A paper on early findings about how former public housing residents have adjusted to living in a mixed-income development in Chicago has earned Mark Joseph the Urban Affairs Association's 2007 Best Conference Paper. Joseph is an assistant professor of community and social development at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.
The presentation, "Early Resident Experiences at a New Mixed-Income Development in Chicago," was delivered by Joseph during the UAA's meeting in Seattle in 2007. Joseph received his award during this year's meeting in Baltimore.
Joseph is conducting several longitudinal case studies in collaboration with University of Chicago researchers on how displaced residents from former high-rise public housing developments have begun to build new lives in four of Chicago's 10 new mixed-income developments. The housing has been built in prime city locations near the lakefront, where there is easy access to downtown and other amenities.
Chicago's effort to construct 17,000 mixed-income units is the most aggressive public housing transformation in the country, according to Joseph When the 15-year plan is completed, approximately 7,000 highly-screened former public housing residents will have the opportunity to move into the new developments and live next door to residents in units with market values ranging from $200,000 to $700,000. Joseph and his team have interviewed both the occupants in the new developments as well as some of the 18,000 displaced public housing residents who did not move back into the new housing.
This is one of the first studies to look this closely at the quality of life for individuals who came from what Joseph describes as "socially-isolated concentrated poverty" and now are part of the mixed-income experience. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation have funded the first few years of this research.
A major part of the study is to "learn about the benefits and downsides to the change in environment for low-income families," said Joseph.
Data is being collected through interviews with residents and observations of social activities within the developments. The first round of information analyzed in the award-winning paper is from the experiences of residents from the Jazz on the Boulevard development near the University of Chicago campus where Joseph started the study as a postdoctoral fellow before coming to Case Western Reserve in 2006.
"For public housing residents who have made it into the developments, their reaction is 'wow, I never thought I could live in a place like this'," said Joseph.
Finding a peaceful neighborhood appears to be one of the major changes for the former public housing residents, but Joseph said "it is not all nirvana."
"Now you have this mix of people from different backgrounds living in proximity where cultural and behavioral differences and stereotypical assumptions can hold more weight than issues of common interest," he said.
He found people are not interacting as much as envisioned, but when "equal status" events like a power outage occurs, some residents have rallied to help and mingle with each other.
One of the reasons people may not interact freely, Joseph noted, was the fact that public housing residents are highly-monitored in the development and do not want to draw attention in any way that could jeopardize their chances for continued living in the development.
Joseph has also examined how decisions are made in the new developments and found that homeowners tend to have more say in them and exclude former public housing residents.
He did note that some social service agencies have set up community support groups where residents can connect with others with a similar background.
"Overall, these new mixed-income developments are a partial response to the challenge as to how people can live in environments that are stable, peaceful, well-maintained and connected to society," said Joseph.
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