I along with Drs Erin Ruel and Lesley Reid am one of the GSU Sociologists conducting the public housing relocation study. The study is following 385 public housing residents pre and post move across six public housing communities that have either since been demolished or are slated to be (Bankhead, Bowen, Hollywood, Herdon, Palmer and Roosevelt). Then we are also following residents in one senior highrise not slated for demolition (Cosby Spears) as a comparison to the senior highrises being demolished (Palmer and Roosevelt). Across the six relocation sites in our study (families, seniors and people with disabilities who lived in the senior highrises) about 88 percent received a voucher, or, in the case of many of the seniors, moved to a subsidized unit in one of the newer mixed-income redevelopments (mainly the Atrium, formerly the John O'Chiles public housing senior high rise) There are about 30 people we have not been able to relocate since the pre-move interview so we don't know if they received a subsidy or not. It is an issue that those who do not qualify for a subsidy are not followed. But from our experience I think it is important to point out that keeping track of the residents, whether they received a subsidy or not, is a challenge and very labor intensive. Our retention rate is 87 percent, which is high, but that means we still do not know what happened to 13 percent of the residents we originally interviewed. Housing authority MIS systems are set up (and this is based on HUD requirements and therefore includes all authorities in the country not just the AHA) to keep track of people who are in subsidized housing, not those who no longer in it.
The concern about what happens to the folks who don't get a subsidy is a valid one. They have very limited income and without some kind of rental subsidy, much of the private market rental housing is beyond their reach. Many private landlords will not rent to potential tenants if the cost of the rent is over half of that tenant’s monthly income. People on SSDI are particularly hardest hits. But this issue goes way beyond the AHA – the criteria for qualifying for a subsidy is set by HUD, not the AHA. Therefore City Hall needs to be involved in developing strategies to address such residents' housing needs as well as those on the long waiting list for subsidies and it shouldn't just be focused on temporary shelters.
In terms of those who received a voucher or moved to a mixed income development in our study, at six-month post move 73 percent say they are happy with their new homes and neighborhoods; 50 percent say they got their first choice. By-and-large the residents who received a voucher didn't have a hard time finding housing. Some of this is undoubtedly due to the bad economy and therefore greater motivation among landlords to rent to voucher holders. So at least from the data in our study, we find no evidence of residents getting vouchers and then not being able to find housing.
Where are residents moving? For the most part the south west and east sections of the city – we know this is consistent with the AHA data. Few are moving outside the city limits. Much of this has to due with dependence on public transportation. Are they moving to neighborhoods with lower poverty than public housing? Yes, but the neighborhoods they are moving to are still poor (meaning on average between 27 and 33 percent compared to 40 percent tract level poverty in public housing. These figures are based on the recently released 2010 American Community Survey numbers). So a big question is what does this 10 percent reduction in poverty qualitatively mean in terms of resident outcomes? This is something we are still examining. It is unclear from our data whether this results in school quality improvements or access to better jobs. But what we can say is that for the families at least it does mean is a statistically significant decrease in fear of crime. Whether the residents will experience gain in socioeconomic status over time is a question we can not yet answer.
I commend CL for publishing both sides of the story. That's what good journalism is all about. While I take issue with some of the content on both sides of the debate, CL and the AHA had the common journalistic courtesy of contacting us about our Congressional Testimony. APN did not.
I have come to expect such biased, one-sided reporting on homeless and low income housing issues from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, but not from Creative Loafing. Let's see what the subpoenas reveal when the findings of court-ordered full discovery are made public next month.
There is one item you did get right: the heading on the front cover of your print edition, "No Place to Go". That is exactly what will happen to the 700 guests at the Taskforce if the City is successful at closing the shelter down.
Creative Loafing Atlanta
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