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Do mixed income developments work?


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I know that a lot of cities seem to be regretting the move towards public housing ( post WWII), as they seem to become dens of crime. Two cities that I have recently lived in (Boston & Montgomery) are both in the process of tearing down some older housing projects and replacing them with mixed income developments.

First off, I'm not entirely sure what a "mixed income development" is. I would assume that it has units, houses, apartments, or whatever set aside for different income levels, but I may be wrong.

Does anyone know (a) what they are, (b) how they affect growth, design, and safety, and © do they work in terms of "cleaning up" neighborhoods?

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  • 5 months later...

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This is the area that I think New Urbanism in theory and New Urbanism in practice differ. While mixed-income planning can be easily done by having single family houses, duplexes, apartments, townhouses, anything you can think of all in the same area (sharing a public realm) - it goes out the window when the whole area is so desirable that even the apartment above the shop rents for more than it would anywhere else. This is something that will be a reality as long as these planned communities are scarce in relation to the amount of alternatives (suburbs, tract housing etc).

I can't speak to how any low-income zoning would work. Where it is regulated that a certain income requirement must be held to qualify for housing - but in general, the theory is if these units are dispersed throughout the community they will not bring down the value or environment of the surrounding area unlike "the projects" where the whole area is attractive for crime and destruction.

Also, opening up the code to allow for a detached unit in the lot of a larger single family home allows for the owner to rent this space out. Market forces could still keep this unit from being affordable, but it is more likely to succeed in this format as someone with more money to spend on rent might have a hard time living in such a space and being on that end of a relationship with the family in the house.

I'm not sure what you mean in terms of "cleaning up neighborhoods" unless you mean to add higher incomes to an area that is traditionally low-income and/or slummy. They do potentially clean up traffic as a neighborhood full of high incomes have to import the people to do the minimum wage jobs from other areas.

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Norfolk's (VA) Broad Creek area is a good example of a fairly successful mixed-income development. The city tore down some public housing and some other high-crime neighborhoods and rebuilt a mixed-use, mixed-income development. The affordable units are kept affordable because they are located in smaller spaces. The idea isn't to build two identical houses and charge $100,000 for one and $200,000 for the other. You build small, less fancy houses in with larger homes to get the mixed-income component. This is accomplished in Broad Creek by selling nice, large houses and mixing in houses that have been divided into two condo units or rental apartments. The end effect: two buildings that look similar.

As for crime, the development has dramatically reduced crime in the Broad Creek and surrounding areas.

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