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Thread: Projects/public housing: how to deal with them?

  1. #1

    Projects/public housing: how to deal with them?

    I've been wondering for a while, how do we deal with projects? I remember reading in the Death and Life of Great American cities that they need to be woven into the urban fabric of surrounding neighborhoods, but that doesn't solve the crime and social problems that occur in them.

    Personally, I think most of the buildings in the projects need to be demolished. The roads need to be torn down, and rebuilt to connect w/ surrounding neighborhoods. New development (once desirability rises) will be included on the land occupied by the project. A few buildings would be left intact for public housing.
    However, the residents would not be kicked out once they reach a certain income level, their rent will increase as their income increases, and eventually the rent will stop rising once their income hits a certain level. Moving out will be left up to the residents.
    Also, participation in crime could also get you to lose your residency in the public housing area.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    These are roughly a couple of the base requirements of a lot of HOPE VI projects. Even allowing someone who has commited a criminal act (with or without your knowledge) is basis for eviction from the housing.

    This only solves the crime issue in the project. Once you goto the neighborhoods, slumlords don't have such standards. Crime spread out or crime concentratred is still crime and still a blight.

    The unfortunate circumstance is that those areas which attempt to help the poor and unlucky and provide decent public services also become collecting grounds for the scum of society who also bank on the copious public services (transit, public housing, nearby stores/jobs [if they get jobs]). and the free or very affordable housing. Neglect or abandoment of hte area by the responsible folks ends up sending the downturn of an area into a death spiral. There will be areas like this in every city and they will never disappear.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  3. #3
    never disappear boiker? That is a very negative approach isn't it... I guess then that the hopes of groups like New Urbanism are useless.

    Also, if you spread the poor out, especially putting some in an area with mixed incomes, the children have better examples to follow, they will be in a better neighborhood, and if crime does occur, it'd be reported a lot faster.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I think it’s pretty well-established that, although particularly poor urban design can exacerbate the effects of criminality and, especially, widespread low civil consciousness/vandalism, certainly it’s not something that is caused by or can be eliminated or even greatly improved by architects/planners. Architectural determinism is a fond dream, no more. I’ve PERSONALLY seen areas that were absolutely nasty turn around in a couple of years as they’ gentrified’. It ain’t the buildings/street patterns; it’s the people.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  5. #5
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    I think it’s pretty well-established that, although particularly poor urban design can exacerbate the effects of criminality and, especially, widespread low civil consciousness/vandalism, certainly it’s not something that is caused by or can be eliminated or even greatly improved by architects/planners. Architectural determinism is a fond dream, no more. I’ve PERSONALLY seen areas that were absolutely nasty turn around in a couple of years as they’ gentrified’. It ain’t the buildings/street patterns; it’s the people.
    The building and street patterns do control a number of other factors, however. This can increase the marketability and....dare i say it... sustainability of an area.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  6. #6
    As well as the quality of life. And it isn't entirely the people, it's their situation.
    Just listen to rap/hip hop. I listen to local artists, and I listen to their lyrics. I think they reflect (though sometimes unintended) what is going on in their society and the problems that are occuring.

    Also, gentrification is horrible IMO. It kicks out too many local residents, and turns the area entirely to a certain demographic, and keeps everything segregated. Neighborhoods need to have a mix of incomes, as well as a mix of people.

  7. #7
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    As well as the quality of life. And it isn't entirely the people, it's their situation.
    Just listen to rap/hip hop. I listen to local artists, and I listen to their lyrics. I think they reflect (though sometimes unintended) what is going on in their society and the problems that are occuring.

    Also, gentrification is horrible IMO. It kicks out too many local residents, and turns the area entirely to a certain demographic, and keeps everything segregated. Neighborhoods need to have a mix of incomes, as well as a mix of people.
    [Devil's Advocate]
    So here's a catch for you... You want to lift a low income neighborhood up and turn it into a mixed income neighborhood--the idea to relieve concentration of poverty. How do you prevent full-blown gentrification of a neighborhood? Values on all neighborhood properties will be escalating, along with taxes and the temptation for low-income residents to "cash out". Many low-income individuals, particularly the elderly, are on fixed incomes. Not every city has a community land trust to prevent the negative affects of appreciation, nor do they have the political will to exact some kind of affordability cap, rent control, sacrifice of tax revenue, etc (if its even legal, as the case may be). How do you let gentrification only come half-way? What do you do with the low income individuals that will be displaced even by a partial infusion of higher income people?

    How can someone criticize gentrification while at the same time encourage people to move back into downtowns? Many downtowns are ringed with low-income neighborhoods--its not like there's a mass of vacant properties for these people to move into in downtowns--most are occupied. The very nature of redevelopment often involves some kind of displacement. One of the key difficulties & criticisms of HOPE VI, which was by most accounts a success in relieving problems associated with poverty concentrations, was the displacement of low-income occupants as market-rate units were integrated into the site.
    [/Devil's Advocate]

    Luca makes an excellent point that we, as planners (architects, LAs included), often put too much weight into architectural determinism--that changing physical form alone will guarantee certain behaviors. Does building perfectly proportioned front porches and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods mean people will spend time on their front porches more? By creating pocket parks in neighborhoods, does that guarantee people will use them? By building the perfect bike lane, does that mean people will suddenly trade their cars for a Huffy? I tend to believe in architectural opportunism (I think this is where boiker was headed with his comments)--that we can try to provide an environment condusive to reducing crime, improving quality of life, etc., but that ultimately, it is a cultural decision. Physical alterations to failing public housing projects are not a panacea--the occupants have to make a decision to alter their culture.
    Last edited by Suburb Repairman; 30 Jul 2007 at 1:59 PM.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian MDGARD01's avatar
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    IMO projects should be torn down, and rebuilt, albeit more aeshetically sound, and disperesed evenly amond the community...
    Listen not every person living in a project "wants" to be there, for some it is what it what it was truly intended to be: housing of last resort...HOPE VI on the surface appears to solve the question of what to do with projects, however at the heart of it all are the people whose lives are affected..Typically, when you demolish an entire housing project, a majority of those people never move back to the "new" housing which is later built, and those people eventually are uprooted into other neighborhoods, which are not as welcoming...
    :)

    The present is a gift

  9. #9
    One of the main reasons things are like they are in urban areas is not because of their culture, skin color, etc... It's because of their situation. They are put into a situation where they have to survive, they have to live day-by-day, not knowing if crime is going to hit them. Many of them don't have much hope for income because of the lack of education, hidden segregation, etc... Many believe their only alternative to survive is the criminal lifestyle.

    I believe that most people in urban areas don't want to be there. Why do you think most Rap/Hip Hop artists move to better neighborhoods, and try to get their closest family members out of the situation they are in? Sure many advocate the gangster lifestyle, but they also don't want to live in those neighborhoods anymore.

    I also believe one of the reasons this all started was because of racism and segregation. We held down (not just blacks) other races for so long, when they finally were free, they still weren't able to get enough education or get well-paying jobs because of the racism that existed after the Civil Rights Era. Not only that, but just before and during the Civil Rights Era, we began moving to suburbs, segregating ourselves from other races, and resulting to an isolated society of our own. The other races/minorities that were left, were left in poverty, while we moved out, our jobs stayed in the cities, money left the inner-city that could be used for education, and there are a lot more factors in it.

    But as it comes down to it. It's not only an urban design/architecture problem, it's a social problem. Gentrification only resegregates the urban areas and kicks out the poorer. We need to put an end to segregation, not only in our neighborhoods, but also put an end to it in the workplace. Make sure they get a good solid education. Make sure they have the opportunity to stay in their neighborhoods and get better educations, better jobs, and a higher income. If they move out, sure they get 70k+ for their house/property, but that is only enough for them to buy another house. If they stay, and get an education, they can get higher paying jobs.

    With lower poverty, and little segregation, the crime rates will drop, and quality of life will rise.

    There are a ton of factors going into this, but we CAN NOT take the approach that "kicks them out till they change their culture" because in a sense, we are a part of the problem.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Actually, inner city gentrification is resulting in the integration of races and incomes in many suburban areas. One of the fastest growing populations in suburban regions is middle to middle-upper income African-Americans who are taking advantage of their mobility, gaining access to more jobs by being closer to the satellite city job centers, and locating to areas with better school systems. In the country's 1st ring suburbs, a large quantity of the displaced lower income populations are residing, because housing prices are lower in these areas compared to growing center cities. This is true for growing urban regions in the south, southwest, and mountain west while shrinking cities in the midwest and northeast are not experiencing this phenomenon due to their relative lack of economic growth.
    Satellite City Enabler

  11. #11
    Lack of economic growth in the Midwest? Thats news to me lol

    In KC, many poorer families are moving to the first and second ring suburbs, however there is also further expansion out (which allows the poorer to move out to the first/second ring suburbs)

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Lack of economic growth in the Midwest? Thats news to me lol

    In KC, many poorer families are moving to the first and second ring suburbs, however there is also further expansion out (which allows the poorer to move out to the first/second ring suburbs)
    I am not signaling out KC in this, I am talking about the miwest and northeast as a region. Certainly there are areas in all regions where you have metro areas that are outperforming others, but if you look at growth throughout the country, the midwest and northeast, in general, is declining in prominance.
    Satellite City Enabler

  13. #13
    Plan-it, most all midwestern cities are growing.

  14. #14
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Plan-it, most all midwestern cities are growing.
    Off-topic:

    He was probably referring to Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, and Cinci (more classic mid-west), St. Louis is another pop loser though.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  15. #15
    Well, St. Louis has been losing people, but I think it's gaining them back slowly.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    Off-topic:

    He was probably referring to Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, and Cinci (more classic mid-west), St. Louis is another pop loser though.
    Off-topic:
    He also said "declining in prominence", not "declining in population". While many cities in the midwest may still be growing, they are growing at much lower rates than the South and West.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I'd be wary of comparing apples to oranges. Some midwest cities extend well beyond their urban areas while others are walled off and well developed by political boundaries. It is quite a challenge in the second category to keep afloat in population with the natural shrinking of household size, competition for nearby suburbs (that typically have much lower tax and insurance rates), without having massive amounts of homes being built in less than desirable locations.

    I would suspect that a great deal of the original comment made to the thread has already taken place. I would also like to add that by breaking up large pockets of the culture of poverty and by providing role models and social interations with neighbors who have 'made it' would help to mitigate many of the problems found in the walled-off housing projects.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    I'd be wary of comparing apples to oranges. Some midwest cities extend well beyond their urban areas while others are walled off and well developed by political boundaries.
    Well said!

    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    I would also like to add that by breaking up large pockets of the culture of poverty and by providing role models and social interations with neighbors who have 'made it' would help to mitigate many of the problems found in the walled-off housing projects.
    I agree. HOPE VI does not cure poverty, it displaces it, and by displacing poverty and reducing the concerntration of poverty, people are being exposed to other ways of life. Unfortunatley, this is adversly impacting the economic situation for many people because they are moving to areas that may be more car dependent and therefore bear a greater economic burden for transportation.
    Satellite City Enabler

  19. #19
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    [snippy]
    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    architectural opportunism [/I](I think this is where boiker was headed with his comments)--that we can try to provide an environment condusive to reducing crime, improving quality of life, etc., but that ultimately, it is a cultural decision. Physical alterations to failing public housing projects are not a panacea--the occupants have to make a decision to alter their culture.
    Thanks. You completed my thought. I do have lots of have finished reviews I'd like to send your way.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    I think over time the only things that we've figured out are what NOT to do. The housing projects of the 40's, 50's, 60's, and a few in the 70's have taught us plenty of things not to do, but nothing we've done since has been perfect (or even close to perfect). In my region, I can find several Hope VI sites that have been great for some of the people, and positive for the immediate neighborhood, but what happened to the people that are no longer there? Without some significant studies, I think it's impossible to tell whether problems were solved, or merely moved.

    The best Hope VI sites that I've seen kept the same number (or more) of extreme low income units, added some middle income, and added some full market-rate - usually doubling density in the process. However, outside of already dense urban areas, doubling density isn't always a good option.

  21. #21
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Since HOPE VI has come up a number of times in the discussion and certainly has relevence to reinventing public housing, this report on HOPE VI by the Urban Institute might be useful.

    A Decade of HOPE VI: Research Findings and Policy Challenges

    Synopsis of their recommendation:
    • HOPE VI should continue
    • Substantial Success: demolished and replaced some of the most distressed and destructive housing environments; many who relocated with vouchers are living in higher-quality housing in safer neighborhoods
    • Needs Reforms: need more assistance with relocation and supportive services; need innovations like "enhanced vouchers" that would provide long-term councseling and support to vulnerable (hard to house, lease violators) families is conjunction with housing assistance; more resident involvement in redevelopment and access once it is complete

    But it has a ton of stuff on program history, participant tracking, etc.

    The July 5, 2007 APA Advocate also discusses HOPE VI reauthorization and some of the new strings being tacked on as a result of some criticisms.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  22. #22
    Cyburbian cdub's avatar
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    I agree with much has been said about Hope VI. CJC hit the nail on the head in that most renewal projects that have received federal money have provided fewer units than were previously available to residents. There should be a way to provide the same (or more) affordable units mixed in with market rate housing given the size of many of the projects.

    I've recently seen two pretty good projects. One in Philadelphia, Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, which replaced typical projects with single family townhomes and some multifamily. My only problem again was hearing in our tour that there are less units than previously existed. Otherwise a pretty solid renewal project all things considered.

    http://www.sitephocus.com/search_res...g%20Jr%20Plaza

    Another project was the Highpoint neighborhood in Seattle. This was a bit more suburban in nature, but included 'green' engineering utilizing porous pavements and bioswales for stormwater mitigation. Not sure what unit before/ after #s were, but thought the stormwater techniques helped connect residents with the natural systems. I have yet to edit photos, but hope to soon and will add that link when I can.

    All in all, Hope VI is a step in the right direction, but a few more steps are needed to be truly successful, IMO.
    www.sitephocus.com ...get the picture

  23. #23
    Cyburbian MDGARD01's avatar
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    I dont know of any HOPE VI that didnt produce a net loss of affordable housing..ie, low income
    :)

    The present is a gift

  24. #24
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MDGARD01 View post
    I dont know of any HOPE VI that didnt produce a net loss of affordable housing..ie, low income
    There have been some. North Beach Place in San Francisco replaced all 229 units from before, in addition to adding 112 units for families at 50% of AMI. Part of the reason that it has worked fairly well? The siurrounding neighborhood was already extremely wealthy and the project was able to include a significant amount of fairly high-end ground floor retail (Trader Joes, Starbucks, touristy shops).

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cg...AGN292UCP1.DTL

  25. #25
    Cyburbian MDGARD01's avatar
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    ....As part of the Liberty Green project, the city of Louisville pledged to replace the 728 public housing units lost when Clarksdale Housing Projects was demolished.

    ....."To date, the housing authority has acquired or built about 300 replacement apartments, Mr. Barry said. \


    read whole article:
    http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/.../1003/ARCHIVES
    :)

    The present is a gift

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