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The UNC Center for Community Capital (CCC) partnered with JPMorgan Chase & Co. for an in-depth investigation into the intersecting roles of housing and place in linking low- and moderate-income (LMI) families to opportunity in sites in San Francisco and New Orleans.

Assessing and Promoting Opportunity in Low- and Moderate-Income Communities, the result of an eighteenth-month long investigation, provides an overview of CCC’s assessment of opportunity in New Orleans and San Francisco. It offers findings and recommendations for each site. In addition, a pair of interactive Story Maps illuminate the research with maps, videos, graphs, interviews and photographs for the Potrero Terrace and Annex site in San Francisco and the Columbia Parc site in New Orleans.

Housing Indicator

In the report, opportunity is understood as “access to good-quality amenities, services, and institutions that might improve and enhance LMI families’ quality of life.” The goal of the study was to assess both the availability of opportunity within each community – i.e. the spatial distribution of resources – and to uncover what factors enable or inhibit people’s engagement with opportunities that are available to them. The assessment of opportunity looked at the relationship between housing and four specific domains of individual and community well-being: health and health care, economic stability, education, and social and community context.

For this investigation, CCC (an affiliate of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies) developed a mixed-methods opportunity assessment that took a twofold approach: first, the creation of a data-driven index of place-based opportunity; and second, the use of community-level research to identify the gap between perceived opportunity and actual, realized opportunity. The Area Opportunity Index (AOI) created for this study helps assess the spatial distribution within communities of critical quantitative indicators of well-being that reflect present and past access to opportunity. Findings from the 52 stakeholder and resident interviews conducted for this study help explain what enables or inhibits people’s full engagement with opportunities that are available to them.

Eddie from Potrero Terrace and Annex talks about resident involvement in new development process,
Eddie from Potrero Terrace and Annex talks about resident involvement in new development process,

The AOI used five component indicators:

  • Economic: median household income
  • Education: percent of adults ages 25 and older with some college or more
  • Health: percent of adults 18-64 with health insurance
  • Housing: percent of households spending 30% or more of income on housing
  • Social: index of economic concentration at the extremes

The choice of these domains was informed by a social determinants of health perspective, which views disparate health outcomes (including life expectancy) as stemming from “societal conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.”

CCC’s work in each city centered on a site that has either undergone or is in the process of undergoing conversion from public to mixed-income housing. The two sites – Columbia Parc in New Orleans and Potrero Terrace and Annex in San Francisco – are very different from one another, both in terms of their stages of development and in terms of the broader area in which they lie.

Columbia Parc (formerly the St. Bernard public housing development) is completely renovated, with a waiting list for each type of housing, while Potrero Terrace and Annex only broke ground in 2017, with no renovated housing yet available for its LMI residents. In terms of setting, Columbia Parc sits in the midst of a lower-income neighborhood, where 57% of households are classified as poor, while Potrero Terrace and Annex lies within a well-resourced and wealthy community, where 58% of households are affluent. These disparate settings help shed light on which aspects of access to opportunity are universal – i.e. seem to be present regardless of setting – and which are more a matter of local particularities.

Editor’s Note: NextCity featured the interactive Story Maps with an article New Maps Show Access to Opportunity Isn’t Just Physical on June 6, 2018.

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