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«A Journal of Policy Development and Research HoPe VI Volume 12, Number 1 • 2010 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy ...»

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Introduction The HOPE VI policy of public housing redevelopment is based on the idea that neighborhood environments make an important difference in the opportunities and quality of life of public housing residents. HOPE VI has been in operation since 1993, and the growing body of evidence from evaluations of the program converges on two points: (1) the residents who are displaced from public housing units by redevelopment tend to move to neighborhoods that are much better than the original neighborhoods, based on measures of well-being of residents in the respective census tracts; and, (2) somewhat conversely, the degree of improvement in quality of life reported by the Cityscape Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research • Volume 12, Number 1 • 2010 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development • Office of Policy Development and Research Goetz residents is mixed, being quite modest in most cases and frequently nonexistent. This article is an attempt to grapple with this seeming contradiction. How is it that public housing residents can be relocated to better neighborhoods yet report only modest changes in their own conditions?

Previous studies have focused either on measuring changes—using census data—in the neighborhood environments of people displaced by HOPE VI or on measuring the benefits of relocation— using data from surveys or interviews with public housing families. Even when a study uses both objective census indicators of change and subjective assessments of change provided by residents, the two sets of data are not linked at the individual level (see, for example, Goetz, 2003). In this study I improve on these approaches by linking objective and subjective measures for families displaced through a HOPE VI redevelopment in Duluth, Minnesota. This design allows for a direct analysis of whether individual benefits are related to the improved neighborhood conditions that displaced families experience.

The HOPE VI Model The HOPE VI Program is designed to provide a range of benefits to the residents of distressed public housing. These benefits are a central justification for the program (see, for example, Wexler,

2001) and thus a major criterion for program success (Epp, 1996). The program is based on a body of social science work that is generally referred to as the “neighborhood effects” literature (see, for example, Atkinson and Kintrea, 2001; Ellen and Turner, 1997; Jencks and Mayer, 1990).

This literature suggests that neighborhoods shape residents’ opportunities in important ways, and that people living in distressed public housing projects suffer from residing in neighborhoods high in crime, low in social capital, lacking economic opportunity, and receiving only low-quality public services.

HOPE VI imposes involuntary displacement and relocation on residents in the short term. People move to neighborhoods that are not burdened by the adverse conditions present in their original public housing project, and eventually can move back to the redeveloped project. Even if they do not return, by dint of having been removed from the adverse environment of distressed public housing, the expectation is that they will receive a range of individual benefits. Families feel safer and thus experience less psychological stress. Family members can get out of their units more frequently and interact with neighbors more regularly, and because their new neighbors are not as uniformly poor as neighbors in the housing project were, residents begin to benefit from the social capital generated by a more differentiated social network. In addition, the hope of the program is that residents will move to neighborhoods that put them in closer proximity to economic opportunities, so that their chances of employment will increase. These short-term benefits (reduced stress, greater feelings of safety and neighborhood satisfaction, and employment) will in time produce the longer term benefits of increased economic self-sufficiency and reduced dependence on social services. In other words, a move out of the projects will be accompanied by a move up the socioeconomic ladder.

6 HOPE VI Better Neighborhoods, Better Outcomes? Explaining Relocation Outcomes in HOPE VI The HOPE VI Dispersal Record Several studies have been done in cities across the country that document the experiences of HOPE VI families. In this section the record of HOPE VI dispersal is summarized.

Where Do They Go?

The first consistent finding in the HOPE VI research is that, when displaced from public housing, very-low-income families do not move far. Most do not leave the central city: Comey (2007) reported that in a five-city study of HOPE VI sites, only 14 percent of the families moved to the suburbs. In Chicago, less than 2 percent of the first 3,000 families displaced by public housing redevelopment have left the city (Fischer, 2003; see also Kataria and Johnson, 2004). In Minneapolis, 87 percent of families displaced by a HOPE VI-like demolition remained in the central city, more than one-half within a 3-mile radius of their original homes (Goetz, 2003). Trudeau (2006) reported that “nearly all” households that moved as a result of the Comer v. Cisneros plan to reduce the concentration of poverty in Buffalo, New York, remained in the city, moving an average of only 1.5 miles from their previous residence. Kingsley, Johnson, and Pettit’s (2003) national study showed a median distance of 2.9 miles for moves by people displaced by HOPE VI redevelopments (see similar findings in Comey, 2007). Although the distances in some cases are greater (an average of more than 5 miles in Chicago, according to Reed, 2006), what is consistent across sites is the tendency of residents to remain within communities with which they are familiar and in which they maintain social or historical ties. In Portland, Oregon, for example, two-thirds of the 382 households displaced by HOPE VI wanted to remain in the same neighborhood (Gibson, 2007; see also Varady and Walker, 2000, for evidence from four other cities, and Johnson-Hart, 2007, for similar patterns in Richmond, Virginia).

Kleit and Manzo (2006) found that place attachment is important in determining the degree to which HOPE VI families move away. Trudeau (2006) argues that the pattern of relocation to other, nearby neighborhoods in the central city is a result of low-income families’ need to rely on social supports as they negotiate the demands of work, childcare, and other family obligations (see Reed, 2006, for similar findings in Chicago).

Although HOPE VI families do not move far, nonetheless they tend to move to better neighborhoods, according to a range of measures related to economic activity and livability, with the possible exception of segregation levels. Aggregate census data for the new neighborhoods typically show much lower poverty rates than in the original neighborhoods (Boston, 2005; Buron et al., 2002;

Clampet-Lundquist, 2004; Fischer, 2003; Fraser et al., 2004; Goetz, 2003; Kingsley, Johnson, and Pettit, 2003; Popkin et al., 2004; Trudeau, 2006). Nationally, HOPE VI residents who received vouchers (which allowed them to rent housing in the private market), for example, moved from neighborhoods with an average poverty rate of 61 percent to neighborhoods with an average poverty rate of 27 percent (Kingsley, Johnson, and Pettit, 2003). The neighborhoods to which displaced families move also tend to be lower on other measures of disadvantage, such as unemployment and participation in public assistance programs (see, for example, Clampet-Lundquist, 2004).


Poverty rates in the new neighborhoods, however, are typically higher than the average for their cities (Boston, 2005; Buron et al., 2002; Fraser et al., 2004; Goetz, 2003). For example, the Buron et al. (2002) analysis of data from the HOPE VI Resident Tracking Study found that 40 percent of displaced residents who did not return to the rehabilitated HOPE VI development lived in census tracts with poverty rates of less than 20 percent, a substantial improvement. However, another 40 percent lived in high-poverty tracts (those with poverty rates of more than 30 percent). ClampetLundquist (2004), Johnson-Hart (2007), and Comey (2007) reported similar findings. In addition, although the original neighborhoods may have higher poverty rates than the new neighborhoods, many of the latter have increasing, rather than decreasing, poverty rates (Goetz, 2003).

Moreover, improvements in racial integration are not as pronounced for poor families who move as a result of forced relocation. Fischer (2003) reported only “slight improvements” in census-tract racial diversity among relocated people in Chicago, noting that most voucher recipients moved to the highly segregated south and west sides of the city. Less than 2 percent moved to the predominantly White suburbs. The Buron et al. (2002) analysis of the five projects in the Urban Institute HOPE VI Panel Study found only modest improvements in levels of racial diversity in residents’ new census tracts.

Finally, evidence suggests significant residential instability among families displaced by public housing redevelopment. Brooks et al. (2005) found that 40 percent of people relocated by HOPE VI who had vouchers to use in the private market moved again within 2 years. Buron, Levy, and Gallagher (2007) reported the same percentage among those relocated with vouchers in five different HOPE VI cities. Studies of subsequent moves under the Gautreaux program found much greater regression to the mean in terms of neighborhood poverty and racial characteristics among those moving within the city (Keels et al., 2005). Goetz (2003) found that subsequent moves of displaced families tended to be to neighborhoods with higher (and growing) poverty rates and with higher (and growing) levels of racial segregation. Comey (2007), however, found that residents who have moved multiple times slightly reduce their exposure to neighborhoods with high poverty rates.

Children’s School and Social Experiences Although the most promising result of the Gautreaux program was an increase in children’s educational achievement (Kaufman and Rosenbaum, 1992), achievement among children relocated by HOPE VI has not improved at the same rate. The schools to which children move as a result of HOPE VI are typically racially and economically segregated, in part because many HOPE VI moves are within the same, underperforming urban school systems (Popkin, 2006). Jacob (2004), however, found that “even students who did move to substantially better neighborhoods did not end up in significantly better schools” (Jacob, 2004: 235; see also Clampet-Lundquist, 2004). Gallagher and Bajaj (2007) reported no major changes in school engagement for children in five HOPE VI Panel Study sites across the country. Jacob (2004) found that children in households relocated due to HOPE VI-like public housing redevelopment show no educational improvements relative to control group members on a range of academic achievement measures. In Minneapolis, Goetz (2003) reported no positive effects on children’s schooling—either comparing children before and after the move, or comparing them to control groups—and significant reductions in positive social 8 HOPE VI Better Neighborhoods, Better Outcomes? Explaining Relocation Outcomes in HOPE VI outcomes for children who were involuntarily displaced compared with their situation before the move (Goetz, 2003).

Employment and Financial Security The evidence from research consistently indicates that dispersed households do not benefit from relocation in terms of employment, earnings, or overall income. This indication has been true of Gautreaux, Moving to Opportunity (MTO), HOPE VI, and the involuntary displacement that resulted from Hurricane Katrina (Clampet-Lundquist, 2004; Curley, 2006; Goering and Feins, 2003;

Goetz, 2002; Levy and Woolley, 2007; Rubinowitz and Rosenbaum, 2000; Turney et al., 2006;

Vigdor, 2007). For those relocated by HOPE VI, the same lack of improvement is evident across the five Urban Institute Panel Study sites, which showed no employment or earnings effects from being moved out of these severely distressed public housing projects (Levy and Woolley, 2007).

Evidence suggests that the social capital arguments made to support HOPE VI relocation may actually work in reverse: relocation could destroy the useful support networks that lower income families construct to get by. Clampet-Lundquist (2004) reported that, among the relocated people who moved into units subsidized with vouchers, “none … reported having learned of a job opportunity from their new neighbors, nor did they talk to their neighbors about jobs. By contrast, several interviewees reported having found a job through a friend or other local connection while living at (the old public housing site)” (Clampet-Lundquist, 2004: 71). Barrett, Geisel, and Johnston (2006) found that lack of transportation and childcare were barriers to employment.

Although HOPE VI relocations (and other mobility programs) may resolve the spatial mismatch of jobs and residence for low-income households, this improvement might be less important than other changes, such as reducing deficits in human capital, overcoming family effects (Oreopolous,

2003) and racial and ethnic discrimination in the job market (Carlson and Theodore, 1997; Immergluck, 1998), or improving health (Levy and Woolley, 2007; see the review in Chapple, 2006).

In the end, Levy and Woolley (2007) conclude: “HOPE VI relocation and voluntary supportive services are unlikely to affect employment or address the many factors that keep disadvantaged residents out of the labor force” (Levy and Woolley, 2007: 1).

These disappointing findings related to employment, along with the increased housing costs that generally accompany relocation from public housing, contribute to greater financial insecurity among people relocated by HOPE VI, according to a number of studies. Barrett, Geisel, and Johnston (2006) found that, of those relocated in Fort Worth, Texas, two-thirds worried about having enough money for food, a large increase over the percentage of concerned residents before the move.

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