Academic journal article Cityscape

Mixed-Income Living: Anticipated and Realized Benefits for Low-Income Households

Academic journal article Cityscape

Mixed-Income Living: Anticipated and Realized Benefits for Low-Income Households

Article excerpt

Abstract

The basic elements of a mixed-income housing strategy-redeveloping public housing developments and poor neighborhoods to attract higher income residents and relocating lower income households to less poor areas-continue to inform federal and local housing policies in the United States and a number of other countries. Mixed-income strategies usually begin with the hypothesis that mixing incomes will address a number of problems associated with poverty concentration and neighborhood disinvestment. To set the stage for other articles in the symposium of this issue of Cityscape, this article defines terms and then reviews the hypothesized benefits of mixed-income environments for low-income adults and children and examines evidence of benefits. It concludes with a literature-based consideration of how practice might best address the goals of economic desegregation and poverty alleviation that income mixing has yet to achieve.

Introduction

Mixed-income housing strategies, broadly conceived, include a variety of programs and policies- from inclusionary zoning, to subsidized housing vouchers, to the transformation of public housing developments into income-integrated properties. Whether through the dispersal of low-income households from a poor area or the attraction of relatively higher income households to a (previously) poor area, the strategies usually begin with the hypothesis that mixing incomes will address a number of problems associated with poverty concentration and neighborhood disinvestment. This article builds from a literature review that surveyed the field of knowledge on mixed-income housing and benefits for lower income residents (Levy, McDade, and Dumlao, 2010). We consider the hypotheses regarding such benefits and the evidence to date on their realization. We conclude with a discussion on how policy and practice might advance to address the goals income mixing has yet to achieve.

Mixed-income housing and neighborhoods have been put forth as a strategy for addressing the problems associated with poverty since at least the early 1960s (Gans, 1961a, 1961b). Since the 1990s, Wilson's argument that concentrated poverty-low-income households living in high-poverty, resource-poor areas-leads to a cycle of diminished life chances for children and adults and to neighborhoods marked by urban decay (Wilson, 1987) has been used as the basis for mixed-income policies and programs. If concentrated poverty is a source of myriad problems, efforts to deconcentrate, such as income mixing and dispersing low-income households, have been put forth as solutions. Mixed income as a strategy has become part of federal housing policy in a number of ways, perhaps most notably through the Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) Program, which supported the redevelopment of public housing into mixed-income developments. Housing choice vouchers also have been used in certain mobility efforts to support low-income households' relocation to higher income areas.

No definition of mixed-income housing is universally agreed on, although the definition offered by Brophy and Smith related to housing developments captures key elements of the strategy and has been picked up by a number of researchers (for example, Joseph, Chaskin, and Webber, 2007). Brophy and Smith (1997: 5) defined mixed income as the "deliberate effort to construct and/or own a multifamily development that has the mixing of income groups as a fundamental part of its financial and operational plans." Other definitions encompass both developments and neighborhoods. The Mixed-Income Research Design Group uses the phrase to mean "all intentional efforts to generate socioeconomic diversity in a targeted geographic area" (Briggs et al., 2009: 10). Galster, Booza, and Cutsinger (2008) referred to the broad range of communities that are characterized by a diversity of household incomes as "income-diverse areas." Using two terms distinguishes low-poverty neighborhoods into which low-income families move, whether via a mobility program or independently, that are not the target of mixed-income efforts per se from developments designed as mixed-income housing. …

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