: the Office of Housing; the Office of Community Planning and Development; the Office of Policy Development and Research; the Office of Public and Indian Housing; the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity; the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, and Ginnie Mae, HUD began to focus on increasing the capacity of HBCUs to compete for grants and cooperative agreements in programs throughout the Department and on facilitating engagements between the HBCUs and philanthropic organizations. The Department engaged in direct marketing to HBCUs to inform them of the availability of Fair Housing Initiatives Program funding. HUD also incorporated preference points for HBCUs and organizations partnering with HBCUs into two competitive grant programs representing $23.7 million in potential grant opportunities for FY 2018 and 2019. In addition, HUD reached out to HBCUs with architecture programs to brief them on research grant opportunities in PD&R’s Affordable Housing Research and Technology Division. (The actions described above opened the door for HBCUs to become eligible applicants to participate in a number of HUD Programs).

The HUD Annual Plan on Executive Agency Action to Strengthen the Capacity of HBCUs to compete for Federal and private sector opportunities for FY 2021 and 2022, submitted to the White House Initiative on HBCUs, established several goals to strengthen the HBCU Program, including increasing HBCU participation in HUD programs, both as grantees and as partners; expanding internship opportunities for HBCU students throughout HUD; encouraging HUD Headquarters and regional administrators to increase their engagement with HBCUs; awarding preference points to HBCUs and organizations partnering with HBCUs to encourage greater participation in HUD programs; and reducing the matching requirement for unsolicited research proposals from 50 percent to 25 percent for HBCUs.

During FY 2019 and 2020, PD&R made approximately $3 million available for HBCUs to participate in its research initiative. Only one Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) specifically directed to HBCUs has been published: (Cooperative Research in Housing Technologies for $1.0 million). A second NOFA, HBCU Research Center for Excellence, is in clearance for $2.375 million.

The HUD FY 2019 Funding Announcement shows that seven HUD programs were offering preference points to HBCUs. The FY 2020 Funding Announcement shows 19 programs offering HBCUs preference points.

Over the years, HUD’s HBCU Program has been instrumental in connecting HBCU grantees with other federal programs, potential national and local partners, and resources that will help them revitalize distressed communities. Best practices among HBCU Program grantees show that they have used their grant funds to leverage additional resources through partnerships with financial institutions; foundations; federal, state, and local governments; nonprofit organizations; local businesses; and others to create innovative solutions to address longstanding problems in their communities.

Examples of Best Practices:

  1. Benedict College, through its partnership with the Benedict-Allen CDC, raised nearly $12 million in federal and private funds and leveraged more than $12 million in resources to implement its plan of community and economic development. The CDC is focusing on developing affordable housing; providing housing counseling; increasing financial literacy; and offering other programs that promote commercial and economic development, job skills training, and other empowerment activities in low-wealth communities. (HUDs HBCU Program awarded $5,827,666 to Benedict College.)

  2. LeMoyne-Owen College: The LeMoyne-Owen CDC has made an impact on its community by utilization of commercial real estate development and small business development to create more than 347 jobs, 55 new businesses, providing training and technical assistance to individuals seeking jobs in construction, developing affordable housing, and completing an $11 million mixed-use retail and commercial development. The LeMoyne-Owen CDC used the HUD-HBCU Program funds, $4,768,490, to engage in community development projects. The CDC has leveraged more than $150 million in community development projects.

  3. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Economic Research Development Center (ERDC) was established in 1986, as the outreach arm of the University to focus on three areas: business development, community development, and workshops and seminars. The university received approximately $5.4 million from the HBCU Program. Funding was used to develop a business support incubator and office complex as well as a community-based office and retail outlet. ERDC assisted more than 2,500 businesses, created or maintained more than 500 jobs, provided entrepreneurial training programs to more than 300 participants, and helped rehabilitate 15 homes in the surrounding community. ERDC staff also helped clients apply for more than $9 million in loans, grants, contracts, and other financing; provided support to afterschool tutoring and social enhancement programs; and established a summer camp to develop entrepreneurial skills.

  4. Elizabeth City State University’s Community Development Program was established in 1988 through initial funding from HUD’s HBCU Program. Since its inception, the Community Development Program has played a significant role in addressing the housing and community development needs of residents in rural northeastern North Carolina. The program offers counseling services, repair and rehabilitation of substandard homes, training on effective methods to conserve energy usage, and computer training for youth and adults living in federally subsidized housing. The Elizabeth City State University Community Development Program has received approximately $5.3 million in grant funds from the HBCU Program and leveraged nearly $500,000 in non-HUD funds.

  5. Winston-Salem State University, Community Development Corporation, has received $4.8 million in grant funds from the HBCU Program and has leveraged those dollars to receive more than $5 million from local, state, and federal sources for projects undertaken by its CDC. The CDC opened a 40,000-square-foot Enterprise Center featuring a business incubator program, issued more than $200,000 in microbusiness loans, and helped 19 businesses owned by minority women increase their revenue by an average of 39 percent each year. In previous years, Enterprise Center businesses generated more than $2 million in revenue and had 70 employees in full- and part-time positions. The building has 22 offices for small businesses, a virtual hospital for training WSSU students, and a 4,700-square-foot Enterprise Conference and Banquet Center. Over the years, the CDC has also helped numerous families purchase new single-family homes through homeownership counseling and downpayment assistance using HBCU Program funds.
Published Date: 8 March 2021

The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.