A major policy focus over the past two decades has been support for housing policies designed to deconcentrate poverty, remake public housing, and promote the development of mixed-income communities in place of the most deteriorated and problematic public housing developments. Part of the argument for these policies concerns the promise of inclusion and the benefits that should accrue to lowincome, relocated public housing residents by integrating them into safe, well-functioning, and better connected neighborhoods. This brief focuses on one aspect of inclusion: low-income residents’ participation in the deliberative and decision-making processes that shape the nature of community life in mixed-income developments (for example, with regard to design, amenities, eligibility requirements, service provision, resource allocation, norms of behavior, and rules).
Through interviews with residents and professional stakeholders at three mixed-income developments that are part of Chicago’s Plan for Transformation—Oakwood Shores, Park Boulevard, and Westhaven Park—we find that a fundamental tension exists between two orientations to organizing opportunities for low-income resident participation. The dominant orientation privileges “mainstreaming” these residents into associations and structures where all members of the community are invited to participate. An alternative orientation focuses on providing avenues that allow for a specific focus on the needs of relocated public housing and other low-income residents. In this brief, we provide an overview of the mechanisms for participation in these communities, explore how key stakeholders view participation, and examine how the organization of opportunities and emerging patterns of participation shape dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in mixed-income contexts.
This brief is based on a longer paper, Participation, Deliberation, and Decision Making: The Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion in Mixed-Income Developments (Chaskin, Khare, and Joseph, 2012, Urban Affairs Review, 48(6): 863-906).