HOPE VI is a federal initiative under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that began in 1992 to eradicate severely distressed public housing and reconstruct sites with more livable housing. The program also aims to disperse the poverty that is typically concentrated in such neglected housing sites by providing current residents of the redeveloping sites the opportunity to move into other housing on the private market through a voucher system. In addition to revitalizing housing projects, HOPE VI seeks to provide community and social services to the new residents.
Any Public Housing Authority that has severely distressed public housing units in its inventory is eligible to apply to the HOPE VI program. However, Indian Housing Authorities and Public Housing Authorities that only administer Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) are not eligible to apply. Individuals are also not eligible.
The Public Housing Authorities who receive the funding all face different challenges in the revitalization of their unique sites. The funding monies generally address redesigning and constructing the physical features of the new housing structures; demolition of severely distressed housing; encouraging resident self-sufficiency through comprehensive service provision, especially for those relocated due to the revitalization efforts; and using HOPE VI funds to leverage support from other sources, including nonprofits, government agencies, and local organizations (HUD 2013).
While there is a great deal of discretion used by the grantees, there has been a trend to design the new buildings according to New Urbanism principles, which outlines “compact, pedestrian-friendly, and mixed-use” development, mixed income residential areas, and designs that encourage social interactions (as referenced in Cahill, Lowry, and Downey 2012).
Once home to vibrant middle-class neighborhoods, Milwaukee’s (WI) North Side suffered from the concurrent decline in the manufacturing sector and the rise of the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s. Violence and declining housing stock made the area suitable for redevelopment. The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) targeted the area for improvement and revitalization efforts.
The HACM received HOPE VI funds to rebuild economically depleted sites in Milwaukee’s North Side, including Highland Park, and scattered homes clustered around various public housing developments in the city’s Midtown neighborhood. Highland Park had a “superblock” public housing development that included two high-rise towers and 56 family units in barracks-style multifamily buildings. The “scattered sites” consisted of both single and multifamily homes that immersed into privately owned neighborhoods.
Sensitive to the difficulties of relocation for the residents, the HACM prioritized making the transition for residents as easy as possible. As general rules, the HACM strove to keep the number of moves to two (move in and move out), and when moving out the residents, to offer temporary housing in the same neighborhood.
HUD’s HOPE VI initiative can be traced to two main schools of thought: crime and space approaches, which include ideas from Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and defensible space theory, and social disorganization theory. Both of these schools of thought emphasize the importance of informal social controls.
Newman (1996) provided the foundation for the defensible space theory, suggesting that the physical design of public housing was essential to preventing crime. Popkin and colleagues (2004) later expanded on that notion by pointing out a few common features in public housing that makes these structures more prone to criminal activity. They noted that crime is more likely in buildings where many individuals share only one entry point and dwelling units are the only private spaces, creating a highly anonymous environment; where residents are far from the street due to the high rise structure, limiting their ability to informally control the premises; and where there are few streets that connect to the public housing development, creating difficulties for law enforcement to patrol the area.
Without access to resources necessary to make changes, residents often become disengaged from the community, weakening the ties of informal controls and causing social disorganization. Furthermore, the pervasive poverty in public housing developments alienates residents from mainstream society, which further limits their ability to control deviance and may even encourage it (Morenoff, Sampson, and Raudenbush, 2001).
Using time series analysis, Cahill, Lowry, and Downey (2012) found that the initiative did not have a significant effect on crime until the stability period of the project (after redevelopment had taken place and most residents had moved into new units). During the stability period, the HOPE VI target sites saw crime lowered every month by 2.7 reported crimes compared with the comparison site.
Diffusion of Benefits
The Vector Autoregressive models showed that generally when crime went down in the target area, crime also went down in the buffer areas, suggesting a diffusion of benefits. While crime in the target area did not have a significant effect on the 1,000-foot buffer zone, it was significantly and positively related to crime in the 2,000-foot buffer zone. The analysis showed that the effects of the program were delayed but grew with time toward the end of the study period. Overall, the HOPE VI program’s strong effects were felt in the target area.
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