Lesson 2 Mixed Income Housing

Lesson 2  Mixed Income Housing:  An examination of one of the most recent changes in public housing policy and urban redevelopment

"Mixed Hope" by Allen Hyde and Anamaria Santiago

A public housing development within the downtown business center of Birmingham, Alabama, was slated for redevelopment in 2000 as part of the federal HOPE VI initiative (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere).  In 1992, the HOPE VI program was introduced by HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to replace severely distressed public housing projects with newly-rehabilitated or newly-built housing designed to foster communities that are not concentrations of poverty and are integrated with the surrounding neighborhoods.

The central premise of HOPE VI, as opposed to previous public housing policy, is to create communities of mixed income residents as a means to alleviate cycles of poverty, crime, and joblessness.  HOPE VI adopted a new design standard as part of its policy, emphasizing the principles of New Urbanism as a key to the successful building of sustainable, more self-sufficient neighborhoods.  Instead of high-rise apartment buildings or other inexpensive building design, traditional neighborhood design principles were incorporated, including mixed housing types, mixed retail and residential buildings, parks, houses facing the street, sidewalks, and private entrances.  These design principles provide for a more aesthetically pleasing and less densely-inhabited community. The resulting structures are human-scale and promote walkability and connectivity.  The resulting trade-off for this more expensive, less densely-inhabited community for a mixed-income rental population is fewer overall housing units available to the lower income residents. Birmingham's HOPE VI initiative at Park Place shared these national goals, but also shared the concern over the trade-offs.  This specific example in Birmingham raises many of the same questions that have come up nationally surrounding HOPE VI: Has HOPE VI achieved its goals? What effect has HOPE VI had on the original residents, the neighborhoods, and the larger city?  Has HOPE VI changed attitudes towards public housing?  Has HOPE VI been able to manage and maintain the housing developments at a high standard?

Birmingham's Metrop olitan Gardens, a twelve-block public housing development that was known as one of the poorest and most dangerous zip codes in the area, was demolished in 2002 and rebuilt as Park Place in accordance with the HOPE VI principles. The 2006 film examines how well the new development lives up to its goals.


Mixed Hope by Allen Hyde and Anamaria Santiago from UAB Media Studies on Vimeo.

Discussion Questions


     • What is a HOPE VI housing development?

     • What is the difference between Park Place and Metropolitan Gardens?

     • What are some of the goals of the HOPE VI?

     • What are some of the criticisms?


  • Whom is HOPE VI designed to help? Public housing residents? Cities? Businesses?
  • What are benchmarks of success for a public housing development like Park Place?  Are those benchmarks defined differently by different constituents? Low income Park Place residents?  Market-rate Park Place residents? City leaders? Non profit organizations?
  • Several residents interviewed moved from Metropolitan Gardens to the new Park Place.  How do they compare the two housing developments?
  • What effect has HOPE VI had on the original residents, the neighborhoods, and the larger city?
  • Has HOPE VI been able to manage and maintain the housing developments at a high standard?  How does the execution of the policies affect the long-term impact and outcome of HOPE VI?

Other Resources


HOPE VI  www.huduser.org

New Urbanism  www.newurbanism.org

Traditional Neighborhood Design  www.tndhomes.com

Mixed Income Housing  www.uli.org


Popkin, Susan J., Bruce Katz, Mary K Cunningham, Karen D. Brown, Jeremy Gustafson, and Margery Turner. "A Decade of HOPE VI: Research Findings and Policy Challenges" Symposium report prepared by The Urban Institute and The Brookings Institution, The Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., May 2004. Online <.PDF>. http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411002_HOPEVI.pdf


Fullilove, Mindy Thompson. Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do about It. New York: Ballantine Books, 2005

McKay, Robert and Ruth Anne White. t;em> Hope VI: Assisting Public Housing Authorities in Supporting Families.  Arlington, VA: CWLA Press, 2002.

Vale, Lawrence J.  Reclaiming Public Housing: A Half-Century of Struggle in Three Public Neighborhoods.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

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