Does Public Housing Redevelopment Purge the Poorest?
Lawrence Vale Ford Professor of Urban Design and Planning Chair, Ph.D. Program Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Since the early 1990s, hundreds of American public housing projects have been redeveloped into mixed-income communities, mostly under the auspices of the federal HOPE VI program. The stated intent has been to reduce “concentrated poverty” and to encourage renewed neighborhood investment. Yet much of HOPE VI has operated in gentrifying neighborhoods, leading to charges that the program has facilitated a land grab by private developers. In many instances–including projects in Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans–this has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of extremely low-income households being accommodated in well-located neighborhoods that now attract increased market interest. The result has been a kind of purging of the poorest that paralleled what happened during the mid 20th-century when public housing was first built to replace urban ‘slums’. Now, though, it is public housing itself that is seen as the ‘slum’ that needed to be removed. In other HOPE VI cases such as San Francisco, Boston, and Tucson, however, city leaders have worked with not-for-profit organizations, residents, and others to redevelop public housing more equitably. This presentation examines the divergent constellations of governance that help explain how and why the same federal program has had such divergent outcomes.
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