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«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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Abstract This article uses data from an Atlanta-based longitudinal study following public housing residents from pending relocation through relocating between 2009 and 2010. Its purpose is to examine residents’ satisfaction with the relocation experience and with their postmove home and neighborhood. In addition, we examine whether levels of relocation satisfaction or dissatisfaction were associated with any significant differences in destination neighborhood characteristics. We build on previous research concerning prerelocation attachment to community and the hard-to-house. Findings suggest some consistency with previous research on levels of attachment to public housing communities and residents who fall into the category of the hard-to-house. Specifically, being older, having a disability, having longer tenure in public housing, and experiencing postrelocation financial strain are significantly associated with lower levels of satisfaction with the relocation process. Our findings, however, are far more mixed concerning the relationship between levels of satisfaction with the relocation process and destination neighborhood characteristics and pose some questions about poverty deconcentration and mixedincome assumptions. Policy implications are discussed.

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Introduction In 1936, Atlanta became one of the first cities in the nation to provide low-income, project-based public housing to needy families; in the early 1990s, the city became one of the first to take advantage of Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI), which, coupled with the massive redevelopment for the city’s hosting of the 1996 Summer Olympics, resulted in national recognition for rethinking public housing. By 2011, Atlanta had become the first city in the country to eliminate all its traditional project-based public housing; it also eliminated five Section 202 highrises for seniors.1 The final elimination of project-based public housing in Atlanta began in early 2007, when the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) announced plans to demolish the remaining 10 family public housing communities and two highrises for seniors. This last round of demolitions was not done under HOPE VI; rather, it was completed under Section 18 of the 1937 Housing Act, which, unlike HOPE VI, requires no immediate replacement of any units. About 10,000 former public housing residents have been relocated since 2007, bringing the grand total since 1994 to 50,000 residents (Oakley, Ruel, and Reid, 2013). For the last round of demolitions, the only relocation option residents were given was to move to private rental-market housing with a voucher through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8). Despite this massive public housing transformation effort, now known as the Atlanta Model, only 7 of the more than 30 traditional public housing communities eliminated were awarded HOPE VI funds for redevelopment (Farmer, 2012). Thus, relocation to voucher-subsidized, private-market housing with neither the option to return to the redevelopments nor to move to other public housing is one hallmark of the Atlanta Model, and many other cities are following suit (Ruel et al., 2012).

Although a substantial body of research concerns public housing residents’ postrelocation outcomes in terms of a variety of quality of life measures and the condition of the home and destination neighborhood, relatively little research has focused on how satisfied (or unsatisfied) the residents were with the relocation process. Research also has not examined whether the relocation process affected residents’ postrelocation satisfaction and destination outcomes.

These issues are important for several reasons. First, as Goetz (2010) found, premove orientation toward the prospect of relocation played a role in subsequent postrelocation experiences and perceptions. In other words, residents who were more attached to their public housing communities were less likely to be satisfied with their relocated homes. Second, a body of research related to public housing transformation policy concerns what Popkin et al. (2008) termed “hard-to-house” households. These households include a variety of former public housing residents such as custodial grandparents, singles with disabilities or households with a disabled member, residents with chronic health issues (including elderly residents), residents with a criminal background, and very large families (see Cunningham, Popkin, and Burt, 2005). As Cunningham, Popkin, and Burt (2005) pointed out, such residents may (1) have greater difficulties negotiating the relocation process, (2) be less likely to find quality private-market housing with their voucher subsidy, and (3) not receive the support services they need after relocation. Finally, mass relocation of households Section 202 came out of the 1959 amendment to the 1937 Housing Act. Its purpose was to provide affordable housing to very low-income households with residents 62 years of age or older (HUD, 2011).

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typically occurs within a relatively short time and within the highly bureaucratic organizational systems of public housing authorities (PHAs) (Venkatesh 2002, 2000), which implies that, because of the bureaucracy, not all residents’ relocation needs are met (Oakley, Ruel, and Wilson, 2008).

Using data from an Atlanta-based longitudinal study following public housing residents from pending relocation until after relocation, this article builds on the previous research by focusing on residents’ level of satisfaction with the relocation experience and how that translated into postmove satisfaction with home and neighborhood. This article also examines whether levels of relocation satisfaction led to any significant differences in destination neighborhood characteristics. Because our sample included residents from both family public housing and highrise housing for seniors, we also examine whether variations in relocation, destination satisfaction, and neighborhood characteristics differ by origin housing type.





We begin with an overview of the existing HOPE VI relocation literature concerning resident destination outcomes and issues. Subsequently, we focus on the relocation process during Atlanta’s last demolitions. Then we conduct descriptive, multivariate regression and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) analyses using our survey data concerning the effect of satisfaction with the relocation process on postrelocation satisfaction with home and neighborhood, how this effect translated into variation in census tract-level destination neighborhood characteristics, and whether variation across home and neighborhood differed by origin housing type.

Public Housing Relocation The two existing multisite studies of HOPE VI relocations are the HOPE VI Panel Study and the HOPE VI Resident Tracking Study, both commissioned by Congress and conducted by the Urban Institute (Buron et al., 2002; Keene and Geronimus, 2011; Popkin, 2010; Popkin and Cunningham, 2002). Whereas the HOPE VI Panel Study tracked relocated residents longitudinally, the HOPE VI Resident Tracking Study provided a one-point-in-time snapshot of postrelocation living conditions.

Popkin et al. (2009) summarized the major findings from these studies, concluding that for the most part results show significant improvements in the quality of life of relocated residents; they are living in neighborhoods that are safer and have lower poverty levels than public housing.

Popkin et al. (2009) also pointed out, however, that many relocated residents struggle with the new challenges they face in private-market rental housing, and that those who moved to other public housing developments experienced an only minimal improvement from the communities they were forced to leave.

Case studies have captured some less positive nuances of relocation and placed greater emphasis on the fact that destination neighborhoods are as racially segregated as the public housing neighborhoods (see, for example, Buron, Levy, and Gallagher, 2007; Chaskin et al., 2012; Comey, 2007; Crump, 2002; Devine et al., 2003; Fischer, 2002, 2001; Fraser et al., 2004; Goetz, 2010, 2003, 2002; Greenbaum, 2008, 2002; Johnson-Hart, 2007; Keene and Geronimus, 2011; Keller, 2011; Kingsley, Johnson, and Pettit, 2003; Kleit and Manzo, 2006; Oakley and Burchfield, 2009;

Venkatesh, 2002; Wang, Varady, and Wang, 2008). Other less positive outcomes include loss of important social support networks, increases in residential instability, and little benefit in terms of better employment and education opportunities. In fact, Chaskin et al. (2012) found evidence

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of decreased earnings after relocation. Goetz (2010) also emphasized that, although destination neighborhoods may be less poor than public housing neighborhoods, poverty rates are typically greater than citywide rates.

How community attachment, loss of social support, and proximity to existing networks affect moving decisions and outcomes has been the subject of several studies. As Briggs (1998) pointed out, social support is a type of social capital essential to low-income residents that typically involves having locally based, homogeneous social ties (Boyd, 2008). Clampet-Lundquist (2010) found that families relocated from public housing in Philadelphia under HOPE VI lost their neighborhoodbased social capital, which they drew on in public housing for safety. Therefore, residents felt more vulnerable in their new neighborhoods. Manzo, Kleit, and Couch (2008) found that community attachment was important to relocated residents. In their Atlanta public housing relocation study, Oakley, Ruel, and Reid (2013) likewise found that postrelocation home and neighborhood satisfaction was based largely on perceived community cohesion, not improved neighborhood characteristics. Also, as mentioned previously, Goetz (2010) found that prerelocation orientation toward the prospect of relocation played a role in subsequent postrelocation experiences or perceptions.

Related to all these findings, Kleit and Galvez (2011) found that relocation decisions were driven largely by the desire to remain close to existing and needed social supports. In a previous study, Goetz (2003) found similar results.

In terms of the hard-to-house literature, the most extensive study to date came from the Urban Institute, documenting the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration (Popkin et al., 2008).

The origins of this demonstration came in part from the findings of the Urban Institute’s HOPE VI Panel Study and Resident Tracking Study. Popkin, Levy, and Buron (2009), among other Urban Institute publications, found that, whereas those residents who were able to move back into the HOPE VI redevelopments had significant improvements in their quality of life, the outcomes for many others who relocated either with a voucher subsidy or to another traditional project-based public housing unit did not indicate any improvements. For example, according to Popkin (2006), in the first stages of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA’s) Plan for Transformation, qualified households were simply given voucher subsidies and left to find housing by themselves. As Popkin (2006: 154) stated, “Families receiving vouchers ended up in neighborhoods that were racially and economically segregated; some residents were ‘lost’ before they could receive services to which they were entitled, and even more simply failed to move at all, ending up in ‘temporary’ housing in other CHA buildings, some of which were also slated for demolition.” Among those residents who ended up in these situations, specific characteristics became apparent;

for example, large families, custodial grandparent households, disability and chronic health issues, and felony convictions (Theodos et al., 2010). The term hard to house was developed to describe these vulnerable subgroups. In response, the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration was established to help hard-to-house households in public housing better negotiate the relocation process through intensive counseling (Popkin et al., 2008). According to Popkin et al. (2008), despite this help, many residents were not ready to make a move with a voucher during the first year of the demonstration.

Although this research has provided much-needed information on how to help these vulnerable public housing households make the transition to subsidized private-market rental housing, its

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focus was not on residents’ perceived satisfaction with the relocation process and how such attitudes may affect postrelocation satisfaction and destination characteristics. From the Atlanta public housing study, we found that this process was complex and very stressful.

The Relocation Process Before the Last Demolitions in Atlanta Note that most residents (88 percent) in our sample qualified for a voucher and were successful at leasing up. Those residents in our sample who did not receive a voucher typically ended up staying with relatives or in illegal boarding housings, extended stay hotels, and (in one case) a homeless shelter.

The relocation process began with a series of meetings with the residents at their public housing communities, led by AHA officials. These meetings were mandatory for anyone wishing to apply for a voucher, and officials provided the residents with an overview of the process, including information concerning eligibility, requirements, and procedures for obtaining a voucher subsidy.

In addition, residents completed the necessary voucher paperwork at these meetings. HUD regulates voucher subsidies and requirements and bases ineligibility on federal guidelines concerning income levels and drug-related and sexual offender criminal history. According to HUD (2001), unless compelling special circumstances are presented, households are eligible for a voucher if they are making between 30 and 50 percent of the locality’s median household income. No member of the household (that is, any member on the lease) is allowed to have had a felony conviction for a drug-related or sexual assault crime (HUD, 2001).

This entire process occurred between 6 months and 1 year before relocation actually began.



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