In the United States, low-income housing subsides are traditionally assumed to be a welfare program of income redistribution in favor of the poor, part of the social safety net designed to correct the apparent failure of the private housing market by providing decent housing at prices the poor can afford. It is moreover assumed that the long-term goal of low-income housing programs is to expand the housing opportunities of the poor.
In this study, we argue instead that despite formal claims of providing decent, safe, and sanitary housing for the poor, federal low-income housing programs have actually been used as instruments of urban renewal while accomplishing little to realize their formal goals. Born in the economic depression of the 1930s, low-income housing in the United States has been used to solve urban problems not directly related to the housing needs of the poor. And to the extent that low- and moderate-income families have received any housing assistance from the federal government, the benefits realized have been significantly depreciated by racial and income-based segregation in these programs. Although the levels have diminished since the civil rights movements of the 1960s, there still is significant segregation of subsidized housing tenants, both by race within and among housing projects and of the projects themselves from moderate- and high-income residential neighborhoods.
Following the introduction, beginning around 1960, of new forms of housing subsidy, such as those targeted to the elderly, public housing has increas