«Mixed Messages on Mixed incoMes Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and ...»
The neighborhood poverty level for those who did and did not experience an easy relocation exhibits no significant difference. Those who experienced an easy relocation chose neighborhoods with significantly greater proportions of both female-headed households and unemployed heads of households than did those who did not experience an easy relocation. Similarly, those who experienced an easy relocation ended up in more racially segregated neighborhoods, with 92 percent non-Hispanic African-American neighbors, compared with the neighborhoods of those without an easy relocation (79 percent African American).
Discussion and Conclusion The goal of this article has been to examine whether perceived levels of satisfaction with the relocation process among former public housing residents affected postrelocation satisfaction with home and neighborhood and to examine whether there are significant differences in destination neighborhood characteristics based on levels of satisfaction with the relocation process. We conducted this analysis using data from an Atlanta-based longitudinal study following public housing residents from pending relocation through being relocated, interviewing them before relocation and then 6 months after relocation.
Overall, our destination neighborhood-level findings are consistent with the previous research: by and large, former public housing residents are moving to neighborhoods that have less poverty (but not low poverty) and that are safer than, but just as racially segregated as, their former neighborhoods. Our findings are also consistent with the previous research concerning levels of attachment to public housing communities and residents who fall into the category of hard to house. Specifically, being older, having a disability, having a longer tenure in public housing, and experiencing postrelocation financial strain are significantly associated with lower levels of relocation process satisfaction. Although those in highrise housing for seniors or people with disabilities were less likely to experience an easy relocation process, they were not the only hard-to-house residents.
Within family housing, those residents with longer tenure and greater attachment to the community in terms of networks were less likely to experience an easy relocation process.
The findings are far more mixed concerning the relationship between levels of relocation-process satisfaction and destination neighborhood characteristics. First, no significant difference emerges in terms of levels of satisfaction and levels of neighborhood poverty. In other words, regardless of poor satisfaction or high satisfaction, residents are moving to neighborhoods with similar poverty levels. On the other hand, those residents with high satisfaction are moving to neighborhoods that are more stable in terms of mobility, but these neighborhoods also have a significantly higher proportion of female-headed households, unemployment, and racial segregation.
What, then, do these findings imply for the policy imperatives to use public housing demolition and relocation in an effort to deconcentrate poverty and, in the process, create mixed-income developments and places? The most obvious implication is that the policy discourse clearly does not match up with residents’ perceptions in terms of being relocated and postrelocation satisfaction.
The relationship appears direct between those who were less satisfied with the relocation process and those who are less satisfied with their postrelocation home and neighborhood. The relationship between relocation process levels of satisfaction and postrelocation neighborhood characteristics tells a different story, however. There is no statistical difference in neighborhood levels of poverty, and, although those who were more satisfied with the relocation process ended up in more stable neighborhoods, those neighborhoods had higher racial segregation.
The underlying assumptions of the poverty deconcentration imperative clearly are not supported by our analyses. More specifically, our analyses point to the importance of acknowledging that one size does not fit all and that resident perceptions matter. Public housing transformation efforts using relocation to the subsidized private rental market need to better accommodate the varying circumstances of the residents before relocation and their relocation preferences within the context of health conditions, disability, age, public housing tenure, and essential social supports.
Our findings also speak to the importance of proactively including residents’ voices in the relocation process and not simply assuming that they will be better off because they are moving out of public housing and into neighborhoods with less poverty. Lastly, although at least in our sample the majority of residents in family housing expressed a desire to move (whereas the majority of those in senior housing did not want to move), an explicit acknowledgement that these are forced moves needs to be better incorporated into such policies.
Acknowledgments Support for this study was provided by National Science Foundation grants # SES-0852195 and 1123105, the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, the Partnership for Urban Health, the Center for Metropolitan and Urban Studies, and the College of Arts and Sciences of Georgia State University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting entities. The authors thank the reviewers and HUD editors for helpful comments and critiques.
Authors Deirdre Oakley is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University.
Erin Ruel is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University.
Lesley Reid is a professor in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University.
Cityscape 189Oakley, Ruel, and Reid
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192 Mixed Messages on Mixed Incomes Commentary These comments relate to the articles in this Cityscape symposium by Basolo, by Skobba and Goetz, and by Oakley, Ruel, and Reid.