«Mixed Messages on Mixed incoMes Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and ...»
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72 Mixed Messages on Mixed Incomes Commentary These comments relate to the articles in this Cityscape symposium by Levy, McDade, and Bertumen, by Keller et al., and by Kearns et al.
Mixing Policies: Expectations and Achievements Hilary Silver Brown University This symposium offers a wide-ranging critique of the often unspoken assumptions underlying social mixing policies. The rubric is very broad and consequently, mixes mixing policies, so to speak. The articles address racial and ethnic diversity, income mixing, and tenure mixing at different scales— buildings, housing developments, and neighborhoods—in two different liberal welfare states, the United States and United Kingdom.
This breadth poses the danger of conflating some different subjects, so I will begin by making some distinctions. Then I revisit a key assumption underlying all these mixing policies, namely, that spatial proximity breaks down social distance. The evidence masterfully reviewed in this symposium by Diane K. Levy, Zach McDade, and Kassie Bertumen shows that it does not, challenging what Ade Kearns, Martin McKee, Elena Sautkina, George Weeks, and Lyndal Bond refer to in their article as the mixed-tenure policy “orthodoxy.” Everyone seems to agree that the built environment of mixed-income developments is an improvement from public housing, but that poverty and social relations have not improved. Attractive, accessible, and safe public spaces are facilitating, if insufficient, conditions for social interaction across class and racial boundaries.
The mixing policy persists despite the evidence. Fortunately, in the process of evaluating mixedincome housing programs, we have learned that community building should be part of housing policy. This lesson has implications for the President Barack Obama Administration’s comprehensive neighborhood initiatives, as we begin the next generation of government attempts to disperse, mix, and improve the lives of poor people.
Some Distinctions The term “social mix” is ambiguous and can refer to diversity of many different kinds, in different proportions, at different geographical scales. “Mixing,” as Kearns et al. note, may signify physical proximity or social interaction. If the latter, it varies by context and social distance. Mixing at one point in time may not be sustained. The motives for mixing range from crime reduction to poverty alleviation to property value appreciation. Mixing can be achieved through a number of mechanisms.
Cityscape 73 Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research • Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development • Office of Policy Development and Research Silver The two empirical articles under discussion here refer to different kinds of mix. The Scottish estates mix tenure. Kearns et al. acknowledge that, “tenure mixing is not guaranteed to deliver substantial income mix.” In the United Kingdom, people with the same income may own their homes or rent council housing. Diversity also becomes visible on different scales. The newly constructed houses are physically distinct in two of the Glasgow, Scotland estates as well, visibly marked off on the periphery from the rentals. By contrast, the original Tacoma, Washington development was ethnically mixed, with immigrants and refugees living alongside African Americans and Whites. The income mixing in the new Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) project could not restore the previous mixing across social lines.
These differences in emphasis reflect broader national differences in housing policies.1 In spite of the centrality of the so-called American Dream, tenure distinctions play a much greater role in British housing policy and scholarship. Council housing long preceded American public housing historically, became a much larger share of the total stock, and is more salient in national politics and class relations. Indeed, renting as opposed to owning even predicts how one votes far more in the United Kingdom than the United States. The UK tenure mix changed partly through the Right to Buy program, turning council tenants and housing associations into owners but without moving residents or disrupting the community. Kearns et al. report very little turnover in the Glasgow estates. Unlike in the United States, however, racial or ethnic concentrations do not raise much concern in multicultural Britain. In the Netherlands, by contrast, the fear of creating ethnic ghettos led to a prohibition on concentrating the unemployed or low-income households in rental housing of certain neighborhoods (van Eijk, 2010).
Racial or ethnic mixing, or desegregation, is a central policy concern in the United States. The 1968 Fair Housing Act2 has been notoriously inefficient in reducing U.S. racial segregation, which has declined at a glacial pace. Audit studies continue to reveal discrimination in the housing market. By concentrating on concentrated poverty, Wilson (2012/1987) may have deflected political attention from the continuing spatial separation of African Americans and Whites, even within the middle class, but it persists nonetheless. Americans know income mixing has racial undertones. Indeed, most residents of the public housing demolished in the United States were African American (Goetz, 2010). Unfortunately, the slow decline in racial segregation is accompanied by greater income polarization in American metropolitan areas (Reardon and Bischoff, 2011).
Mixed-income housing policies are bucking the tide.
Mixing Mechanisms The mechanism that policymakers select to achieve social mixing also matters considerably (Chaskin and Joseph, 2011; Galster, 2007). Social mixing can result from dispersing the poor, British scholars point to U.S. housing policies as the origins of “neoliberal” approaches to urban revitalization. For example, New Labour drew on HOPE VI for its New Deal for Communities policy, claiming that the segregation of areas by owner occupation versus renting “led to social polarization and social exclusion” (Lees, Butler, and Bridge, 2012: 5). Both countries demolished large public housing projects. The British influences on Obama’s urban policy have been overlooked, however.
For instance, taking a page from Tony Blair’s playbook, candidate Barack Obama’s 2007–08 platform committed his administration to “eradicating poverty,” pledging that, “working together, we can cut poverty in half within 10 years” (Tough, 2012).
42 U.S.C.A. §§ 3601-3631 is also Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
74 Mixed Messages on Mixed Incomes Mixing Policies: Expectations and Achievements minorities, and tenants, on the one hand, or from attracting more affluent households to areas of concentrated poverty, on the other. Dispersing the poor can be more or less voluntary. Some lowincome residents may flee from dilapidation or crime if offered the opportunity. As JoDee Keller, Janice Laakso, Christine Stevens, and Cathy Tashiro illustrate in Tacoma, however, displacing low-income families by demolishing their entire development also disrupts communities. Too often, it is erroneously assumed that there are no organizations in public housing (for an exception, see Small, 2004), but in fact communities in addition to Tacoma’s bitterly resisted the razing of their projects, the only homes they ever knew (Venkatesh, 2002).
Since 1994, HOPE VI has demolished more than 500,000 public housing units, or 20 percent of the stock in the United States. Only 100,000 replacement units were built and of those, only onehalf are subsidized for very low-income families. Therefore, HOPE VI may have mixed income levels in the new units where public housing once stood, but it displaced even more of the previous tenants to other poor neighborhoods, resegregating them elsewhere. Previous tenants are sent off with housing choice vouchers to rent from private landlords who deign to accept them; some evidence from Wisconsin suggests long-term, but not short-term, improvement in the neighborhood quality of voucher movers and some perverse effects on employment and earnings (Haveman, 2013).
The multisite Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration evidence shows that not too many poor families with vouchers stayed in low poverty neighborhoods (Briggs, Popkin, and Goering, 2010; Turner et al., 2011). Rather, as in Chicago, “While residents’ current neighborhoods are relatively better than their original developments, most are still very poor with large African American populations … many families appear to still lack stable housing, moving relatively often with no perceptible improvement in housing or neighborhood quality, [and] continue to experience serious material hardship” (Buron, Hayes, and Hailey, 2013: 4). Given that “Moving Three Times Is Like Having Your House on Fire Once” (Manzo, Kleit, and Couch, 2008), however, most displaced public housing tenants do not return to the new HOPE VI buildings or their original neighborhoods (Chaskin and Joseph, 2011, 2010; Goetz, 2003; Joseph and Chaskin, 2010). It is not just because of the hassle. In Tacoma, some residents could not return because they earned too much for the subsidized units and too little to qualify for a mortgage to buy one at market rate. Other families may be screened out by stringent rules. Considerable evidence suggests that HOPE VI severed existing social networks, instrumental helping relationships, and institutional supports in public housing developments, without reknitting social capital in the new mixed-income communities for the small percentage of tenants who moved back (Clampet-Lundquist, 2004; Curley, 2010; Goetz, 2010).
A second mechanism of mixing is the attraction of working- and middle-class households to poor neighborhoods, where they receive incentives to live with former public housing tenants. The newly constructed HOPE VI units are designed to please this market. The only low-income households allowed to live in the new mixed units have to deserve it. They are intensively screened and monitored. Managers consider this necessary to reassure potential middle-class residents.
Normally, when higher income households move into lower income neighborhoods without public intervention, it is called “gentrification.” This apt label explains why the British literature sometimes calls mixing policies state-led gentrification or gentrification by stealth (Bridge, Butler, and Lees, 2012). State-led demolition of social housing uses eminent domain to further real estate interests. The stealthy aspect is that any initial social mix, critics maintain, is unsustainable. Either
the more advantaged residents leave or they take over. Low-income households are eventually displaced or at least disempowered. In the American context, critics of mixing point to White flight or African-American displacement. Racially integrated neighborhoods are less stable over time when compared to segregated White and African-American neighborhoods (Ellen, 2000; Ellen, Horn, and O’Regan, 2012).
A third mechanism to create mixed-income housing is not considered in these articles. Some contend that social mixing policy is one sided because it is rarely advocated for socially homogeneous affluent neighborhoods, only homogeneous poor ones (Lees, Butler, and Bridge, 2012). Inclusionary zoning policies, aided by allocations of low-income housing tax credits, are starting to mix the American suburbs, however. Inclusionary zoning integrates municipalities that have long used land use controls to exclude affordable housing and thereby, poor residents. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a recent assessment of the impact of the Mt. Laurel, New Jersey decisions that mandated inclusionary zoning of affordable housing finds few if any negative impacts of socioeconomic integration on property values, property taxes, or crime (Massey et al., 2013). Ground zero for most of the discussion in this symposium is project-based low-income public housing, but starting the analysis of mixing from single-family, owner occupied suburbs calls attention to the fact that diversity and mixing may be accomplished at varying scales. Inclusionary zoning often operates at the state level, below the radar.
Expectations and Achievements: Spatial Proximity Versus Social Mixing Despite these distinctions among types and mechanisms of mixed housing, they all rest upon a few common assumptions. At least since the first urban renewal programs, planners and architects have shared an article of faith in social engineering or environmental determinism. This faith implies that if we can only build the right kind of housing and design the right kind of neighborhoods, we can end poverty and all get along. A second related assumption is a sort of Anglo-American liberal expectancy that the things that divide groups will become less salient and important over time if only reason prevails. Education, communication, and modernization will wear differences away. Integration and diversity are enriching, according to liberal pluralism, as long as neighbors do not take their differences too seriously. Third, the expectation that mixing will increase positive interaction and tolerance rests on the familiar social psychological contact hypothesis. Allport’s (1954) intergroup contact theory held that, over time and under conditions of equal status and cooperation towards shared goals, interpersonal contact and communication reduces prejudice.