Abstract: From Public Housing to Mixed-Income Housing In Chicago: Insights about Residents' Decisions to Return (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12078 From Public Housing to Mixed-Income Housing In Chicago: Insights about Residents' Decisions to Return

Friday, January 15, 2010: 2:30 PM
Pacific Concourse A (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Mark Joseph, PhD , Case Western Reserve University, Assistant Professor, Cleveland, OH
Robert Chaskin, PhD , University of Chicago, Associate Professor, Chicago, IL
Purpose: Public housing in Chicago is undergoing a massive transformation with the demolition of all high-rise developments throughout the city. Residents of public housing have been given several relocation options, including moving into the private market with a rent voucher, remaining in public housing, or, for those who meet the stringent eligibility criteria, moving into a new mixed-income development. As in other cities around the country, recruiting public housing residents to live in the new mixed-income developments has generally been much more difficult than anticipated. Using qualitative data from in-depth interviews with residents at two mixed-income developments in Chicago, this paper examines the perspectives and rationale of public housing residents who decided to return to a new mixed-income development.

Methods: The analysis presented here is based primarily on in-depth, in-person interviews with 23 former public housing residents in two mixed-income developments in Chicago between June and October 2007. Resident interviewees were randomly selected from developer occupancy lists in each site and contacted by mail, phone and in-person visits where necessary. Interviews were guided by a semi-structured interview instrument comprised primarily of open-ended questions covering a broad range of topics and some closed-response questions. Interviews were recorded digitally, transcribed and coded for analysis based on a set of deductively derived thematic codes and refined based on inductive interim analysis. Interviews were initially double-coded to ensure intercoder reliability, then a periodic sample of coded interviews was reviewed to ensure continued reliability. Summary matrices of responses were created to allow for systematic comparison of perspectives of residents at the two development sites.

Results: We found that residents had strong preferences to remain in an area of the city with which they were familiar and wanted to remain near friends and family. Many of the respondents felt that their decision was rushed and constrained by personal circumstances. In making their decision to remain in a development setting, many of the respondents were attracted by quality of the physical environment. Few respondents expected to benefit more directly from being around a more diverse population. We learned of two specific kinds of concerns that some respondents felt about their choice to move into a mixed-income development: 1) practical concerns about issues such as utility bills and the rules and monitoring and 2) concerns about the social environment, would it be an improvement over their former public housing projects and would they be welcome in the new environment.

Implications: We draw several implications for improving relocation practice, including ways to build on the importance of peer networks and connection to place in resident decision-making, the importance for residents of being able to see and experience the new environment, and the need for up-front clarity about such concerns as additional financial responsibilities and the rules and standards of the new environment.