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nowyano

Planning Communities around Public Housing

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Major cities across the US are littered with public housing projects. In Boston, where I live, Jackson Square is being touted as "The Next Big Thing", for awhile now they have been touting the neighborhood as "Boston's Latin Quarter". Meanwhile Jackson Square has one of the most violent housing projects (Bromley-Heath) as well as another gang infested section eight apartment complex (Academy Homes), and a juvenille detention center located right next to the Jackson "T" Station. Typically I am against completley gentrifying areas, but typically in order to become the next big thing in a city like Boston you need to have some gentrification happen. It is hard to imagine a yuppie, or an empty nester (the two most likely inhabitants of a "next big thing" neighborhood) walking to a club, or to the T station past Academy or Bromley-Heath.

I am curious as to how cities work with/around housing projects when planning developments. It is a hard sell to many that Jackson Square is going to be a buzzing area when two (or more) major street gangs are working out of the same few block area.

Are there any projects in any other cities that were able to work around this problem, or is it just not a problem in other cities?

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It would seem to me the trend these days is to tear down these complexes and replace them with some kind of public/private venture where a certain # of units are reserved for the poor and the rest get sold at market rates. If this happens, there needs to be some kind of restrictions put on the deeds of the restricted units that prevents the residents from making an unfair windfall on them and to insure they are there for future tenants. The success of these places in serving the poor depends greatly upon the details of how the public housing part gets handled.

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^ I think this method has shown some reasonably encouraging signs of effectiveness in Charlotte. A good example is the First Ward district, which was basically a slum 10 years ago. Since then, it was completely razed and replaced with the kind of venture that metro describes above. Today, it's got enough economic balance that it's neither gentrifying (more than it already has) nor declining. Hard to predict the long-term future, but it looks like the project was a success.

IMO, the real key is that you have every part of the economic spectrum represented. As much as the "free market" might resist it, you need to have luxury units pretty close to subsidized housing, with the majority of the community somewhere in the middle. If that happens, the neighborhood tends to balance out into a fairly healthy, happy community.

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When St.Thomas projects got torn down in the 90s, River Garden completely replaced it. There's a Wal-Mart Superstore a short drive away as well as a certain number of units reserved for former project residents, the other units are up for grabs. Crime has all but vanished. When Katrina ravaged New Orleans, many of the projects were severely damaged. Magnolia, Lafitte & St.Bernard are set to be torn down & mixed communities will replace the former projects. Demolition of the aforementioned projects has been put on hold unless all repairs are made and the apartments are livable by late 2007. The HUD opened a few hundred units in the Calliope in January, the rest of it is closed.

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But has that actually alleviated the crime and poverty problem, or has that simply relocated it? While I am a big proponent of urban design, there are other issues that may be more intrinsic to this kind of neighborhood. Just making it look nice or saying who has to pay how much for a place doesn't fix the basic problems. Something has to be done about the poverty, the crime, and the neighborhood climate to really make change. In Boston's case, much of what exists in those neighborhoods exists because it has been pushed out of everywhere else, and now it is concentrated in certain areas. And no development is going to fix that. The first thing that has to happen is that people need jobs, people need to start feeling a little pride in their neighborhood AND themselves, and ultimately they need to be given a bit of hope and the sense that they can control their own destiny.

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But has that actually alleviated the crime and poverty problem, or has that simply relocated it? While I am a big proponent of urban design, there are other issues that may be more intrinsic to this kind of neighborhood. Just making it look nice or saying who has to pay how much for a place doesn't fix the basic problems. Something has to be done about the poverty, the crime, and the neighborhood climate to really make change. In Boston's case, much of what exists in those neighborhoods exists because it has been pushed out of everywhere else, and now it is concentrated in certain areas. And no development is going to fix that. The first thing that has to happen is that people need jobs, people need to start feeling a little pride in their neighborhood AND themselves, and ultimately they need to be given a bit of hope and the sense that they can control their own destiny.

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The first thing that has to happen is that people need jobs, people need to start feeling a little pride in their neighborhood AND themselves, and ultimately they need to be given a bit of hope and the sense that they can control their own destiny.

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It does help in creating an environment in which different classes live together, although I cannot see why that is the function of government.

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Ditto, that right there is the solution to poverty & crime. Taking it further, it begins @ home. Parents should ensure that their children have the best possible life for themselves, even if it means sacrificing your wants/desires for your kid's greater good. When the child gets of age, it's on them to make the right moves in life. A child should want to do better than his/her parents, likewise for the parent (s).

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It probably doesn't help make crime less frequent. First Ward, The neighborhood Justadude mentions, is still one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in Charlotte.

http://ww.charmeck.org/qol/template.asp?id=67

The violent crime rate is 4.1 times the city average, property crime is 3.4 times the city average.

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