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December 10, 2002 - Urban Institute
HOPE VI has had mixed results in Public Housing
Many former residents of America's most decrepit public housing now live in better
homes in lower poverty neighborhoods, thanks to the $5 billion HOPE VI federal housing
program. But many others may not be as fortunate.
A large number of families face serious barriers to leaving their dilapidated homes,
while others who have moved struggle to find and maintain private market housing,
according to the first systematic, multicity evaluations of HOPE VI's impact on
residents, conducted by the Urban Institute and its partner, Abt Associates.
"HOPE VI must go in new directions and deliver more comprehensive services
to make sure all former residents end up adequately housed," says lead researcher
Susan J. Popkin of the nonpartisan Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities
Policy Center. "While costly, these services are key to improving the lives
of low-income families."
From Failed Housing to HOPE VI
By the early 1990s, public housing was widely regarded as a failure, trapping tens
of thousands of extremely low-income families in crumbling, problem-plagued developments
with neighborhood poverty rates upwards of 40 percent. HOPE VI, created in 1992,
heralded a significant shift in federal housing policy. Instead of providing project-based
assistance, HOPE VI promotes mixed-income housing and voucher subsidies to prevent
the concentration of low-income households. It also seeks to address residents'
social and economic needs and to revitalize their neighborhoods.
Since 1993, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded nearly
$5 billion for redevelopment and client services. Some 72,000 units will be demolished,
to be replaced with 41,500 new public housing units and 15,000 homeownership units,
"affordable units" for the working poor, and market-rate units.
HOPE VI Panel Study: Baseline
tracked 887 heads of household from five developments as revitalization
began in mid- to late 2001. HOPE
VI Resident Tracking Study
provides a snapshot of the living conditions
and well-being of 818 former residents of eight properties in early 2001-between
two and seven years after the housing authority received a HOPE VI grant. The first
study looked at sites in Atlantic City, N.J., Chicago, Durham, N.C., Richmond, Calif.,
and Washington, D.C. The second study went to Denver, Springfield, Ill., Newark
and Paterson, N.J., San Francisco, Albany, N.Y., Louisville, Ky., and Tucson, Ariz.
On the Eve of Redevelopment
Residents living in HOPE VI sites before they were redeveloped reported terrible
About one-third said they had two or three housing problems (e.g., peeling paint
or water leaks) and one-fifth reported more than three problems.
About three-quarters said drug trafficking and criminal activity were serious problems
in their projects and two-thirds reported living with shootings and violence.
More than one-third of adults reported having a serious health condition, such as
diabetes or arthritis; more than one-fifth have asthma; and nearly one-third are
in poor mental health, almost 50 percent higher than the national average.
One in five children ages 6 to 14 has asthma; the figure for younger children is
one in four, more than three times the national average.
Fewer than half of the respondents were employed prior to relocation. They cited
health problems and a lack of adequate child care as major barriers.
Families that left the projects-for refurbished public housing,
other public housing units, or private homes-described moving to better housing
in safer neighborhoods:
Strengthening HOPE VI
Nearly two-thirds reported that their new housing is in good or excellent condition.
Most who left HOPE VI developments said their new neighborhoods are safer and less
poor, but about 40 percent still reported serious problems with gangs and drug trafficking.
Two in five in new neighborhoods reported problems paying rent and utilities, and
about half were having difficulty affording enough food.
Because of larger out-of-pocket costs, three-fifths of voucher users had trouble
paying rent or utilities in the prior year, as did half of those receiving no housing
More than providing job assistance, says Popkin, supportive
services must meet the special needs of residents with medical problems or contending
with domestic violence, substance abuse, criminal records, and poor credit histories.
Housing authorities should also pay special attention to older adults, many of whom
are frail, disabled, or dependent on other residents for their care.
Former residents with weak credit histories or complex family problems are at a
disadvantage using vouchers in the private market, Popkin and her co-authors note,
where landlords' rules may be more restrictive than in public housing. These and
other families with multiple risk factors need effective case management, follow-up
services, credit counseling, budget guidance, extensive information about alternative
neighborhoods, and assistance with landlords.
"A substantial proportion of those still living in distressed developments
are literally one step away from becoming homelessùand may become so if relocated
to the private market," says Popkin. Supportive or transitional housing for
these hard-to-house families may be "costly, complicated, and require careful
coordination, but without these services HOPE VI is unlikely to realize its potential
as a powerful force for improving the lives of low-income families."
HOPE VI Panel
Study: Baseline Report, by Susan J. Popkin, Diane K. Levy, Laura E. Harris,
Jennifer Comey, Mary K. Cunningham, and Larry F. Buron, was funded by the U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,
the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Fannie Mae Foundation,
the Ford Foundation, and the Chicago Community Trust.
HOPE VI Resident Tracking Study,
by Larry F. Buron, Susan J. Popkin, Diane K. Levy, Laura E. Harris, and Jill Khadduri,
was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Both studies are available from the Urban Institute Publications Sales Office at
202-261-5687 or toll-free at 1-877-UIPRESS. The Urban Institute is a nonprofit,
nonpartisan policy research and educational organization that examines the social,
economic, and governance problems facing the nation.