Boston Residents Fight Fed Improvement Program
Listen to Cheryl Corley's report.
"HUD acknowledges, even in its own documents, that a number of public housing properties labeled 'distressed' under HOPE VI are located in prime real estate markets that weren't deemed prime at the time the public housing properties were built."
"I'd say most of the people I've talked to -- most of the residents involved, most of the managers -- said yes, that housing deserved to be demolished."
But as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Boston, some residents of existing public housing think the program is being used to force them from now-desirable waterfront real estate. And housing rights advocates say the program is creating housing shortages for those who can least afford it.
To the residents of the Clippership housing development, just half a block from Boston Harbor, the phrase "severely distressed" shouldn't be used to describe their homes. But the Boston Housing Authority is planning to tear down the Clippership and Maverick Gardens -- a more troubled, larger development across the street -- because the buildings are, in their view, "severely distressed."
In its place, the city promises to create new public housing blocks. The massive development plan also calls for renovated piers, upgraded parks -- and hundreds of new luxury apartments on the waterfront. Looking out her daughter's bedroom window, Clippership resident Kathy D'Alessandro tells Corley that the real reason the city wants to redevelop is because her house sits on what's now considered prime land.
"Oh look at the view," says D'Alessandro, who's lived at Clippership for 26 years. "And that's what it's all about -- that view. Because you want to build in front of me." D'Alessandro and her neighbors have banded together to fight against the plan, saying they like their homes just the way they are.
DuShaw Hockett of the Washington, D.C.-based public housing advocacy group Center for Community Change, says the Department of Housing and Urban Development's definition of "severely distressed" has been abused. "HUD acknowledges, even in its own documents, that a number of public housing properties labeled 'distressed' under HOPE VI are located in prime real estate markets that weren't deemed prime at the time the public housing properties were built."
HUD Assistant Secretary Michael Liu says housing authorities have little control over whether neighborhoods change. The focus, he says, is on demolishing the worst of public housing. "I'd say most of the people I've talked to -- most of the residents involved, most of the managers -- said yes, that housing deserved to be demolished," he tells Corley.
Some residents of neighborhoods already revamped under HOPE VI say the program has made a real difference in their lives. Daniel -- he wouldn't give his last name -- grew up in the Mission Main housing project in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. He and his mother moved back to the area after the new homes were built. "Now that I've stepped away, and then came back and I see the whole picture -- it's much better, much better," he says.
Still, the Clippership residents vow to fight the HOPE VI redevelopment plan. "The Clippership residents say since most people fight to get out of public housing," Corley says. "Their battle to stay in should be evidence enough that they have the type of community that HOPE VI is designed to provide."
Center for Community Change
Boston Housing Authority
Housing and Urban Development