The contemporary assumption is that the production of subsidized housing, if anything, accelerates neighborhood decline – “there goes the neighborhood” is the common refrain. Partially as a result, we’ve seen the policy pendulum swing away from place-based housing investment towards demand-side housing programs, such as housing vouchers. Through multiple studies, the Furman Center has consistently found significant, positive impacts from subsidized housing investment, suggesting that publicly-funded housing investments aimed at distressed urban properties can deliver significant benefits to the surrounding community.
The redevelopment of distressed public housing under the Urban Revitalization Demonstration Program, or HOPE VI, has laudable social, physical, community, and economic goals. Three public housing projects in Atlanta, Chicago, and San Antonio demonstrate the complexity and trade-offs of trying to lessen the concentration of low-income households, leverage private resources, limit project costs, help residents achieve economic self-sufficiency, design projects that blend into the community, and ensure meaningful resident participation in project planning.
“Choosing a Better Life?” is the first distillation of years of research on the MTO project, the largest rigorously designed social experiment to investigate the consequences of moving low-income public housing residents to low-poverty neighborhoods. In this book, leading social scientists and policy experts examine the legislative and political foundations of the project, analyze the effects of MTO on lives of the families involved, and explore lessons learned from this important piece of U.S. social policy.