Academic journal article Cityscape

"It Was Really Hard. ... It Was Alright. ... It Was Easy." Public Housing Relocation Experiences and Destination Satisfaction in Atlanta

Academic journal article Cityscape

"It Was Really Hard. ... It Was Alright. ... It Was Easy." Public Housing Relocation Experiences and Destination Satisfaction in Atlanta

Article excerpt


This article uses data from an Atlanta-based longitudinal study following public hous- ing from pending relocation through relocating between 2009 and 2010. Its purpose is to examine residents' satisfaction with the relocation experience and with their postmove home and neighborhood. In addition, we examine whether levels of relocation satisfaction or dissatisfaction were associated with any significant differences in destination neighborhood characteristics. We build on previous research concerning prerelocation attachment to community and the hard-to-house. Findings suggest some consistency with previous research on levels of attachment to public housing communities and residents who fall into the category of the hard-to-house. Specifically, bang older, having a disability, having longer tenure in public housing, and experiencing postrelocation financial strain are significantly associated with lower levels of satisfaction with the relocation process. Our findings, however, are far more mixed concerning the relationship between levels of satisfaction with the relocation process and destination neighborhood characteristics and pose some questions about poverty deconcentration and mixed-income assumptions. Policy implications are discussed.


In 1936, Atlanta became one of the first cities in the nation to provide low-income, project-based public housing to needy families; in the early 1990s, the city became one of the first to take advantage of Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE VI), which, coupled with the massive redevelopment for the city's hosting of the 1996 Summer Olympics, resulted in national recognition for rethinking public housing. By 2011, Atlanta had become the first city in the country to eliminate all its traditional project-based public housing; it also eliminated five Section 202 highrises for seniors.1 The final elimination of project-based public housing in Atlanta began in early 2007, when the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) announced plans to demolish the remaining 10 family public housing communities and two highrises for seniors. This last round of demolitions was not done under HOPE VI; rather, it was completed under Section 18 of the 1937 Housing Act, which, unlike HOPE VI, requires no immediate replacement of any units. About 10,000 former public housing residents have been relocated since 2007, bringing the grand total since 1994 to 50,000 residents (Oakley, Ruel, and Reid, 2013). For the last round of demolitions, the only relocation option residents were given was to move to private rental-market housing with a voucher through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8). Despite this massive public housing transformation effort, now known as the Atlanta Model, only 7 of the more than 30 traditional public housing communities eliminated were awarded HOPE VI funds for redevelopment (Farmer, 2012). Thus, relocation to voucher-subsidized, private-market housing with neither the option to return to the re developments nor to move to other public housing is one hallmark of the Atlanta Model, and many other cities are following suit (Ruel et al., 2012).

Although a substantial body of research concerns public housing residents' postrelocation outcomes in terms of a variety of quality of life measures and the condition of the home and destination neighborhood, relatively little research has focused on how satisfied (or unsatisfied) the residents were with the relocation process. Research also has not examined whether the relocation process affected residents' postrelocation satisfaction and destination outcomes.

These issues are important for several reasons. First, as Goetz (2010) found, premove orientation toward the prospect of relocation played a role in subsequent postrelocation experiences and perceptions. In other words, residents who were more attached to their public housing communities were less likely to be satisfied with their relocated homes. …

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