Abstract: Choice and Opportunity: Housing Relocation, Neighborhood Change, and Family Well-Being in the South City Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) in Memphis, Tennessee (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Choice and Opportunity: Housing Relocation, Neighborhood Change, and Family Well-Being in the South City Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) in Memphis, Tennessee

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Andrew Foell, MSW, MPP, Doctoral Candidate, Washington University in Saint Louis
Patrick Fowler, PhD, Associate Professor, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Jason Jabbari, Research Assistant Professor, Washington University in St. Louis
Yung Chun, PhD, Data Analyst III, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Background & Purpose: Over the past three decades, concerns over concentrated urban poverty have led to the implementation of mixed-income housing and community development initiatives that target distressed public housing for redevelopment and provide programs and services to low-income families. These mixed-income development initiatives involve an involuntary, forced move for families who live in the distressed public housing sites targeted for redevelopment. However, little is known about housing relocation under such conditions, and the extent to which families improve their neighborhood environments and well-being when provided intensive case management services and housing vouchers. The objectives of this study were to examine housing relocation, neighborhood change, and family well-being among families affected by the South City Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) in Memphis, Tennessee.

Methods: This study utilized longitudinal administrative case management data for families impacted by the South City CNI in Memphis, TN (n=383). Data were collected by case managers through multiple family assessments from December 2015 through September 2021. Assessments documented head-of-household socio-demographic information, housing relocation assistance type (e.g., voucher utilization), Zip Code information for baseline and current location of the family, and quality-of-life indicators of perceived home safety, neighborhood safety, and stress. Neighborhood-level data were collected for select indicators from the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year estimates at two non-overlapping time points that corresponded to baseline (ACS 2010-2014) and follow-up (ACS 2015-2019) assessments and merged with administrative case management data. Bivariate tests of association and multilevel mixed-effects modeling were utilized to examine housing relocation, neighborhood change, and quality-of-life outcomes for South City CNI families in terms of perceived home and neighborhood safety and perceived stress. Data analysis occurred in Stata version 17.

Results: Approximately a third of families relocated within the CNI project Zip Code (36%, n=138) while two thirds relocated outside of the CNI project Zip Code (64%, n=245). Housing voucher utilization was associated with decisions to relocate outside of the CNI project Zip Code (χ2=5.23 p<0.05). Households without a disability were also more likely to leave the project Zip Code (χ2=11.62 p<0.01). Families who moved out of the project Zip Code moved to significantly less disadvantaged neighborhoods compared to families who stayed in the project Zip Code (b=0.-41, p<0.001). However, destination neighborhoods remained above sample mean levels of disadvantage compared to all Memphis area Zip Codes. Additionally, all families experienced improvements to perceived home safety (b=0.02, p<0.001) and neighborhood safety (b=0.02, p<0.001), while also experiencing increased stress over time (b=0.06, p<0.001) irrespective of decisions to leave or stay in the project Zip Code.

Conclusions & Implications: Literature suggests that moving to less distressed, higher opportunity neighborhoods is associated with improved quality-of-life, particularly in terms of senses of safety and stress. While this study found support for increased senses of home and neighborhood safety for families, families also experienced increased stress over time. Findings suggest that additional services that target specific sources of stress for families may be needed above and beyond current services offered through the CNI.