The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Building Public Housing Residents' Capacity to Prepare for and Benefit From Neighborhood Redevelopment

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 3:00 PM
Nautilus 2 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Laurie A. Walker, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Tuczon, AZ
Background and Purpose:  Since the 1990s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has supported mixed income redevelopment (MIR) strategies to address the problems of low-income neighborhoods with traditional public housing structures. Studies have demonstrated an impact of MIR on neighborhoods as a place, but have been less effective at showing that MIR create better outcomes for the people that occupy them (Popkin, Levy, et al., 2004). Resident identification, mobilization, and addressing of social and public health problems may be a key mechanism for improving resident outcomes (Foster-Fishman, Cantillon, et al., 2007). Choice Neighborhoods, the latest policy focused on redeveloping public housing, places greater emphasis on working across multiple systems to build the capacities of sub-systems, including residents. This study focuses on two neighborhoods facing transit-oriented mixed-income redevelopment (TOMIR). Both of the neighborhoods contain more than 38% of the residents living in poverty and were engaged in formal planning and organizing processes to prepare for the community for change. This project seeks to determine if residents’ involvement in neighborhood organizing and planning processes were associated with building their capacity for a greater readiness for change. Specifically, the study tests whether resident perceptions of neighborhood problems, social cohesion, organizational collective efficacy, resident involvement in activism and neighborhood organizations, and the possession of a neighborhood transition and/or relocation plan (TRP) predict individual residents’ readiness for TOMIR. 

Methods:  A community-based mixed methods design was used that included a resident survey (n=387) and in-depth resident interviews (n=25). Participants were predominantly female (73%), Latino/Latina (44%) or African American (22%), and had incomes of less than $12,500 (76%). Recruitment techniques included delivering flyers, door knocking, and a gift card incentive. Existing scales were used to measure social cohesion, organizational collective efficacy, neighborhood problems, and activism. New scales were created for involvement, possessing a TRP, and readiness. A split-half exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis was conducted with all measures prior to completing a structural equation model. Qualitative interviews were analyzed with constant comparative analysis and used to elaborate on quantitative findings.


Results: The structural equation model resulted in adequate model fit (RMSEA=.024). The model found that readiness for TOMIR is predicted by social cohesion, organizational collective efficacy, and possessing a TRP. Resident involvement in neighborhood organizations is predicted by neighborhood problem identification and activism. Involvement in neighborhood organizations co-varies with resident readiness for TOMIR. Residents higher on all study variables are more ready for TOMIR. Qualitative interviews suggested residents low in community capacities experience barriers to involvement in collective activities, thus requiring household level interventions to prepare for change, as well as ways in which community capacities may be fostered and thwarted.


Implications:  This study developed three new measures and identified existing measures predicting community capacities related to readiness for TOMIR. Preparing residents for change should include both household level supports and community processes, a finding consistent with federal mandates for collective engagement of residents (Economic Opportunity Act, 1964), as well as recent research indicating the need for household level case management (Theodos, Popkin, et al., 2010).