Academic journal article Cityscape

Public Housing Transformation and Crime: Are Relocatees More Likely to Be Offenders or Victims?

Academic journal article Cityscape

Public Housing Transformation and Crime: Are Relocatees More Likely to Be Offenders or Victims?

Article excerpt


Our previous research about the effect of public housing transformation on crime patterns in the neighborhoods receiving households that moved with vouchers from public housing was based on modeling the relationships among the measurable factors in all neighborhoods. Our model indicated an increase in crime rates is associated with relocated voucher holders under certain conditions, but this finding does not give us any information about the nature of the effect. Critics of relocation are concerned that offenders are moving into the neighborhoods using vouchers, but voucher holders may also be more likely to be victims in their new neighborhoods. Developing sound policy on the basis of our research clearly requires a better understanding of why crime and relocation appear to be connected. This project conducted an intensive case study of crime in a few census tracts in a single year to find out if, in those neighborhoods, voucher holders relocated from public housing have a specific connection to arrests or incident reports and, if so, whether we can draw any conclusions about how relocatees affect crime.

We found that, although definitively linking crime data to specific households is challenging and could not be accomplished with complete confidence, Chicago Housing Authority voucher relocatees in our selected tracts were more likely to be linked to both arrests and incidents of violent and property crimes than the population in general. That is, although the strength of the connection varied from tract to tract, people associated with relocated households were more likely to be both a victim and an alleged perpetrator than the general population. This effect was more pronounced for violent crime than property crime. We also found that older voucher holders were more likely to be victims of crime than the general population, whereas juveniles and young adults were more likely to be alleged perpetrators. These findings support the conclusions of our earlier study, further emphasize the need for greater services and supports for relocated households, and can help inform policy directed at breaking the association between these households and neighborhood crime rates.


During the past two decades, housing assistance in the United States has undergone a profound transformation. The overarching goal behind this effort was to mitigate the economic segregation that had emerged from a long history of building public housing in racially and economically segregated areas. To do so, the federal government sought to promote strategies that would help lowincome families move to areas that could provide greater social and economic opportunity (Turner, Popkin, and Rawlings, 2009). Under the $6 billion HOPE VI program, hundreds of distressed inner-city public housing developments were demolished. These units were either replaced with new mixed-income developments or "vouchered out," a process whereby units previously available through public housing are replaced by those available with housing choice (Section 8) vouchers. As a result, tenant-based vouchers are now the most common subsidized housing delivery system in the country, with more than 2.1 million vouchers in use in 2009, a 100-percent increase since the mid-1980s (JCHS, 2011).

Much research has documented the negative consequences of concentrated poverty and disadvantage, including poor physical and mental health, exposure to crime and violence, lack of access to quality schools and public services, high rates of disconnection from the labor market, and dependence on public assistance (Galster, 2002; Hsieh and Pugh, 1993; Krivo and Peterson, 1996; Sampson, 2011; Turner, Popkin, and Rawlings, 2009). The costs for children are profound; children who grow up in segregated, high-poverty areas are at great risk for poor outcomes including low academic achievement, poor health, and involvement in risky behavior and delinquency (Case and Katz 1991; Krivo and Peterson 1996; Popkin, Leventhal, and Weissman, 2010). …

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