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THE DESTRUCTION OF AMERICAN HISTORIC HOUSING PROJECTS

Abstract
By : Paola Somma

 
In 1993, US Congress launched the Urban Revitalization Demonstration program, later to become known as HOPE VI, a national plan whose declared aim was to transform public housing stock into "bridges of opportunities". In the following decade, Hope VI has awarded grants to demolish public housing projects and replace them with "attractive developments that not only blend with but enhance the surrounding community while providing housing for families of all incomes" (HUD, 1999). In 1995, Congress repealed the one-for-one replacement requirement and de facto Hope VI was turned primarily into a demolition program. In 2003, the American Dream Downpayment Act re-authorised the Hope VI program throughout the fiscal year 2006. It now seems that the federal government has no intention to continue its financing. Despite the extensive debate on the program, a comprehensive analysis of the social, economic and political process underlying the transformation of all the specific sites and a systematic overview of the stories behind these projects, from the first decision to build to the decision to raze are not available. An atlas with a description of the sites, based on qualitative secondary sources (planning and architecture magazines, urban history and geographic history journals, local authorities reports), and three maps for each of them - before and after the public housing project and after Hope VI, could prove to be very useful. Such a tool would indeed provide the context for an interdisciplinary reflection of how the city affects and is affected by a multitude of variables with particular emphasis on the political controversies on location, and the role of different players - city council, public housing authorities, developers, community residents, unions, the media. At the end, city is "history condensed". Being impossible for a single researcher to complete such a body of work, this paper intends to make a contribution to the existing literature and focus on the projects built between 1933 and 1949, now demolished or in the way to be demolished in 58 cities, "thanks" to Hope VI (1).
Keywords : Hope VI, Public Housing, Gentrification, New Urbanism.

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