Thursday, January 12, 2012: 3:30 PM
Independence E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Background and Purpose: Over the past several decades, public housing in the United States has become associated with the concentration of poverty and related social and economic problems such as joblessness and high levels of violence (Hirsch 1998; Popkin et al. 2000a). By the early 1990s, these factors contributed to the development of substantial political will to launch national reforms of public housing directed at the deconcentration of poverty, including the demolition of public housing high-rises and the creation of mixed-income housing developments (Goetz, 2003). Mixed-income developments, through the HUD HOPE IV program, are being created as a strategy to rebuild communities in urban neighborhoods by attracting higher-income residents to the sites of former public housing developments and integrating a portion of the low-income residents who lived in public housing (Joseph et al. 2007; Kleit, 2005). While these reforms seek to change the structural barriers as well as the individual barriers of poverty, there has been little investigation into the relevance of race in the formation of these communities. Given that the reforms focus on redeveloping public housing in historically segregated minority neighborhoods and that the majority public housing residents who are the intended beneficiaries are African American, the intersection of race, place, and poverty must be explored. The central question we seek to answer is this: Given that Chicago's public housing transformation was not designed to intentionally integrate citizens on the basis of race, but rather on the basis of income, how do residents and stakeholders in the new mixed-income housing communities perceive and experience racial diversity, inclusion and prejudice? Methods: Based on fieldwork conducted between 2007 and 2010, this research focuses on the dynamics of race and class in three mixed-income developments that are part of Chicago's Plan for Transformation. The study incorporates data from in-depth interviews, field observations, and a review of documentary data. A total of 85 residents and 66 stakeholders were interviewed over two waves of data collection. Documentary data and data from over 440 structured observations, allow the interview data to be contextualized. This analysis is part of a larger study at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration through a grant provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Results: We explore residents' and stakeholders' perspectives on racial diversity and prejudice, expectations for inclusivity across both class and race dimensions, and the mechanisms, supports and resources aimed at addressing racial and class inequality in the context of the public housing reforms. The analysis finds that race is relevant in the perceptions, attitudes and behaviors of residents and stakeholders, despite the lack of intentional policy aims towards creating mixed-race communities. Conclusions: The findings suggest that programs which seek to integrate people on the basis of economic status and housing tenure need to consider the ways that race and ethnic integration may factor into the implementation of public housing reforms. The implications also suggest that policies that center on race-explicit goals may be warranted in matters of housing and poverty.
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