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Some AHA critics suspect such data do exist within the agency.
"There are reasons that they would have not to be candid about the figures," says Dennis Goldstein, an attorney with Atlanta Legal Aid, which has filed a handful of civil cases against the AHA, including one on behalf of Davis and other East Lake residents.
"It's probably next to impossible to get this information out of anybody to figure out what's really happening," says a former state official familiar with AHA policy. "Everybody thinks [families are being unfairly displaced] but nobody's actually done any concrete research to see if it is in fact happening. I suspect that it is."
In Creative Loafing's case, the AHA wasn't exactly eager to share information. When asked if the authority has ever tracked the destinations and living conditions of displaced families, spokesman White at first said: "If what you're truly interested in is where are the people, then that ... actually can be answered pretty easily."
After an initial conversation with CL, however, he said he was "insulted" by a reporter's written request for an interview with Glover. In response, he withdrew his offer to provide requested documents. A query under the state's Open Records Act for those documents and other information was met with a letter that said the information would cost $24,000.
White did agree to present Glover with a list of CL's questions.
Glover stated in her written response that when it comes to the whereabouts of displaced families, the AHA has complied with federal Uniform Relocation Act. The law requires that housing authorities submit a plan to HUD describing where displaced families can choose to go. Nothing in the law requires that housing authorities show where they did go. Or how they're faring.
Glover notes that families that don't make it into mixed-income complexes have another option. They can get a voucher for reduced rent to be used at apartments and houses all over the city.
Voucher holders pay rent of up to 30 percent of their income, and the government pays the landlords the difference. The theory is that the vouchers integrate poor and middle-class residents in much the same way mixed-income communities do.
The reality is a little more complex, though. Rather than empower the poor, the voucher system, like the mixed-income communities, can further isolate them.
Burke, while at Georgia Tech, and a handful of other researchers have tried to piece together what was happening to AHA voucher holders.
"What we were trying to study was, were they in fact better off?" Burke says. "And I think what we found in some instances was, looking at neighborhood characteristics like crime trends and census information on demographics, that in fact, [those who moved] weren't any better off."
One thing the AHA does track is the location of properties where its clients cash their vouchers. The authority provided CL with a list showing the number of vouchers being used in each census tract in the metro area. There are 107 tracts of various sizes in Atlanta. Twenty-three of those tracts contain 8,200 of the authority's total 9,500 vouchers. In other words, 86 percent of the voucher holders live in 21 percent of the tracts -- and most of the rest use their vouchers outside the city.
What's more, all of the 23 tracts rank among those with the highest poverty levels in the city, a CL analysis of census data shows. So much for decentralizing poverty -- the very premise on which the voucher system hinges.
There's another problem with vouchers: There aren't enough of them. The waiting list for families trying to get vouchers is even more absurdly long than the lists of those trying to enter the mixed-income communities. As of late March, according to Glover, more than 24,000 families were awaiting vouchers.
Once an AHA client does get a voucher, finding a landlord willing to honor it is no guarantee, either. It was harder last year to locate an apartment that took vouchers than it has been in 15 years, according to a study conducted by Massachusetts research firm ABT Associates. The study looked at voucher holders in 48 different housing authorities, including Atlanta. Twenty of 50 Atlanta families couldn't find landlords willing to rent to them.
Families that can't find a rental or who lose their vouchers for various reasons (such as possessing drugs or falling behind in utility payments) are left without housing assistance. The AHA no longer serves them. And their ultimate destinations, like those displaced from the mixed-income sites, remain a mystery.
Not surprising at all.. Most of America is a sprawling-strip mall dotted-suburbia speckled-freeway.
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