«Mixed Messages on Mixed incoMes Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and ...»
characteristics in common (Levy, McDade, and Bertumen, 2011), and that, in some cases, “management encouraged social distance between market-rate and subsidized neighbors” (Graves, 2010:
127). Indeed, subsidized renters in mixed-income developments are often the objects of intensified surveillance and discipline, in part because site management is charged with drawing middle-income residents into these developments to capture enough ground rent to offset the costs associated with a devolved public housing program (Kipfer and Petrunia, 2009). Enhanced social control emerges in these contexts, even when little social interaction takes place between residents of dissimilar backgrounds or class lines. The effect of such control is often felt disproportionately by relocated public housing and other low-income residents, whose actions are constrained by the privatization of space and by heightened surveillance and the establishment and monitoring of stringent rules curtailing a broad range of behaviors, access to space, and use of space (Chaskin and Joseph, 2012).
In many cases, disputes around whether residents should have the right to occupy public space are raced, gendered, and classed. For example, studies find that market-rate residents tend to identify young African-American men as a threat simply because they are exerting a right to convene and converse in public space (Chaskin and Joseph, 2012; Fraser et al., 2012). In a sense, this finding should not be surprising, because society at large has a long history of making such identity categories the foundation for direct and indirect discrimination (O’Connor, 2002; Vale, 2000). The regulation of belonging is distinct among differing groups. DeFilippis and Fraser (2010: 144) noted that “for mixing to have a role in making our cities more just, the people being mixed need to be in proximity on their own terms and those terms need some level of equivalence or comparability.” As numerous studies have demonstrated, however, this is simply not the case for the HOPE VI program (DeFilippis and Fraser, 2010). Thus, the broad consensus among those who have studied social networks in HOPE VI developments is that improving the life opportunities of low-income residents cannot hinge on social mixing (Chaskin and Joseph, 2011, 2010; Graves, 2011; Kleit, 2011).
An alternative orientation to how mixed-income housing might operate is needed. Rather than assuming that low-income people will benefit from merely living near more well-off people, research on mixed-income housing initiatives suggests that, to the extent that low-income residents benefit from living in these contexts, it is because of improved housing in a safer place and, in some cases, access to better schools and neighborhood amenities. Moving beyond a principal focus on the potential of mixed-income communities to improve the lives of low-income residents by virtue of their proximity to higher income neighbors, consideration of how mixed-income housing should operate requires attention to strategies that might be put into practice to support low-income residents.
(Re)Imagining Mixed-Income Public Housing Developments It is apparent that mixed-income housing initiatives alone do not necessarily engender the benefits for low-income public housing residents assumed in policy circles. Although it is not fully acknowledged among advocates of such programs, this shortcoming is in part because of the limitations of housing provision in the context of a much broader range of challenges that people experiencing poverty face. More specifically, the provision of housing is not directly tied to (although it is often dependent on) people being employed, nor does living in a mixed-income environment alone 90 Mixed Messages on Mixed Incomes Making Mixed-Income Neighborhoods Work for Low-Income Households promote social relations among income groups that foster social support systems and information exchange about employment opportunities. Although some mixed-income development efforts acknowledge the need for broader neighborhood improvements (amenities, commercial activity, public space, and schools), most have back-ended a focus on these aspects of development in an effort to build out the residential components of these developments, to the extent they plan to address them at all.3 HOPE VI mixed-income housing developments rely heavily on housing as the principal developmental input and on mechanisms of social control to achieve neighborhood quality of life, thus inhibiting resident participation, engagement, interaction, and, ultimately, social cohesion (Chaskin and Joseph, 2010). This can lead to a sense of social isolation and political disenfranchisement for low-income residents in these contexts (Chaskin, Khare, and Joseph, 2012;
Fraser, DeFilippis, and Bazuin, 2012; Lucio and Wolfersteig, 2012). In the absence of these aspects of holistic community, active citizenship becomes both formally and informally discouraged, which can lead to conflicts and hierarchies concerning the expectations of how people use space and neighborhood amenities (Chaskin and Joseph, 2012).
Based on previous research, we suggest that a variety of potential interventions could overcome these obstacles and perhaps subsequently lead to improved socioeconomic status. Broadly, we conceptualize potentially effective interventions as being in four realms: (1) housing, (2) social services and supports, (3) employment, and (4) neighborhood life. These domains are certainly interrelated and, we believe, all tend to reinforce well-being and quality of life. Some of these recommendations would likely require major policy interventions by the state, and other strategies, based on some examples of what public housing authorities are currently doing, could be implemented without a great deal of additional resources being advanced.
Regarding housing, many HOPE VI developments currently include homeownership opportunities for moderate-income and higher income populations. Although they arguably provide a foundation of residential stability in these communities, many market-rate buyers consider these properties as investments and may plan to live in them for a relatively short period (Joseph and Chaskin, 2010).
Subsidized for-sale units that exist in some sites are contractually constrained from being sold at market rates for a period of years after purchase, but over time the access that owners have to the market, the potential volatility of the market, and the uncertainty surrounding contractual arrangements and broader relationships of responsibility between owners and housing authorities suggest that income mix may be difficult to sustain (Abravanel, Levy, and McFarland, 2009). The stability of lower income residents in these contexts is yet more difficult to ensure. Lease compliance requirements often extend beyond timely payment of rent and adherence to lawful behavior to include a range of (often relatively minor) behaviors that can place tenants at risk of eviction (Chaskin and Joseph, 2012). Residents who are successful in these contexts are often expected to move on if they can get effectively established in the workforce and establish some level of self-sufficiency. In some cases, subsidized renters who go through “the program” at HOPE VI sites are given homeownership This more narrow focus on housing has been expanded in HOPE VI’s successor, the Obama Administration’s Choice Neighborhoods demonstration program, which explicitly seeks to support investment beyond housing and social services for low-income residents and to include an emphasis on dimensions of community health, including education, public assets, transportation, and access to jobs.
Cityscape 91Fraser, Chaskin, and Bazuin
classes and assistance to save toward the down payment for a house through individual development accounts. Although some sites have units set aside for potential purchase by relocated public housing residents, most of those who do eventually buy their own homes (relatively few to begin with) have to leave the complex. Given that studies of existing HOPE VI sites have shown that, at times, cleavages among homeowners, market-rate renters, and subsidized renters occur in part because of the perceived lack of investment in the development that renters may have because they have no equity stake in their units (Chaskin and Joseph, 2011), and given the benefits of residential stability for aspects of neighborhood well-being such as safety and density of acquaintanceship networks (Freudenburg, 1986; Sampson and Groves, 1989), we suggest that subsidized renters should be supported to make them eligible to buy the HOPE VI unit they occupy. To support likely sustainability of this income mix over time, this lease-to-purchase program could be implemented through a shared-equity housing model operated by a community land trust (CLT).
A CLT is “a nonprofit organization that utilizes public and private funds to provide affordable home ownership opportunities for low-income households” (Thaden, 2010: 2–3). The CLT would retain title to the land, meaning that the prospective owner needs to pay only for the building or a unit within the building. Moreover, the CLT can ensure the long-term affordability of the unit by providing some of the initial downpayment for the house. If the homeowner sells the property, the CLT gets its money back plus a portion of any appreciation to put the funds back into the property and sell to another low-income individual (Thaden, 2010). Using this model in HOPE VI developments would assist renters toward homeownership if they so desire. Homeownership could create longer term, more stable communities; provide incentives for low-income renters to contribute to the community; and also help renters build wealth. In tandem, public housing authorities will likely need to develop new complexes to provide subsidized units within a mixed-income environment; if mixed-income housing strategies show any promise in spurring reinvestment in their surrounding neighborhoods, rolling development provides the opportunity to sustain this promise over time and spread it across more neighborhoods.
Homeownership is not (nor should it necessarily be) an option for everyone, however. Anyone moving into homeownership needs sufficient income, stability, and capacity to maintain payments and their property and needs access to loan instruments that tailor financial burden to ability to pay over time. For some, homeownership will not be an option for any of a number of reasons. In HOPE VI developments, some public housing residents will choose or need to stay in a subsidized rental situation. Often these residents face multiple barriers to employment such as childcare, transportation, and health issues (Popkin, Levy, and Buron, 2009). HOPE VI has had a positive effect on creating better public housing environments characterized by less crime, but the program’s limited funds for community and social services have not translated into “gains in employment, earnings, or health” (Theodos et al., 2012: 518). Whether striving for homeownership or simply to support stability and well-being, services and supports for public housing residents need to be enhanced. Indeed, studies have found that in the isolated cases in which effective and intensive services have been provided, they have produced positive results (Popkin et al., 2010). The supports have included financial supports, social services (counseling, job training, and case management), child care, health care, and transportation services. Whereas transportation may be a more difficult problem to solve, child care seems relatively simple; HOPE VI complexes can be built with facilities that can be operated as childcare cooperatives, potentially priced based on parents’
income and staffed by qualified people from the neighborhood. In addition to these cooperatives, we suggest that additional elements would include youth activities and after-school programs.
On the financial front, a key concern for public housing residents is the ability to save money on utility bills. In regular public housing, the housing authority largely covers utilities, but in HOPE VI sites, the tenants are responsible for paying their utility bills. Housing authorities in several locales implemented two interventions: using energy-efficient appliances and building materials and instituting weatherization programs that lower heating and cooling bills. For example, in High Point, Seattle, Washington, the HOPE VI sites use geothermal technology to provide low-cost heat and air conditioning and, in Nashville, Tennessee, they use solar panels to provide energy for elderly residents in public housing highrise buildings.
Regarding employment, job training also needs to be refocused. In particular, successful programs to move public housing residents to better paying jobs have often included vocational training that goes far beyond simply helping connect residents to potential training programs or even officially sponsoring such programs. One intervention would be to replicate some features of the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration, including a mechanism to make work pay a decent wage. The demonstration included efforts to effectively pay employers to hire residents through temporarily subsidized salaries.
The Transitional Jobs program, a more intensive version of the model used citywide by Chicago Housing Authority’s Opportunity Chicago workforce initiative, was aimed at helping residents with little or no work experience connect to the labor market. The program relied on intensive employment and interview training, rapid attachment to the workforce, 3 months of subsidized employment, and continued counseling and advocacy support for residents throughout the first year of employment (Popkin et al., 2010).
Similarly, in Seattle, a related effort kept contact with both employees and employers after a resident had been placed in a job, identifying skill areas in which the resident was deficient and providing additional training. It is not sufficient to help a public housing resident learn some computer skills or how to be a nurse’s assistant, update their résumé, and do some practice interviews; employers may need additional guarantees or incentives to take a risk on relatively inexperienced, unproven employees.