This paper uses an analytical framework centered on racial capitalism to help examine the tensions and tradeoffs of transforming public housing in the context of hypergentrification in these two city-led, multi-site initiatives. The most relevant analytical frames include entrepreneurial governance, devolution, privatization, dispossession, and contestation.
Methods: Taking a mixed-method approach, the paper draws from analysis of administrative documents, informal conversations with professionals, and over five years of ethnographic observations in both cities.
Results: While we found numerous examples of policy and practice in both cities that were deployed to help achieve better social outcomes for the original residents of the public housing communities being redeveloped, ultimately in both cities it has been extremely difficult to advance a fundamentally different path to opportunity for low-income residents of color. There is no question that but for the principles, policies, and strategies put in place by the urban entrepreneurs tapped to lead both efforts, the outcomes would have been far less favorable for the original residents of the developments, especially in San Francisco, given the high rates of Black people being displaced from the city. We find enough evidence of serious intent toward principle-driven development by city leaders and initiative practitioners to warrant continued persistence in determining ways to leverage mixed-income development processes for more equitable social outcomes.
Conclusions & Implications: Using an analytical lens that elevates a focus on racial capitalism can be useful for identifying the crucial decision points where greater equity and inclusion could be fostered. Implications include: (a) Elevate and sustain a focus on positive outcomes for original residents; (b) Hire and position initiative leadership to advance social as well as market goals; (c) Position HUD for ongoing responsiveness and accountability; (d) Leverage privatization for social innovation; (e) Proactively incorporate power-sharing and consensus-building; and (f) Adopt an antiracist frame on redevelopment decisions and operations.