Members of the U. S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity heard about "impressive successes" and "deep challenges" faced by Chicago residents as they move from massive low-income housing projects to mixed-income housing developments.
Mark Joseph, assistant professor at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, received a special invitation from Maxine Waters, the subcommittee's chair, to inform members about what academic research suggests for the future of the nation's approach to public housing.
The Obama administration is beginning its design of the Choice Neighborhoods urban revitalization initiative.
"I believe the timing is excellent for this hearing on this topic," Joseph told committee members. He has studied the transition during the past five years.
Joseph testified that nearly all relocated public housing residents are satisfied with their new housing and have received psychological benefits such as decreased stress from safety concerns and increased aspirations. But, nearly half also experience stress from adhering to strict rules that govern developments: from garbage removal to limiting noise levels for children playing outdoors, he said.
Relocated public housing residents have also reported feeling isolated, stigmatized and confronting "us" and "them" attitudes.
Through research with his co-investigators from the University of Chicago, where Joseph did his postdoctoral work before joining the Case Western Reserve University faculty, he found that adjustment to mixed income housing is complex.
Joseph told the committee that success could be measured at five levels:
Joseph continues to track the transition of relocated public housing residents from Chicago's Henry Horner Homes (public housing) as they make new homes in the federally funded HOPE VI program. These are mixed income developments that Chicago is building in prime neighborhood locations with access to public parks along Lake Michigan.
While the new housing adds value to the city, Joseph raised concerns about the sustainability of the new mixed-income communities.
He also talked about how the current housing crisis impacts these new developments.
Joseph noted a few examples such as a freeze in building for-sale units, more investor-owned instead of resident-owned properties, delays in developing neighborhood stores and businesses, and increased evictions due to rent delinquencies.
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