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  Building Capacity With Technical Assistance Grants
Over the years and decades, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has created numerous programs aimed at increasing affordable housing stock, improving residential and mixed-used neighborhoods, and encouraging commercial development. Funding for new homes, improved infrastructure and additional retail space is good and necessary, but if a local government or non-profit organization isn't able to handle the influx of money and related activity, the other programs are of little use. With that in mind, HUD created its Technical Assistance grants.

Technical Assistance grants are awarded to non-profit organizations that work within at least one of five development programs: HOME; HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS); Homeless; CHDO (Community Housing Development Organizations); and CDBG (Community Development Block Grants). Any organization that receives funding through at least one of these programs is eligible for a technical assistance grant as well. The goal of the program is to increase the capacity and efficiency of organizations that receive HUD funding. Training and technical expertise are provided by industry experts vetted by HUD specifically for this program.

In its ongoing effort to stimulate and support community and affordable housing development, HUD recently awarded millions of dollars in technical assistance grants. The grants benefit over a dozen communities, and take HUD's capacity building efforts to a new level of effectiveness and efficiency.

Over $23 million was awarded to various companies and organizations through HUD's new OneCPD (Community Planning and Development) Integrated Practitioner Assistance System, which was created via HUD's 2010 Appropriations Act. Under the new system, Technical Assistance grants for several of HUD's development programs are funded simultaneously, making the grants area-specific rather than program-specific. HUD's intent is to offer a more comprehensive approach to affordable housing and community development.

In addition, organizations that work in the same geographic area can file a joint application, further streamlining the funding process and encouraging collaboration. In other words, if one non-profit has been awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and another has received HUD funding through the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, those two organizations can file jointly for a technical assistance grant. They agree to share any funding awarded, and work together to increase their capacity to effectively administer HUD grant money.

The structure of the joint application encourages collaboration by awarding points for having experience with certain HUD programs. When scoring the applications, HUD awards a certain number of points based on program experience and knowledge. If just one of the organizations has experience with, for example, the HOPWA program, up to 10 points can be awarded to the entire application - which benefits all of the organizations, not just the one with the expertise. The same is true for organizations that have experience with the HOME program. This scoring system allows organizations with less experience to partner with, and benefit from, more experienced organizations without becoming a hindrance or liability.

The most recent grant awards ranged from just under $100,000 to over $4 million, and were disbursed among eligible technical assistance applicants in nine states. Funding was also allocated through HUD's Core Curricula program, which aids in the development of area-specific training on topics like development finance, asset management, and environmental review and compliance.

Because this was the first time HUD granted awards through the OneCPD program, its effectiveness has yet to be determined, but expectations are high.

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