A new "urban peace corps" will be launched this fall, sending hundreds of temporary federal workers to help local communities get things done.
The "community builders fellowship" program was announced Wednesday by Andrew Cuomo, the housing and urban development secretary, who said it will recruit people such as bankers, architects and urban planners for two-year stints of community service."They will do what the community wants done. They will not come in with any predetermined federal mandate," Cuomo said. He said the community builders will ask local officials and residents what their community needs, then will seek ways to get it done.
Unlike the Peace Corps, however, the community builders will be paid well - $53,000 to $101,000, averaging about $70,000 a year - and will be recruited for special knowledge and ability.
Cuomo said the program will recruit 230 community builders this year and 230 next year, each being asked to serve two years. They will have to leave their current jobs or obtain a leave of absence.
The participants will receive training at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and at HUD, then will be assigned to one of the department's 81 field offices for their community work.
Cuomo said the department's current budget can cover the costs because of reductions elsewhere.
It may be a good thing that the department doesn't have to ask Congress for the money, judging from the reaction of Rep. Rick Lazio, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Banking subcommittee on housing and community opportunity.
"We need to concentrate on the local level," Helmke said, "people want someone to help change their neighborhood, what they see out the front door."
Examples of their work will include helping local leaders design plans to use federal funds, coordinating the efforts of local government and private businesses, helping businesses obtain loans or expand, organizing financing for projects such as shopping centers, developing programs to increase home ownership and aiding groups planning new parks and recreation projects.