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The renaissance comes to the projects: Public housing, urban redevelopment, and racial inequality in Baltimore

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Peter Rosenblatt
Abstract:
This dissertation tells the story of public housing change in Baltimore during the 1990s and 2000s. The Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) program demolished five housing projects in neighborhoods surrounding downtown, and replaced them with mixed-income developments, in order to change not just the physical landscape of public housing but also address social problems associated with concentrated poverty. Yet in doing so, it displaced more than 2,000 families, and has altered the geography of public housing in the city. I use a counterfactual framework to examine changes in investment that have followed the HOPE VI program, and find that banks have become more willing to lend in the neighborhoods surrounding the rebuilt housing developments than they might have been before the policy began. This is significant given the history of racially motivated disinvestment that has marked these areas in Baltimore and across the country. I also explore the neighborhood outcomes for displaced families. In contrast to the fears of critics that HOPE VI would displace families to new ghettos, I find that these families have moved to lower poverty, safer neighborhoods. While public housing is often thought of as a specific set of policies designed to assist low income families, it is also a set of political decisions about how to manage urban space and urban populations. In telling the story of HOPE VI in Baltimore, I show how public housing policy has been shaped since the 1930s by efforts to fight blight and by the resistance of white families to low-income black neighbors--two factors that continue to influence public housing policy in the 21 st century city.

Table of Contents Chapter 1: Public Housing, Race, and Urban Development in Baltimore 1 Chapter 2: Creating the Second Ghetto in Baltimore 25 Chapter 3: The Renaissance Comes to the Projects 74 Chapter 4: Leaving the Neighborhood Behind: HOPE VI and Displacement 128 Chapter 5: Interpreting the Broader Context around HOPE VI 179 Chapter 6: Positive Strides and Ongoing Inequalities 199 Appendix 219 IV

List of Tables Table 2.1: Racial Composition of Baltimore Family Housing Projects over Time 69 Table 3.1: HOPE VI and Family Project Names and Location 117 Table 3.2: Descriptive Comparison of Change in Loan Approval Rate 118 Table 3.3: Individual site approval rate changes 118 Table 3.4: Multivariate Analysis of Neighborhood Investment 119 Appendix Table 3.1: OLS Variable Means 127 Table 4.1: The HOPE VI projects, Change in Public Housing units and neighborhood density 165 Table 4.2: Descriptive Comparison of Change in Loan Approval Rate 166 Table 4.3: Multivariate Displaced Family 167 Table 4.4: Demographic and Crime Profiles of Low, Medium, and High Voucher Concentration Neighborhoods 168 Table 4.5: Distribution of Section-8 Voucher Holders in Baltimore by Neighborhood Racial Composition: 1996-2008 169 v

List of Figures Figure 3.1: Individual HOPE VI neighborhood loan approval rate trends 120 Figure 3.2: Individual Family Project neighborhood loan approval rate trends 120 Figure 3.3: Baltimore City Loan Approval Rate Trend 121 Figure 3.4: Poverty Rate in HOPE VI and Family Project CSAs 121 Figure 3.5a: Individual Project Poverty Level 122 Figure 3.5b: HOPE VI Neighborhood Poverty Level 122 Figure 3.6: Racial Composition of HOPE VI and Family Project CSAs 123 Figure 3.7a-e: Individual Project Racial Composition Changes 123 Figure 3.8: Individual Project change in Median Household Income 126 Figure 4.1: Total Family Public Housing Units Over Time 170 Figure 4.2: Poverty Rate and Racial Composition of Section-8 Destination Neighborhoods 170 Figure 4.3: Reported Crimes per 1,000 individuals, 2000 - 2009, HOPE VI and Displaced Family Neighborhood 171 Figure 4.4: Reported Violent Crimes per 1,000 individuals, 2000 - 2009, HOPE VI and Displaced Family Neighborhood 171 vi

Figure 4.5: Neighborhood Racial Composition and change in Section-8 vouchers 172

List of Maps Map 3.1: Proximity of HOPE VI to Other Development Projects 126 Map 4.1 Hollander Ridge Section-8 Relocated Families 173 Map 4.2 HOPE VI and Displaced Family Map: Change in Loan Approval Rate 1994-2006 174 Map 4.3 Section-8 Clusters 1996-2008 Poverty Rate of Neighborhoods 175 Map 4.4 Section-8 Clusters 1996-2008 Percent Black in Neighborhoods 176 Map 4.5 Change in Section-8 Concentration 2000-2008 177 Appendix Map 4.1: Change in CSA-level poverty rate 2000-2009 178 Map 5.1: Relative investment 2001 196 Map 5.2: Relative Investment 2009 197 Map 5.3: Change in Relative Investment 2001 - 2009 198 VI I I

CHAPTER 1 PUBLIC HOUSING, RACE, AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT IN BALTIMORE In 1989, Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke announced the creation of the Family High-Rise Modernization Task Force, to look into the conditions in Baltimore's four public housing high rises. These four high rises; Lafayette Courts and Flag House Courts directly east of downtown, and Lexington Terrace and Murphy Homes to the west, long marked the boundaries between the center city business and tourist district and the segregated and mostly poor neighborhoods that stretch for miles on either side of downtown. The high rises were among the worst public housing stock in the city, with more than half of the units in need of serious repair, plumbing and lighting systems that had not been upgraded since the buildings were built, and elevators that were notorious for breaking down and leaving residents to carry groceries up several flights of stairs. They also had become havens for drug dealing and violence, to such a degree that their very appearance became synonymous with social disorder—the multi-story concrete structures, with chain link fencing covering exposed hallways, reminded more than one outsider of a jail, and led an independent HUD contractor to note that the Baltimore high rise "looks like a correctional facility." ' After more than a year of building inspections and meetings with tenants, the task force, which included six members who were public housing residents, concluded that "high rise living was not conducive to nor supportive of family living," and recommended that the city turn the high rises on all four sites into elderly and adult housing, moving families with children elsewhere. At the time, the four high rises had 1

more than 2,700 units and were home to more than 7,000 people. Responding to the task force report, the mayor and then-housing commissioner Robert W. Hearn publically declared their intention to tear down and redevelop the high rises over the next decade. Hearn knew this massive change to the city's public housing system would take time, but he argued that the city could not afford to wait; "We're not dreamers," he said, "but we're saying that somebody's got to start somewhere." This decision set in motion four applications for funding from the federal government's Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) program, which would be used to redevelop all four high rises over the decade of the 1990s. HOPE VI is a federal program that renovates high poverty public housing communities. The program provides funding to demolish housing projects and replace them with mixed-income developments, in order to change not just the physical landscape of public housing but also address social problems associated with concentrated poverty. HOPE VI communities are designed to differ from prior public housing by encouraging middle class residents to live side by side with the poor who have historically made up the bulk of public housing tenants. These mixed income developments are based on the idea that middle class neighbors will provide positive role models for children and social connections for low-income families (Khadduri and Martin 1997; J. Smith 2006). Thus in addition to rental assistance for tenants, HOPE VI developments contain a mix of subsidized and market rate homes for sale. In order to accomplish its goals, HOPE VI requires the forced displacement of public housing residents. This occurs during the demolition of the old projects and the rebuilding of new developments. Some displaced families are offered housing vouchers, 2

while others are relocated to different housing projects elsewhere in the city. Nationally, 1/3 of families who left HOPE VI sites used Section-8 vouchers to move, and the ratio was similar in Baltimore (United States General Accounting Office 2003; R. Smith et al 2002). In many of the projects rebuilt under HOPE VI, the number of housing units for low-income families has been reduced, meaning that not all families who are displaced are able to return. Nationwide, HOPE VI has only replaced half the stock of public housing units that have been torn down (Popkin et al 2004). In Baltimore, HOPE VI has reduced the available housing for low income families by 75% on redeveloped sites. Tighter tenant screening policies also make it impossible for some families to return. The widespread displacement due to HOPE VI means that the majority of families who were supposed to benefit from remaking public housing have instead been relocated elsewhere. The neighborhood changes experienced by these families are as important to understanding the impact of the program as the dramatic neighborhood level changes that result from tearing down and rebuilding the projects. The 1989 decision to transform public housing in Baltimore would expand over the next decade and a half to include the demolition of two additional developments using HOPE VI funding—Hollander Ridge at the far eastern edge of the city, and Broadway Homes on the near east side close to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Combined with the non- HOPE VI demolition of Fairfield Homes in 1989, the city had by the early 2000's reduced its family public housing stock by almost half, to 6,854 units from a high of 12,016 in 1981. With plans to demolish more family housing across the city, from Cherry Hill and Westport in the south, to O'Donnell Heights in the far east side through further HOPE VI funding, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City is still building on 3

the momentum that started with the four high rises, and well on its way to crafting a city free from hard-unit public housing for families.4 The transformation of public housing has brought dramatic changes to the physical landscape of the city, and impacted the lives of thousands of residents. The towers of Lexington Terrace, Flag House, Murphy Homes, and Lafayette Courts were both a physical and symbolic reminder of the limits of Baltimore's famous Harborplace urban redevelopment project. While developer James Rouse and Mayor William Donald Schaefer's "urban evangelism" was being copied by other cities across the globe, critics pointed out that it failed to address the continued decline that was going on right behind the towers, and perpetuated a growing "urban dualism" that benefited developers, professionals and gentrifiers and ignored the urban underclass (Levine 1987; Harvey 2001). Yet by 2006 the towers had all come down and brand new townhouses stood in their place. What has this transformation meant for residents of the projects and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods? Who has benefited, and who has suffered, as a result of the sweeping changes in housing policy in Baltimore? And what do these changes tell us about the future of urban inequality in the 21st century city? This dissertation tells the story of HOPE VI in Baltimore. While public housing is often thought of as a specific set of policies designed to assist low income families, it is also a set of political decisions about how to manage urban space and urban populations. I will show that even before HOPE VI, public housing policy placed a strong emphasis on redeveloping neighborhoods and redistributing populations in cities—more often than not, this has had a significant influence on racial segregation. Further, public housing policy is closely tied to the politics of race—the transformation of the city's public 4

housing program was contested by black and white families, public housing residents and non-residents alike. Finally, public housing policy is connected to wider urban growth strategies, particularly struggles over making spaces profitable. HOPE VI brought dramatic changes to both the city skyline and the lives of many families—this dissertation tells the story of these changes by looking both at what they meant for families living in the projects and in surrounding neighborhoods, and by understanding the way that they were influenced by larger urban processes. Background As a public housing intervention, HOPE VI is linked to processes of both racial segregation and urban redevelopment. For several reasons, the story of who has benefited from HOPE VI and why is also a story about the relationship between urban redevelopment and racial inequality. First, public housing policy has a long history of involvement with the perpetuation of racial inequality in cities. Second, such policies have been the target of a number of large scale changes in the last 35 years (the introduction of Section-8 vouchers, the push for mixed income housing, HOPE VI). Third, the proximity of high rise housing projects to redeveloping downtown areas in a number of cities, including Baltimore, makes changes to the physical and symbolic landscape of public housing an important component of downtown redevelopment. Below I review each of these in greater detail. Segregation and Public Housing in Baltimore and Beyond 5

Since the beginning of the last century, race and housing have become intertwined. Policies in the first half of the century that were designed to keep whites and blacks in separate neighborhoods helped to shape the contemporary landscape of public housing. Baltimore itself has a historic place in the history of residential segregation. Legal ordinances that enforced the residential separation of blacks and whites began with Baltimore's West Ordinance in 1910. This law divided the city racially block by block, and set penalties for anyone who violated the color line by moving into a block designated for a different race. Such laws quickly spread to other cities. In addition to claims that they protected blacks from violent reprisals should they move into white neighborhoods, or that they protected whites from diseases carried by poor blacks, the law institutionalized the idea that black neighbors bring down property values (Nightingale 2006). While such ordinances were declared unconstitutional in 1917, this close connection between the color line and the housing market would be perpetuated by later strategies to maintain segregation. At the federal level, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) operated under a policy of strict neighborhood segregation. By 1947 its underwriting manual still stated that: "If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes. A change in social or racial occupancy generally contributes to instability and a decline in values." The FHA also institutionalized the practice of "redlining," whereby majority- black neighborhoods were labeled as risky investment areas and individuals applying for loans in such neighborhoods were routinely denied. This proved to be especially significant in the post-World War II period of suburban expansion, when the combination 6

of FHA-backed mortgage loans, G.I. Bill support, and the mass marketing of cheap housing saw the percentage of families owning their own home increase from 43% of the population in 1940 to 62% in 1960 (Vicino 2008). Yet the benefits of home ownership did not extend to African-Americans—in the period between 1930 and 1960, less than 1% of all African-Americans were able to obtain a mortgage (Vicino 2008). These policies restricted the flow of capital into black neighborhoods in the city while simultaneously funding a suburban boom that benefited whites (Jackson 1985; Massey and Denton 1993). By the late 1960s, the Kerner Commission would report that discrimination in housing and employment were complicit in the formation and maintenance of the black ghetto, and that continuing down the country's current segregated path "would lead to the establishment of two societies: one predominantly white and located in the suburbs.. .and one largely Negro located in central cities" (United States National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders 1968, 398). The segregated landscape was also influenced by federal and local urban renewal programs. Arnold Hirsch (1983) documents the link between urban renewal programs of the 1940s and 50s and the building of segregated public housing projects, as white business elites sought to clear slums near the inner city and redevelop the land to attract customers and residents departing for the suburbs. While never a major portion of the total housing stock in the US, the placement of public housing nevertheless helped to shape patterns of residential segregation in Chicago, Baltimore, and other metropolitan areas. By the time they were built, almost all of the housing projects in the city were in majority black neighborhoods, creating what Hirsch refers to as the "Second Ghetto" (1983). Research expanding on Hirsch's case study of Chicago found that blacks were 7

segregated in public housing developments across the country, and are more likely to be in centralized, high density projects, while whites are more often in scattered site and elderly public housing (Bickford and Massey 1991). For much of the second half of the twentieth century, financial investment (most often in the form of mortgages) avoided black neighborhoods, while public housing policies increased the density of poor families within them. Changes in contemporary public housing policy may represent a reversal of this historic pattern. Yet the form that these changes have taken needs to be fully understood for its implications to be appreciated. Recent Changes in Public Housing Policy Outside of the politics of housing within the city, a number of significant events of the past three and a half decades have helped change the course of housing policy in the United States. While designed to serve the housing needs of the poor, public housing policy has also involved negotiations with real estate interests, who feared the loss of potential customers whose housing would be completely paid for by the government. Heeding these concerns, opponents of public housing in Congress forced concessions in key legislation in 1937 and 1949, requiring first that an equal number of slum units be destroyed before building, and later that rent ceilings and income requirements be set low so that public housing served only the poorest families—thus limiting the number of customers lost to federal housing (Marcuse 1998; Hackworth 2007). The introduction the Section-8 housing voucher program in 1974 marked a significant turn in the way the government would provide housing. This program addressed the ongoing concerns of 8

real estate interests by using subsidies to assist low-income families in finding housing on the open market, thus re-inserting a segment of the population that had been removed from the housing market back into the market. In the late 1980s, public housing began to come under scrutiny from social scientists and policy makers concerned about the negative impacts of concentrated poverty on a host of adult and youth outcomes. William Julius Wilson's (1987) emphasis on the social isolation of high poverty communities helped to spawn a range of theoretical models that emphasize peer norms and collective socialization (Jencks and Meyer 1990), collective efficacy (Sampson et al 1997) and relative deprivation (Duncan 1994) as place-based factors that contribute to ongoing social inequalities. Public housing complexes in cities were recognized as places where these poverty concentration effects would most likely be felt by residents (Newman and Schnare 1997). In a 1992 report, the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing documented the abhorrent conditions in numerous public housing projects across the nation, and called on Congress to address the needs of residents and revitalize the physical condition of a number of high-rise housing projects across the country. This report, along with a growing recognition of concentrated poverty as a problem in public housing developments, would help shape the HOPE VI program into the centerpiece of public housing reform in the 1990s, and the most dramatic change in public housing policy in 60 years. The 1990s saw the retooling of HUD following the "Republican revolution" of 1994—in the face of congressional threats to get rid of the department altogether, HUD secretary Henry Cisneros announced plans to reinvent HUD and "end public housing as 9

we know it" (quoted in Zhang and Weissman 2006). HOPE VI was the centerpiece of this reinvention: a funding program that worked through grants rather than mandates about public housing change. This gave cities some leeway to tailor redevelopment plans to their specific needs, but a close examination of the way HUD structured its funding availability also reveals the department's interest in on-site redevelopment rather than the potential consequences of citywide displacement. Spurred by social science literature about the dangers of concentrated poverty, as well as concerns about making housing authorities more fiscally responsible, HOPE VI emerged as a program that would deconcentrate poverty and encourage redevelopment in neighborhoods. Yet it also reduced the affordable housing supply at a time of growing need, with little forethought as to where displaced families might end up. This brief history shows the way public housing policy has been influenced by social justice concerns as well as political and real estate interests. Early compromises with the real estate lobby meant that public housing was set aside for the poorest families. Yet this practice later led to concerns about concentrated poverty in public housing, and helped institute HOPE VI as a nationwide effort to transform public housing in America. The HOPE VI program has implications for combating racial inequality and improving the lives of the poor. In attempting to understand these implications, this dissertation also acknowledges the way public housing policy has been influenced by wider political and economic processes. Public Housing in the Path of Change? 10

While concerns about deconcentrating poverty or addressing the harm of segregated projects have formed the social science basis for recent changes to public housing, this work has not been without critique. Some critics have questioned the idea that housing projects should be demolished or families moved from high poverty or segregated neighborhoods. Some of these critics imply that minority families will resist moving to unfamiliar areas (Clark 2005), while others imply that relocated low-income families will bring their problems with them to suburban neighborhoods (Rosin 2008). Others have questioned the impact on families and communities. They point out that HOPE VI redevelopment reduces the supply of housing for the nation's poorest families, during a decade when affordable housing for families with the lowest incomes was already dwindling and public housing waitlists numbered in the thousands in many cities (National Housing Law Project 2002). While some families who return to renovated HOPE VI sites or move with housing vouchers report being in safer neighborhoods (Popkin and Cove 2007), those with mental health problems or family chaos—the so-called "hard to house"—often end up in different distressed housing projects (Popkin 2006). A nationwide study of the relocation of families from HOPE VI sites found that as of 2003, 50% of all residents ended up in other public housing projects (United States General Accounting Office 2003). Their return to redeveloped HOPE VI sites is also made more difficult by the inclusion of tenant screening policies. Screening criteria differ by development, and vary from barring families in which any member has had a felony conviction to requiring that heads of households work at least 30 hours a week (Levy and Woolley 2007; Wilen and Nayak 2006). 11

Questions have also been raised about the ultimate beneficiaries of deconcentration policies. Examinations of HOPE VI plans in Chicago suggest that the planned mix of market rate to subsidized housing varied by the development's proximity to gentrifying neighborhoods (Wyly and Hammel 1999, 2000). The link between HOPE VI demolition and urban redevelopment is supported by audits that suggest the program increasingly targeted sites most favorable for high income development instead of those most severely distressed (National Housing Law Project 2002). Other studies have noted connections between specific HOPE VI demolitions and nearby real estate development, from ABLA and Cabrini Green in Chicago to Memorial Homes in New Brunswick NJ, with the implication that cities have used HOPE VI as a way to clear public housing from valuable land and open new sectors to development (Bennett and Reed 1999; Bennett 2006; Hackworth 2007). Overall, theses critics connect the public housing policies of the last 30 years to a new wave of urban renewal that threatens to remove poor people from downtown land that is becoming valuable and bring about a "European-style social class geography," with the poor displaced to inner ring suburbs and the wealthy gentrifying the downtown core. This last set of critiques emphasizes the connections between contemporary public housing policy and urban redevelopment. While public housing is often thought of as a specific set of policies designed to assist low income families, it is also a set of political decisions about how to manage urban space. Public housing policy often becomes tied in with urban growth strategies, and can have long-term ramifications for the organization of groups of people in space. This dissertation takes this broader view of 12

public housing policy and urban development into account in focusing on the connections between HOPE VI and larger patterns of urban change. Historical and contemporary processes of residential segregation explain why public housing interventions are not race-neutral. While they may not be designed around race, the history of constructing public housing in order to manage the co- residence of black and white families means that the consequences of contemporary housing policy disproportionately affect African-Americans. This dissertation also acknowledges and further explores the linkages between public housing policy and urban redevelopment strategies. Creating public housing policy has historically involved political decisions about the use of space and management of urban populations. HOPE VI makes significant changes to the landscape of city centers at a time when many cities are relying on downtown redevelopment to grow. Critics of HOPE VI draw connections between the program and these forces of change, cautioning that redevelopment can follow a path that benefits real estate interests and serves the aims of the entrepreneurial city by moving undesirable populations out of the way. As reinvestment has spread outward from Baltimore's harbor and made forays into historically segregated public housing projects, it raises a series of questions about the implications for racial inequality in the changing city. This dissertation focuses on the question of who has benefited from HOPE VI as a way to explore those implications. On the one hand HOPE VI represents a potential flow of resources into previously neglected neighborhoods and a chance to increase access to opportunity for families. Supported by studies of the harmful effects of concentrated poverty and segregation on 13

life chances, these policies offer a chance to address the way past investment decisions and public housing policies have undermined black neighborhoods. Yet the implications of these changes for families who were displaced needs to be appreciated in order to fully determine the impact these policies have had on communities and on the lives of individual families who participate in housing interventions. Baltimore is a unique site to explore these changes, given its history of segregation, its status as the first city in America to use HOPE VI funds to tear down all of its high-rise public housing units, and its significant history of urban redevelopment3. Below I frame the background discussion with reference to relevant theories of urban redevelopment and racial inequality. Theoretical Framework While work on residential segregation tends to focus on the distribution of populations across urban space, theoretical and empirical studies of urban redevelopment are rooted in the notion that urban space itself is produced. This dissertation uses theories of both racial segregation and urban change to understand the outcomes of HOPE VI and its implications for racial inequality Urban Redevelopment While portraits of inner-city devastation and the isolated ghetto poor are still a fixture of the urban landscape, a new image of cities as sites of reinvestment has emerged. This image lies overtop the forces of change unleashed through entrepreneurial a Beginning with the flagship harborplace project and continuing through major east and west-side redevelopment initiatives, Baltimore is currently home to the largest urban renewal project in the country, the East Baltimore Development Inc (EBDI) project to raze and rebuild the Middle East neighborhood. 14

Full document contains 246 pages
Abstract: This dissertation tells the story of public housing change in Baltimore during the 1990s and 2000s. The Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) program demolished five housing projects in neighborhoods surrounding downtown, and replaced them with mixed-income developments, in order to change not just the physical landscape of public housing but also address social problems associated with concentrated poverty. Yet in doing so, it displaced more than 2,000 families, and has altered the geography of public housing in the city. I use a counterfactual framework to examine changes in investment that have followed the HOPE VI program, and find that banks have become more willing to lend in the neighborhoods surrounding the rebuilt housing developments than they might have been before the policy began. This is significant given the history of racially motivated disinvestment that has marked these areas in Baltimore and across the country. I also explore the neighborhood outcomes for displaced families. In contrast to the fears of critics that HOPE VI would displace families to new ghettos, I find that these families have moved to lower poverty, safer neighborhoods. While public housing is often thought of as a specific set of policies designed to assist low income families, it is also a set of political decisions about how to manage urban space and urban populations. In telling the story of HOPE VI in Baltimore, I show how public housing policy has been shaped since the 1930s by efforts to fight blight and by the resistance of white families to low-income black neighbors--two factors that continue to influence public housing policy in the 21 st century city.