That's One Way to Put It…


So the Urban Institute has circulated to journalists a press release about a series of studies released today on the HOPE VI program. The studies themselves seem (insofar as I'm remotely competent to evaluate this… which is not very far) are careful and rigorous. They find, in a nutshell, that people who are transitioned out of crappy public housing via the HOPE VI program find that their new homes are better along a number of dimensions, especially those who move into private housing. The improvements are often dramatic because the starting point was so wretched, but they still remain worse off than other poor households on those very dimensions. Except here's the press release headline:


Technically, that's true, but as a description of the findings it seems about on par with "Repeated Hammer Blows to Head Provide Pain Relief: It Feels Soooooo Good When You Stop." That aside, the studies look interesting if you're interested in housing policy.

NEXT: Robinson Responds

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  1. bet you a dollar this gets fewer comments than the previous thread.

  2. You’ll win unless Atrios posts the picture on his website.

  3. I don’t know much about public housing, but have people actually complained about trying to use vouchers instead? I would think vouchers for housing would not be anywhere nearly as controversial as vouchers for schools. But who knows.

  4. Seeing as the amount of housing that exists in a given area is finite, it matters a great deal that the former residents of public housing are better off than they were before. If other poor households are “better off” than those in the HOPE VI program, one has to ask why the HOPE VI families don’t simply move into housing that the other poor (but non-public, non-HOPE VI) families have. The answer, of course, is that the housing is not available– if it were, the HOPE VI families would move there.

    So seeing as how these families need to live somewhere, public housing is so awful, and better alternatives aren’t available, the fact that their lives are improving with HOPE VI means that the program is successful.

  5. Much better evidence on this stuff comes from
    the long line of papers on the Moving to
    Opportunity (MTO) project. Some of them can
    be found at Search on MTO or
    various combinations of Katz, Kling and Liebman.

    MTO was another voucher scheme targeted at
    resisdents of especially awful public housing
    projects. The sample sizes are larger than
    those described in the Hope IV summary and the
    follow-up is longer. After five years, the
    main effects appear to be on variable related
    to mental health, rather than economic outcomes
    or physical health, which is somewhat surpring.
    If you took proper account of the external
    effects that the MTO participants have on the
    neighborhoods they move into, it is not at all
    clear that the MTO scheme would pass a social
    cost benefit test.

    As an aside, the comment above about the fixed
    stock of housing is not really right. The stock
    is fixed at a given price. As prices increase,
    folks discover that they are interested in
    renting out rooms (though this mechanism is
    ruled out by law in some areas), people start
    to get roommates and so on. Even in the short
    run, the stock can be pretty flexible, if the
    local legal environment allows.


  6. Of course, the amount of housing that exists in a given area is finite is not really right (in a meaningful sense) for another reason. In all but a handful of American cities, there is available land at the edge of those cities to increase the available housing stock. And even if all Lebensraum has been exhausted, low density stock can be replaced with high density stock. There’s plenty of room at the top, or even at the bottom. It’s subject to local legal environment, of course, but that is more of a statement about local values than the scarcity of resources.

  7. Public housing is awful because the residents allow the properties to decline. Every few years, the public housing in my city must be “renovated” and the residents temorarily relocated because the residents trash the projects. Poor families who manage to purchase or inherit a home, even in a dismal neighborhood, typically maintain the place. However, when the poor are just given a home, not only do they refuse to maintain it but seem to actively participate in its destruction.

    Vouchers for housing are contraversial because they eliminate the incentive to get out of the projects. Why try when the state gives you a voucher to live in a sweet apartment complex? School vouchers are a good idea because the school system is failing poor students, all of whom have a right to education. Section 8 vouchers are a rotten idea because so many residents are failing to strive for any sort of achievement in their lives. These people do not have a right to live in a nice housing unit at the expense of taxpayers.

  8. Again, I don’t know much about housing, but are the projects really a place for you annd your family to pick-yourselves up and get back on your own two feet? I mean, aren’t these things neccessarily filled with bad influences, etc. etc.? So perhaps vouchers, for families/people that meet some criteria (1) no/minimal drug use (2) no recent jail (3) employed , etc. to get away from all the bad influence would be beneficial. I mean, as it is now, it seems like the projects are like jails for criminals — i.e. not at all conducive eto recooperation.

  9. That the Urban Institute uses a headline which deceptively puts a Federal program in a more favorable light than the results of the study warrant is consistent with their rah rah welfare state bias. Which BTW, they always seem to crank up around election time. They used to advocate huge expenditures for public housing as a means to eradicate all manner of social maladies. Of course, the evidence that government housing projects exacerbate these problems is now manifest. Poor people, and their children when they become adults, who do not ever live in government housing are for more likely to leave the ranks of the poor.

    When the dramatic increase in the cost of regular housing due to taxes and government regulations is considered, government public housing seems a sick joke on the less affluent.

  10. In all but a handful of American cities, there is available land at the edge of those cities to increase the available housing stock.

    No, no, no!

    Everyone must be jammed into tiny warrens as close to ca. 18th century settlement pactices as possible.

    And, never ever build another road.

    And… trains. Lotsa trains.

  11. Density lowers per-unit cost. Those unable to afford McMansions at the edge will have to take “18th-century warrens” at the edge. Remoteness increases transportation cost, either requiring still higher density or increased subsidy, usually in the form of highway construction.

    A solution involves a reduction in the number and percentage of poor, unable to afford housing at some arbitrary community standard of decency. joe might want to see this accomplished by transfers to the poor, making them falsely richer, while I might prefer lowering the acceptable standard for housing and/or brutal attrition of the poor.

  12. Then there are the land tax people. Is it just me, or is Henry George making a comeback with internet libertarians? It seems like I ran into the argument the first time a couple of years ago, and not again until this year, during which I’ve had several people refer to me as a feudalist.

  13. You people are funny.

    You should learn a little about housing and development on their own terms, rather than assuming they operate exactly like your ideological models dictate they operate.

    Otherwise, you’re liable to write a post like genna’s, and not even realize how ignorant you are.

  14. Relocating the “poor” from one part of town to another can cause problems. I suspect in most cases these relocation programs have more to do with greedy developers who want to get their hands on some land than any real concern for the “poor”. I live in the inner ring of a small city in the midwest. The area has been doing great for the past 5 years with lots of young professionals moving in and fixing up old housing. However in the last year or so an influx of public aid recipients and their army of screaming children is threatening to turn the neighborhood upside down. The city is relocating these people from another area that is “blighted”, ie. is up for redevelopment. I’m thinking about moving to the burbs before property values start to slide. It sucks that my tax dollars are being used to run down an neighborhood that people have worked hard to improve. I hate to sound like I don’t have companssion for others, but I choose not to live around people who breed like rabbits, dispose of their garbage by throwing it out the front door and refuse to keep their children under control

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