Lawrence Vale: Does Public Housing Redevelopment Purge the Poorest?
Thursday, October 10th
Location: 112 Wurster Hall
Lecture: 5:30 - 7 PM
Since the early 1990s, hundreds of American public housing projects have been redeveloped into mixed-income communities, mostly under the auspices of the federal HOPE VI program. The stated intent has been to reduce “concentrated poverty” and to encourage renewed neighborhood investment. Yet much of HOPE VI has operated in gentrifying neighborhoods, leading to charges that the program has facilitated a land grab by private developers. In many instances--including projects in Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans--this has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of extremely low-income households being accommodated in well-located neighborhoods that now attract increased market interest. The result has been a kind of purging of the poorest that paralleled what happened during the mid 20th-century when public housing was first built to replace urban ‘slums’. Now, though, it is public housing itself that is seen as the ‘slum’ that needed to be removed. In other HOPE VI cases such as San Francisco, Boston, and Tucson, however, city leaders have worked with not-for-profit organizations, residents, and others to redevelop public housing more equitably. This presentation, drawing upon a new book, After the Projects (2019), examines the divergent constellations of governance that help explain how and why the same federal program has had such divergent outcomes.
Lawrence Vale is Associate Dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, and Ford Professor of Urban Design and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, which he headed from 2002-2009. He was president of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History from 2011-2013. Vale holds degrees from Amherst College, M.I.T., and the University of Oxford. A Rhodes Scholar and Guggenheim fellow, Vale is the author or editor of ten books examining urban design, housing, and planning, including Purging the Poorest (2015 Best Book in Urban Affairs, Urban Affairs Association; 2014 Best Book on United States Planning History, International Planning History Society); Architecture, Power, and National Identity (1994 Spiro Kostof Book Award, Society of Architectural Historians); From the Puritans to the Projects (2001 Best Book in Urban Affairs, Urban Affairs Association); Reclaiming Public Housing (2005 Paul Davidoff Book Award, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning); and Planning Ideas That Matter (2014 Best Edited Book, International Planning History Society). Other work includes co-edited books about disaster recovery (The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster), housing (Public Housing Myths) and urban design (Imaging the City). At MIT, Vale has won the Institute’s highest awards for teaching and for graduate student advising as well as departmental awards for advising and service to students. His newest book is a fourth volume about public housing--After the Projects: Public Housing Redevelopment and the Governance of the Poorest Americans, published by Oxford University Press in 2019.