Affordable Housing

3 little-known facts about public housing

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Public housing is woefully misunderstood. Public Housing Myths: Perception, Reality, and Social Policy, a recently released title out of Cornell University Press, takes on the idea that the program has been a failure, according to the nonprofit Web site, Next City, which featured some of the most common misconceptions addressed in the book:

1. High-rise design isn't to blame.

In the past, it's been argued that public housing's high-rises are too large, making them eyesores next to neighboring buildings, and leading to overpopulation and crime.  But an essay in the book argues that violence rises as a result of vacancies rather than from the size of these complexes. In NYC specifically, where there's hardly ever much vacancy, higher poverty rates are responsible for an increase in crime in the housing projects.

2. Family friendly housing — though well-intentioned — isn't always positive.

Teenage vandalism and petty crime are kept in check by adults, so there tend to be major problems in complexes with mostly family sized apartments, where children far outnumber adults. 

3. Public housing tenants don't hate the police.

From 1952 to 1995, the New York City Housing Authority had its own police department, where officers were more likely to be people of color, many of whom actually lived in public housing. 

And, according to the book, during the peak years of tenant activism, the ranks of the housing police grew by 60 percent. Several stories support the fact that stricter eviction policies and more officer enforcement are common demands among residents pf public housing.


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