Revitalizing severely distressed public housing -- even with HOPE VI funds -- will be no easy task, the investigation finds. Serious design flaws, such as high densities and inadequately sized units, plague most of the developments targeted for revitalization, with researchers rating the physical conditions of almost one-half of the developments as "poor" or "very poor." All 15 public housing authorities (PHAs) studied have experienced serious management problems -- nine had recently replaced their executive director, and two-thirds of grantees were on HUD's list of troubled PHAs as of March 1992. The majority of residents have extremely low incomes and are inadequately educated, and an average of 84 percent report income from public assistance. Conditions in the surrounding neighborhoods are almost as severe as those in the HOPE VI developments.
PHAs will pursue HOPE VI revitalization through a variety of approaches: development of mixed-income communities, demolition and/or renovation of current developments, deconcentration and dispersion, emphasis on family self-sufficiency, and resident management of properties. All but three sites reported planning to redevelop a public housing community for mixed-income families. Eight PHAs have approved physical plans, most using a townhouse design for their renovated or newly constructed developments. Of the 13 PHAs with approved management plans, 5 intend to place control of their HOPE VI developments under private management. Only six PHAs had developed clear community service plans at the time of their assessment.
Researchers divided the sites into four groups based on their prospects for success. The most promising PHAs are Baltimore, Cuyahoga Metro (Cleveland), and San Antonio. These sites showed effective collaboration with HUD and local government agencies and a capacity to manage a project of the magnitude of HOPE VI. Also key at these sites were strong support for HOPE VI by residents, institutions, and businesses in the surrounding neighborhoods, and the sites showed encouraging levels of involvement by tenant councils and residents. The four least promising sites had problems such as weak PHA leadership, poor management of capital improvements, and reputations for breaking promises to residents.
The first volume of this three-volume report synthesizes study findings and discusses their national implications. The second volume offers detailed case studies of the 15 sites. Case studies include an overview of the housing authority, a description of the developments and the surrounding neighborhoods, a review of the local HOPE VI planning process, and a summary of implementation progress. The third volume presents the study methodology and baseline data.
The insights from this early assessment of HOPE VI communities will inform national policymakers and local practitioners as they continue their attempts to revitalize severely distressed public housing.