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      Albany gets big check from Uncle Sam

      Residents of one Albany housing project have 250,000 reasons to smile today and other local neighborhoods may soon be joining them.

      "This is a great opportunity for a small community in Southwest Georgia to really step up, to show its merit, to show that the people down here in the South can really come together across political spectrums," said Ed Jennings of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.

      Jennings presented the Albany Housing Authority with a $250,000 check on behalf of HUD TMs Choice Neighborhood Initiatives. The program is part of the Obama administration TMs plan to revitalize some of the nation TMs most neglected areas " in this case, the McIntosh Homes housing project.

      "By zip code, you can almost predetermine the life expectancy, the healthcare opportunities, the criminal justice outcomes of the community," said Jennings.

      The $250,000 is a planning grant, meaning the funds will pay for construction plans " not the actual construction. Those plans will then be sent to Washington to compete with other communities for the additional funding.

      "Improving housing will certainly improve the economic development and give these folks assets that they really need," said W. Frank Wilson, chairman of the AHA.

      Officials with HUD insist that the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is not just another government program that throws taxpayer money at a problem. They require a detailed plan for just how the city intends to turn around neighborhoods like this one.

      "We TMre gonna TM talk about not how we just rebuild affordable housing but how we bring in education, how we bring in access to healthcare," said Jennings.

      "I TMm optimistic that once we develop McIntosh area, there will be other parts of the city and that HUD will say, ~those guys in Albany have a clue about what they TMre doing,' " added Wilson.