The UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School’s annual Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Awards recognize graduate students for contributions they are making to our state. The longstanding Impact Award recognizes discoveries with a direct impact on our state in the present time. Kirstin Frescoln, UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies researcher and City and Regional Planning doctoral candidate, was one of the Impact Award winners for her work examining the Charlotte Housing Authority’s work requirement policy.
The Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) is one of eight public housing authorities nationwide that enforces a work requirement for work-able residents. The CHA contracted with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies to conduct a 10-year evaluation of a series of reforms including the work requirement. Frescoln directed research, as a part of the study, to inform policymakers on why and how the work requirements have been implemented, and the policy’s effect on family well-being. Her work and that of the Center is believed to be the only empirical evaluation of public housing work requirements.
Frescoln’s findings indicate that Charlotte’s public housing work policy, which is implemented with case management and employment supports, largely fulfills the CHA’s goal of enhancing family economic mobility. A majority of residents she interviewed said they support the work requirement. Wage employment was found to increase while eviction rates did not, and family well-being was not found to decrease as a result of the policy. Frescoln interviewed housing authority staff from the eight U.S. housing authorities with work requirements, and CHA leadership, managers, front-line staff and residents subject to the work requirement. She interviewed residents subject to the Charlotte policy three times and shared her reports with interviewees to ensure accuracy and gain their perspective on additional questions she should ask.
Frescoln’s findings are critical to state and national policymakers who are considering the potential effectiveness of public housing work requirements and the needs of people living within these communities.
“There is very little research on the effects of work requirements on public housing residents who would lose their housing assistance if they do not work. Kirstin’s dissertation research has the potential to have wide-ranging implications for housing policy and practice in Charlotte and throughout the United States,” said adviser Mai Nguyen, Ph.D.
The Center for Urban & Regional Studies has released the Boulevard Homes Final Report: Changing Communities, Transforming Lives. Short for “Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere,” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI program funded the demolition and redevelopment of distressed public housing developments throughout the country. Between 1994 and 2010, over 250 public housing developments were redeveloped with support from the HOPE VI program. The Charlotte Housing Authority received a total of five HOPE VI grants during this time.
The most recent HOPE VI grant awarded to the CHA was for the razing and redevelopment of Boulevard Homes, which was physically obsolescent and plagued with crime. The newly constructed development—called the Renaissance—includes 274 apartments reserved for low-income families and 60 market rate units. The Renaissance also includes a K-8 public school (currently under construction) and an early childhood development center that is in the planning stages. The Renaissance West Community Initiative, a non-profit initially funded by the CHA, is coordinating the educational and social services being provided in the development.
Over the past five years, CURS has been evaluating this redevelopment project, with a particular focus on the experience of those who were relocated from the original development. The CHA provided residents with case managers and supportive services while the Renaissance was under construction. These case managers helped residents set self-sufficiency goals, and connected families with services like job training, educational opportunities, and health care assistance.
Building on our previous evaluation reports, this final report provides an overview of the Boulevard Homes redevelopment process and its outcomes. It describes and assesses the redevelopment process, including the design of the new development, the relocation of former residents, the attitudes of the former residents toward the relocation process and outcomes, the supportive services offered to relocatees, and the redevelopment’s impacts on the surrounding neighborhood and much more.
Some of the key findings are that:
- The CHA used the financial flexibility provided through the Moving to Work demonstration to shift over $14,000,000 into developing the Renaissance and additional off-site replacement housing. Additional CHA funding also allowed the authority to offer enhanced supportive services to the residents who were relocated from the original development.
- A majority of former Boulevard Homes residents relocated to privately-owned apartments using Housing Choice Vouchers rather than moving to other CHA public housing developments. A large majority of the relocated residents were very satisfied with the relocation process, and with their new housing and neighborhoods. This, to some extent, explains the relatively small number of original tenants who moved back to the redeveloped site.
- Over time, the intensity of case management services offered to residents decreased as the budget for those services became tight. The most commonly-accessed services for non-elderly residents were occupational training and childcare subsidies, while health care assistance was the most frequently used by for elderly households.
- The work efforts of the relocated residents substantially increased during the redevelopment process. According to data collected by case managers, the percent of non-elderly/disabled residents working rose from 33% in October 2010, close to the beginning of the project, to 67% in June 2015, close to the end of the project.
- While it is very early to assess the development’s impacts on the surrounding neighborhood, we note that the neighborhood surrounding the Renaissance has experienced a recent significant increase in home lending activity. In addition, CHA and developer staff believe that conditions are improving in the neighborhood, with a new police station and social service center slated to open nearby soon.
To read or download the full report, please click here.
CURS Director and Boshamer Distinguished Professor of City & Regional Planning Bill Rohe will participate in a #TalkHousing Twitter talk with other experts on the impacts of work requirements on employment and eviction among public housing residents. The talk will be hosted by How Housing Matters on Friday, January 15 from 1-2p.m. ET. To access the chat, follow the hashtag or check the @Housing360 timeline. Professor Rohe will be participating from CURS’ Twitter handle, @UNCCURS.
How Housing Matters is run by Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Housing and supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
Building on our report cataloging activities implemented by housing authorities participating in the Moving to Work demonstration (MTW), “Innovation in US public housing: a critique of the Moving to Work demonstration” summarizes both the policy context of Moving to Work and criticisms of the demonstration. It also sets an agenda for current debates about extending and expanding the program.
Enacted in 1996, MTW allows participating housing authorities two flexibilities. First, they may waive federal regulations, like how much to charge for rent. Second, they may combine various federal funding sources into a single, flexible fund. Currently, 39 housing authorities are participating in the program.