Hope VI: Where Do We Go From Here?
The 1993 HOPE VI program targets some of the most beleaguered housing in this country—dilapidated public housing developments that have failed to deliver on the promise of decent housing for the poor. The goals of the HOPE VI program are ambitious and include "improving the living environment for residents of severely distressed public housing" and "providing housing that will avoid or decrease the concentration of very poor families." If successful, the program has the potential to dramatically improve life circumstances for the families who endured the terrible conditions in distressed public housing. The policymakers who created the program hoped that these improvements in the quality of residents' neighborhoods would also help residents in other ways, particularly in becoming self-sufficient.
The seven briefs below are based on Urban Institute research conducted in 2001 and again in 2003 and 2005, following HOPE VI residents at five sites to evaluate where they moved and how the program has affected their overall well-being. For the most part, former residents are living in neighborhoods that are dramatically safer and offer a far healthier environment for themselves and their children. However, a substantial minority continue to live in traditional public housing developments that are only marginally better than the distressed developments where they started. These findings demonstrate the ways in which HOPE VI has improved the quality of life for many original residents, while underscoring the need to continue to seek solutions for the problems that have kept too many from being able to take advantage of new opportunities.
"A Roof Over Their Heads" series, 2004-2006
Testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development, and the U.S. House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity
Susan J. Popkin
The HOPE VI program targets dilapidated public housing developments that have failed to deliver on the promise of decent housing for the poor. The program goal is to improve the living environment for residents of severely distressed public housing and provide housing that will avoid or decrease the concentration of very poor families. The HOPE VI Panel Study is the only national study of outcomes for HOPE VI families and addresses basic questions about where residents move and how HOPE VI affects their overall well-being. After tracking residents through the relocation process, the Panel Study is able to effectively address the question of whether HOPE VI has succeeded in improving residents' life circumstances.
Most HOPE VI residents have not moved back. The largest number of families—43 percent—received Housing Choice Vouchers, and another third were still living in traditional public housing. Just five percent were living in mixed-income communities—a number likely to increase as the sites are completed. Residents who have moved to the private market or to mixed-income developments reported substantial improvements in the quality of their housing and are living in neighborhoods that are considerably lower poverty. In contrast, those who remained in traditional public housing—either their original development or a different one—experienced virtually no improvement in housing quality over time.
Susan Popkin, Elizabeth Cove
Fear of crime has profound implications for residents, causing stress and social isolation; relocation has brought about a dramatic positive impact on residents’ life circumstances. Those residents who left traditional public housing—voucher holders and unassisted renters and homeowners—are now living in neighborhoods that are dramatically safer than their original public housing developments. These improvements in safety have had a profound impact on their quality of life; they can let their children play outside, they are sleeping better, and are feeling less worried and anxious overall. However, those who remain in traditional public housing developments are still living in extremely dangerous circumstances, little better than where they started.
Larry Buron, Diane Levy, Megan Gallagher
Most former HOPE VI residents have received Housing Choice Vouchers; these residents, who are now living in private-market housing are doing well in many ways. Compared with those who moved to traditional public housing developments, those who moved with vouchers are living in significantly better quality housing in neighborhoods that are lower poverty and dramatically safer. On most measures, they are substantially better off than those who have moved to other traditional public housing developments, particularly on the those outcomes directly affected by HOPE VI relocation: the quality of their housing, their neighborhoods, and their perceptions of safety. But while the story is generally positive, it is also clear that many voucher holders are struggling to cope with the financial challenges of living in the private market. Moving out of public housing presents new financial management challenges, such as paying rent on time and being responsible for separate utility payments, which are usually included in the rent in public housing. Relocation assistance and updated utility allowances could ease the burden of these challenges for those moving to the private market with Housing Choice Vouchers.
Megan Gallagher and Beata Bajaj
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of HOPE VI relocation. While they are the most likely to benefit in important ways from improved housing quality—and reduced exposure to risks like lead paint or mold—and from safer, less distressed neighborhoods, moving can disrupt their education and friendships and even put older youth at risk for conflict with local gangs. Where they moved was also significant. Children whose families moved to the private market with vouchers are doing better, while those whose families moved to other traditional public housing are not faring as well. Girls, in particular, are suffering from the ill effects of being left behind in developments that are becoming increasingly dangerous and chaotic as vacancies increase.
Carlos Manjarrez, Susan Popkin, Elizabeth Guernsey
At every age level, HOPE VI Panel Study respondents are much more likely than other adults overall to describe their health as fair or poor; the rates are even higher than those of black women, a group with higher-than-average rates of poor health. HOPE VI Panel Study respondents suffer many serious conditions including arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, hypertension, and stroke at rates twice as high as black women nationally; a significant number of HOPE VI Panel Study respondents also face the burden of multiple serious health problems. And the death rate of HOPE VI residents far exceeds the national average of black women, with the gap increasing dramatically at older ages. These findings imply an urgent need for better and more comprehensive support for families as they undergo the stress of involuntary relocation.
Diane Levy, Mark Woolley
In addition to providing residents with an improved living environment, the HOPE VI program seeks to help them attain self-sufficiency. However, while there have been dramatic improvements in quality of life, there have been no overall changes in employment. HOPE VI residents’ poor health impedes their ability to work. Efforts that address physical and mental health and other key barriers, such as education and safe, affordable child care availability, could prove more effective than job training or placement efforts alone in improving the chances that former and current public housing residents move into employment or retain jobs they already have.
Debi McInnis, Larry Buron, Susan Popkin
A main criticism of the HOPE VI program is that intentionally relocating residents—even temporarily—increases the likelihood that some residents will end up homeless. Housing authorities have been accused of “losing” residents and not providing them with the relocation assistance to which they were entitled; critics in some cities have claimed increases in shelter populations. However, most of the evidence has been anecdotal, and while there has been much rhetoric on both sides, there has been no hard evidence to support or disprove critics’ claims that HOPE VI increases homelessness.