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Applying lessons from HOPE VI to public housing’s future

On Oct. 27,we attended Urban Institute’s event, Lessons from Chicago’s Public Housing Transformation. The event opened with a reading from Susan Popkin’s new book, “No Simple Solutions: Transforming Public Housing in Chicago,” followed by a panel discussion on neighborhood revitalization. We were reminded that the experience of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and its HOPE VI redevelopment is significant because it is the only longitudinal data we have on HOPE VI. HUD did not receive enough funding to track families. CHA benefited from the MacArthur Foundation stepping up to fund Urban’s longitudinal research.
The panel discussion on neighborhood revitalization was particularly interesting when the group discussed the pros and cons of vouchering out of public housing. With HUD’s new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and a greater focus on mobility, this discussion was timely. Based on CHA’s experience, the panelists discussed the need for enough landlords who are willing to accept Housing Choice Vouchers as key to successfully vouchering for families. They also discussed that families need help to move to better neighborhoods; giving them a voucher and expecting them to find those neighborhoods on their own usually doesn’t work. CHA’s experience demonstrated the importance of different housing options. Some CHA families were ready and able to use a housing voucher. Other families needed the stability of public housing. Still some families would have benefited from permanent supportive housing. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Panelist Mary Brown with the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative shared that “all communities have promise, and giving all communities the tools and resources they need to be communities of opportunity should be our goal. Residents should have the option to move to high opportunity communities, and they should also have the option to stay and be part of investment in their existing community.” NHC will explore this dynamic at our Solutions for Affordable Housing convening, as we discuss the future of public housing but also how placemaking and mobility strategies can connect to each other.
Speakers included: Ron Ashford, director, Public Housing Supportive Services, HUD; Mary Brown, executive director, DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative; Rolf Pendall, co-director, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, Urban Institute; Susan J. Popkin, senior fellow, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, Urban Institute; and Erika Poethig, director of urban policy initiatives, Urban Institute.
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