New Book Asks 'Where Are Poor People to Live?'

Article ID: 521890

Released: 12-Jul-2006 4:05 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: University of Illinois at Chicago

  • New book analyzes the results of the push to eliminate public housing.

Newswise — Federal policy has shifted responsibility for affordable housing to local governments and local markets without fully considering the social, political and economic risks, according to a new book edited by University of Illinois at Chicago faculty.

Janet Smith, associate professor of urban planning and policy, and Patricia Wright, former director of UIC's Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement, co-edited "Where Are Poor People to Live?" (M.E. Sharpe, 2006) with Larry Bennett, professor of political science at DePaul University.

In the book, 14 scholars focus on Chicago's ongoing program to reduce the number of public housing units by eliminating high-rise public housing, and the program's implications for other cities. They argue that the need for public housing will never be eliminated because the market will never supply enough decent housing for the poorest people.

"Low-income households, including seniors, young families and new immigrants, are finding that affordable rental housing is scarce," said Smith, co-director of UIC's Voorhees Center. "Public policy encourages more affordable housing for sale, while public housing is being replaced with smaller, mixed-income developments."

Smith points to key practices that led to the current shortage of low-income housing:

-Many policy makers have objectified poor people as an isolated underclass incapable of influencing decisions about neighborhood improvement. The poor have thus been removed -- "treated" in programs to build workplace and domestic skills, and relocated to remedial neighborhoods with low-rise, single-family housing.

-Since the federal government shifted responsibility for housing to state and municipal governments, suburbs have resisted any influx of low-income housing, while city governments rely on small-scale, mixed-income developments in which market-rate units subsidize lower-income units.

-Public-housing authorities have offered vouchers for private rentals just as most new housing is for the high end of the market. At the same time, cheap rentals in deteriorating neighborhoods are being demolished or abandoned, and income growth has leveled off among the renting population.

-Public-housing activists have shown persistence and creativity in organizing a dislocated constituency, but authorities have seldom used them as a resource for practical decision-making.

Public-housing authorities have offered vouchers for private rentals just as most new housing is for the high end of the market. At the same time, cheap rentals in deteriorating neighborhoods are being demolished or abandoned, and income growth has leveled off among the renting population.

UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world. For more information about UIC, visit http://www.uic.edu.


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