Hope or harm? Deconcentration and the welfare of families in public housing

Susan E Clampet-Lundquist, University of Pennsylvania


In late 1992, Congress created the HOPE VI program to address the concerns raised by the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing earlier that year. One of the goals of HOPE VI is to demolish troubled public housing, redevelop the sites, and, in the process of redevelopment, relocate the residents to Section 8 housing or other public housing. As this trend toward scattering residents of public housing developments continues on a national level, it is crucial to examine how families manage the upheaval. How will this move from a public housing development affect families' lives? What are social and economic implications for families changing neighborhoods? I used qualitative and quantitative methods to explore how families managed their relocation from a public housing development in Philadelphia. I interviewed a random sample of 41 families with school-age children two years after their moves, talking with adults and teenagers in these families. Over half of these families used a Section 8 voucher when they relocated. Analyzing census and administrative data, I found that families who chose to move with a Section 8 voucher ended up in neighborhoods that were significantly less poor and had more employed adults than families who moved into another public housing development. However, the analysis of the qualitative data indicates that, in the short-term, few of the families have been able to re-build local social ties, regardless of what kind of neighborhood they moved into. This inability to connect with neighborhood social structures has made it difficult for adults and teenagers who moved into less poor neighborhoods to take advantage of the improved opportunities in their new neighborhoods. Furthermore, data from the interviews reveal that many people in the sample had created social ties at their former public housing development, and these ties served as a protective factor against the violence and poverty that they all too often faced. Without local social connections in their new neighborhoods, they feel more vulnerable to economic risks and neighborhood violence.

Subject Area

Welfare|Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

Clampet-Lundquist, Susan E, "Hope or harm? Deconcentration and the welfare of families in public housing" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3087383.