«Mixed Messages on Mixed incoMes Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and ...»
Although the hypothesized benefits of such mixed-income initiatives to improve employment access, quality of life, and self-sufficiency on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean have included the assumed socioeconomic advantages of poverty alleviation, the reduction of racial and income-based segregation (particularly in the United States), and the benefits of homeownership, the realities of living in these reconfigured spaces do not necessarily map well onto the original goals associated with them. This outcome has led some scholars to suggest that such mixing strategies boil down to state-implemented strategies to prepare neighborhoods for capital investment through the regulation, marginalization, and displacement of the poor. Such suggestions raise more fundamental questions about when and how society and its government leaders need to house the least advantaged (Levy, 2006).
Before describing the organization and content of this symposium, we believe it is instructive to provide a brief history of public and social housing in the United States and the United Kingdom, primarily because these histories reveal tension between the interests of capital investment and the provision of public goods (in this case, affordable housing for the poor). On both sides of the Atlantic, such tensions eventually led to mixing and redevelopment strategies.
CityscapeFraser, Oakley, and Levy
Public Housing and Mixed-Income Redevelopment in the United States Although governments have used a variety of mechanisms to house various low-income populations, (project-based) public housing has become iconic of these efforts. A concerted American housing movement, led by figures such as Catherine Bauer, Edith Elmer Wood, and Mary Simkhovitch, emerged during the turn of the 20th century. The movement achieved many victories, including the Wagner-Steagall Act of 1937,1 which established the United States Housing Authority (Birch, 1978). The construction of public housing did not match the pace of slum removal, however, and many families in need could not gain admittance into the relatively few units of housing produced. From 1950 through 1970, in most cases, these developments were sited in low-income minority neighborhoods, and “White flight” to the suburbs accelerated (Freeman, 2004; Goering, Kamely, and Richardson, 1997).
During this period, Catherine Bauer wrote about “the dreary deadlock of public housing” lamenting that “[e]ven among public housing’s most tireless defenders, many would welcome a fresh start if they did not fear that in the process any program at all might get lost” (Bauer, 1957: 140). Her sentiment was a foreshadowing of the continued concentration of the abject poor in public housing developments, some of which were becoming run down and isolated because of insufficient budgets. Although arguments could be made that income mixing existed in public housing until the 1960s (Hartman, 1975), a provision in the Brooke Amendments of the early 1970s established that public housing needs to be provided first and foremost to the poorest populations, thus creating financial constraints on housing authorities and ushering in an era in which public housing and its inhabitants became demonized (Goetz, in press). The development of mixed-income housing, particularly through HOPE VI, has been viewed by many policymakers as a considerable improvement from the public housing replaced, even if it caused displacement of public housing residents (FitzPatrick, 2000; Goetz, in press; Schwartz and Tajbakhsh, 1997).
Looking back on the early days of public housing, from the 1930s through the 1950s, provides notable parallels to current HOPE VI projects, whereby people with a mix of incomes reside together in a development. Although mixed-income housing was not a central component of public housing at its inception, a range of incomes did coexist. Low- and middle-income groups were both served, albeit they have generally been lumped into the “submerged middle class” label to distinguish them from those who were in abject poverty (Friedman, 1966; Schill, 1993). Likewise, the tenant screening process was aimed at distinguishing the “deserving” from the “undeserving” poor (Vale, 2000).
Although language other than “deserving” and “undeserving” is currently in vogue, HOPE VI tenant screening relies on some of the same criteria for admittance, including employment, criminal record, and, informally, a desire to use public housing as a stepping stone into private-sector housing (Fraser, Oakley, and Bazuin, 2012). Further, HOPE VI developments are expected to collect enough rents from moderate- and market-rate units to offset the costs of management and maintenance similar to the way that the initial public housing legislation required. Although some scholars described original public housing as being paternalistic (Argersinger, 2010; Mitchell, 1993), HOPE VI has been The United States Housing Act of 1937. Public Law 75-412.
characterized by its heightened surveillance of public housing tenants (Chaskin and Joseph, 2010;
Fraser et al., in press). Researchers are only beginning to see the longer term effects of HOPE VIstyle mixed-income housing; several articles in this symposium focus on the HOPE VI experience.
Social Housing and the Evolution of Mixing Policies in the United Kingdom In the United Kingdom, public housing is often referred to as council housing, or social housing.
It formally began in 1919, but the U.K. Parliament granted local governments power to develop working-class housing in 1890 (Stone, 2003). The Housing and Town Planning Act of 1909 authorized local councils to assist copartnership societies (for example, cooperative societies, trade unions, and utility companies) in building working-class housing (Ravetz, 2001). Similarly, the Housing Acts of 1914 and 1915 provided state-sponsored housing for wartime government employees, setting a precedent on which council housing would follow (Ravetz, 2001). By World War I, 24,000 units of council housing had been built (Malpass and Murie, 1999). Much like U.S. policy in the 1930s, a coalition of reformers were openly concerned about the slum housing conditions that accompanied industrialization and urbanization of the United Kingdom.
During the interwar years, a severe shortage of housing existed in the United Kingdom. Although multiple rationales provided the conceptual framework for council housing, social unrest, strikes, and the return of military servicemen from the war prompted Prime Minister David Lloyd George to provide council housing for fear of revolt and a “Bolshevist rising” (Ravetz, 2001: 77). Between the wars, approximately 1,000,000 units of council housing were established, although rather than serving the working class in poverty—many of whom were returning soldiers—it housed a more affluent clientele, because rents were often more than in private-sector rentals (Forrest, Malpass, and Rowlands, 2010). In the post-1945 era, council housing increased, with 2.9 million units produced in two decades (Stone, 2003).
During the era of welfare capitalism (1945 to the 1970s), council housing provided high-quality homes for many well-off, working-class tenants who were oftentimes unionized and thus able to press their political and economic demands for shelter on the state.2 In general, welfare capitalism refers to a state-sponsored safety net (welfare state) funded primarily through taxing private-market enterprises and private citizens’ income (Esping-Andersen, 1990). During this era, the amount of council housing increased from 12 percent of the total housing stock in 1945 to 32 percent in 1979 (Esping-Andersen, 1990); however, in the 1980s, government disinvestment and related policies led to “residualization” of council housing.
Thus, despite periods and policies that bore some similarities, the two countries had quite different social-housing environments at the beginning of the 1980s. Both countries, however, were entering periods with somewhat similar political regimes, regimes with similar attitudes toward social housing but with rather different strategies given their different housing contexts (Stone, 2003).
More impoverished populations relied on lower quality, privately rented housing (Malpass, 2010).
According to Malpass (2010), during the 1980s, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s housing policies underfunded council housing and began the privatization and effective residualizing of it and other welfare programs emerging out of the welfare capitalism era.3 Since the 1980s, much council housing has been razed or privatized. Between 1980 and 2006, the number of council-housing units dropped from 6.1 to 2.6 million (Mullins and Pawson, 2010).
Although the structural role of state-sponsored housing has been a response to the inability or unwillingness of the private sector to provide high-quality, affordable housing to a mix of low- to middle-income populations, public policies have effectively created housing segregation. This segregation has been accompanied by “culture-of-poverty” discourse that further marginalizes those in poverty as being unwilling to take personal responsibility for their welfare.4 Council housing has been characterized as a breeding place for antisocial behavior (Malpass, 2010). This characterization partially explains the negative public sentiment many have toward public and council housing, and disinvestment in these housing tenures has materially run down many housing estates and developments. Goetz (in press) has chronicled the “discourse of disaster” that has maligned public housing as being obsolete. In summary, the dismantling of this part of the welfare state has been ongoing since the 1970s, and housing has been a key domain in which we see this change.
In 2000, the backlog for repairs and improvements to council-housing stock was estimated at approximately £19 billion (approximately $28.5 billion U.S.), and the government set about to remedy this situation through a range of policy instruments that either privatized units or entire housing estates (or developments) (Stone, 2003). One primary policy has been Thatcher’s 1980 RTB program, whereby sitting council-housing tenants were provided deep discounts of up to 70 percent to purchase their units. To date, nearly 3 million units of council housing have been sold off to former tenants, thus redistributing risk to the new owners (Blandy and Hunter, 2013). Likewise, local councils have transferred more than 50 percent of the social-housing stock to nonprofit housing associations. In addition to enacting these policies, local authorities have been able to sell off units and entire estates to private-sector developers. For example, Europe’s largest landmarked council estate, Park Hill in Sheffield, was sold for £1(approximately $1.53 U.S.) to Urban Splash, a private development company that is renovating the estate as a mixed-income project (Heathcote, 2012). Clearly, the differing goal sets of local councils serving the public and the imperative of capital accumulation by the private sector have shaped projects like Park Hill. Finally, local councils have the authority to mortgage their council-housing estates to raise funds for maintenance and renovation. As of 2006, council housing that is owned and operated by the local authorities stands at about 10 percent of the total housing stock in the United Kingdom (Ginsburg, 2004).
As is the case in the United States, the concept of mixed-income housing in the United Kingdom has a foundation in an earlier history. Social mix was a central component of Ebenezer Howard’s garden cities in the 1890s (Rose et al., 2013). Among other aspects, Howard conceptualized the garden city as a remedy for social polarization that he saw in London. Social mix was a prominent This pattern was similar to U.S. public housing in that it was the working, submerged middle-class people who were afforded housing and abject poor people who were excluded from state-sponsored developments (Vale, 2000).
For example, President Ronald Reagan infamously stated that many single mothers in public housing who received cash benefits were “welfare queens.”
feature that he believed would build cooperation and community across income groups; yet, a 1905 census of the 1,400 residents of Howard’s first garden city, Letchworth, found that the only people living there were “middle-class men and women of independent means (and their servants) and the skilled artisans who were building the new town” (Fishman, 2002: 73). Working-class families who labored in Letchworth did not earn enough income to afford to live there and found substandard housing outside of the city (Fishman, 2002). In the early garden cities and later in British New Towns and council-housing estates, social-mix discourse emphasized lofty ideals of a good society, but none achieved what each set out to create.
In the context of council housing, mixed-income policies, referred to as social-mix and social-balance policies, existed during the 1940s and 1950s but came under criticism and lost favor (Goodchild and Cole, 2001). These policies then reappeared during the late 1990s. Social mix in the United Kingdom is currently deployed in a variety of public policies aimed at neighborhood renewal and council-housing transformation (Levy et al., 2010; Sautkina, Bond, and Kears, 2012). The antecedents to, and the purported benefits of, social mix have been well documented, and it is not our intention to provide another rendition of the urban underclass or concentrated poverty theses. Likewise, the proffered benefits of social-mix policies for low-income populations have been conceptualized, and many studies are beginning to test how mixed-income housing operates (for reviews, see Abravanel, Levy, and McFarland, 2011a, 2011b; DeFilippis and Fraser, 2010; and Joseph, Chaskin, and Webber, 2007). In summary, proponents of social mix (broadly defined) hold onto the rationale that low-income people living in propinquity to those with greater privilege will benefit from social contact, but evidence to support this perspective remains illusive. This reality is basically the same situation concerning mixed-income housing redevelopment outcomes happening in the United States.