HOPE VI in San Francisco

A progress report

Urbanist Article

The decline of the inner cities from the 1970s to early 1990s precipitated the descent of public housing into physical decrepitude and social chaos. But a dramatically successful federal grants program begun in 1992 has reshaped the way that America's public housing is conceived, designed, built, and managed.

Initiated by Henry Cisneros, former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Hope VI program has invested $5.8 billion via 446 grants in 166 cities. Grants of up to $50 million allowed local housing authorities to demolish and rebuild their most severely deteriorated urban public housing. San Francisco applied for and received five Hope VI grants, one per year, from 1994 to 1999. The city won $118 million in Hope VI funds, and used those to leverage an additional $152 million from multiple sources, including tax-credit financing, state and local grants, and state and local bonds. Four Hope VI projects have been built in neighborhoods across the city: North Beach, the Western Addition, Hayes Valley, and Bernal Heights. The fifth and perhaps final project, Valencia Gardens in the Mission District, has seen its old buildings demolished and construction has just begun.

From its inception, Hope VI intended to fundamentally change America's public housing. While its effects are still unfolding-in some places, construction has recently finished or is still underway-the program aimed for not merely a physical makeover, but to have a social impact on the lives of its residents and the economic and social fabric of the neighborhoods they live in. For thousands of public housing residents and managers, urban planners, financing institutions, and developers, the question remains: will Hope VI reap what it originally promised- San Francisco, with five projects, may provide some of the answers.

Reconceiving Urban Public Housing

Cisneros launched Hope VI at a dire moment. Maintenance budgets were so low that the number of "severely distressed" units--HUD's term for uninhabitable--had risen to an estimated 86,000, or six percent of the nation's 1.3 million publicly held units. In 1996, San Francisco architect Dan Solomon watched Cisneros sign the Charter of the New Urbanism, a document that decried the intertwined trends of urban sprawl and racial and economic segregation, and he later participated in the early meetings in which the Secretary and other leaders floated the ideas of "urbanist" design before an audience of local housing authority directors. In his office recently, Solomon remembered the tense and hostile atmosphere at a Harvard conference with four hundred housing officials. "This was a group of people under duress, and they objected to changes in public housing design on several grounds: that housing should be temporary and not lavish, that it would cost more money for fewer units, and that this would mean the gentrification of the safety net, the loss of housing for the very poor."1

Was the design of the worst public housing truly at fault for the social problems that developed there? Some experts disagree. The ideals of Modernist architecture clearly played a role in the isolated, high-rise towers that became the bane of so many cities, but factors much broader than architectural currents led to the failure of large-scale public housing.

The Rise of Public Housing

Construction of public housing in America never amounted to a full scale national effort. Instead, individual projects--albeit federally funded--slowly accumulated into a national public housing stock. In each case, a specific need drove the housing's design. Responding to dramatic Bay Area population increases because of spikes in war industry jobs, for example, in 1917-1918 the federal government built 6,000 single family homes and 7,000 apartment units in 23 cities, including Oakland, Richmond, and San Francisco, for workers and their families. During the Depression, federal funds supplied loans for slum clearance, new low-cost housing, and subsistence homesteads. Soldiers returning from World War II lived in single bedroom, barracks-style buildings intended for short stays while they transitioned back to civilian life. Urban industrial unions won federal grants to build housing for their members, and used a courtyard-facing apartment building design and limited equity ownership mechanisms to encourage sociability and political interaction.2

From the start, policymakers fiercely debated the financing of public housing. Should the federal government build projects itself, or should it utilize tools like low interest homeownership loans to help people enter the privately built market? In the 1930s, housing advocate Catherine Bauer decided that, left to themselves, private housing developers would naturally build for the upper third, leaving the bottom two-thirds with fewer affordable housing choices. She advocated government intervention to encourage products--pre-fabricated homes, or low-interest home loans--that would serve the middle class, and permanent federal responsibility--design, construction, and management--for housing for the poor.

The federal government shied away from such large scale intervention, however, and by the mid-1950s, capital budgets shrank as public housing grew less popular. Katharine Bristol, an affordable housing historian, found that at St. Louis's infamous Pruitt-Igoe project, which was completed in 1956 and demolished in 1972, the architects took pains to make the high-rise buildings as livable as possible, but were faced at every turn with a public housing authority bent on reducing costs. The original design incorporated several types of structures, from low- to high-rise, but that proposal exceeded the per-unit budget allocated by the federal government, and so the housing authority intervened:

"A field officer of the federal Public Housing Administration (PHA)-insisted on a scheme using 33 identical eleven-story elevator buildings. These design changes took place in the context of a strict economy and efficiency drive within the PHA. Political opposition to the public housing program was particularly intense in the conservative political climate of the early 1950s. In addition, the outbreak of the Korean war had created inflation and materials shortages, and the PHA found itself in the position of having to justify public housing expenditures to an unsympathetic Congress."3

Pruitt Igoe's height, density, and interior design, which within a few years had become the symbol of public housing's failure, embodied less a Modernist ideal than a typical budget compromise.

Everyday practices of racial segregation further affected the location and design of public housing. Projects were built for whites and blacks separately-in some cases, projects built on land from which black neighborhoods had been cleared were open to whites only. (Public housing was only fully desegregated after the 1965 Civil Rights Act.) Further, in deciding where to locate public housing, planners and housing officials thought as carefully about containing low-income areas and making central city land available for commercial development as about providing housing for a needy population. While clearing neighborhoods under the rubric of urban renewal, city planners had an incentive to contain public housing's footprint, reserving land for profitable redevelopment.

Still, Modernism undeniably impacted public housing's design, particularly where large parcels of land purged of any other activity became available. As is well-documented, the Modernists had in mind some of the same ideals of urban life that planners share today. In a 1940 pamphlet entitled A Citizen's Guide to Public Housing, Bauer laid out a model of government-assisted design:

"...[W]ith houses and gardens in compact groups, laid out not on a rigorous checker board of uniform subdivided lots but with loving care for topography, sun, prevailing breezes, outlook and neighborhood amenity, there can be playgrounds for different age-groups and parks and perhaps even a community center, instead of dead chasms between houses and acres of unnecessary pavement in streets, sidewalks and alleys. The whole neighborhood may be just one super-block, which means complete play safety for the children and clean, quiet green surroundings and outlook for all the houses. For access to the houses there may be small dead-end streets. Garages and parking spaces are conveniently located at the nearby street-front. The house itself, shallow and never more than two rooms deep, has sun in every room and far more real privacy than an 'individual' house on a narrow lot."4

Planners assess elements like the impenetrable super-block and bluntly designed plazas of grass and concrete as anti-urban today, but it is easy to forget that Modernist design in part attempted to provide every resident with access to light and air, and to concentrate dwelling units in one building in order to free up more land for green and open space.

The Maintenance Crisis

At the heart of public housing's failure lay something more banal. In the basic financing scheme established in housing legislation of 1937 and 1949, the federal government pledged capital support, and mandated that funds for maintaining the units be drawn from the rent that families paid to local housing authorities. (A similar aversion to maintenance and operations exists today in federal funds for public transit.) This scheme appeared to make policy sense--the feds build, while the locals control-but only if tenants could afford to pay sufficient amounts of rent. Rules required residents to pay 30 percent of their gross salary, which on a minimum wage was hardly enough to pay plumbers, electricians, and other skilled workers needed to keep the elevators running, the windows repaired, locks in working order, and graffiti off the walls. Families living entirely on public assistance paid little or nothing in rent. "This strategy...proved less and less appropriate during the course of the 1950s and 1960s," Robert Fishman, a professor of architecture and urban planning at the University of Michigan, wrote. "Increasingly, public housing tenants were stranded in the low-wage, intermittent-employment, or welfare sectors of the economy."5

The stranding of the poor in decrepit buildings had more to do with socioeconomic trends than the control of any one agency. America's urban manufacturing base began to decline as far back as the 1970s, and with it the promise of jobs for blue-collar workers. Of the many consequences that rippled outward from this trend, the separation of black men from the economy, the broader community, and, ultimately, from the family was one of the deepest and harshest. Public housing came to be occupied by the group facing the greatest economic disadvantages--unmarried, African American mothers with children. And if its residents couldn't pay the rent, then public housing couldn't fix the plumbing.

By 1971, architect and urban planner Oscar Newman had begun to catalogue the ways in which design affected different people's daily lives in public housing. Even if the elevators functioned and the windows could open, poor design often prevented people from establishing "perceived zones of territorial influence"--areas of public space with residents close by and ostensibly responsible for monitoring them-or left them with few "surveillance opportunities," and so sharpened the stigma and isolation in which they existed. In fact, Newman cites several features of San Francisco's former North Beach Place (built in 1953) for its defensible-space arrangements: arranged in a horseshoe pattern, the three-story apartment buildings had windows facing each other over an internal playground, and ground-floor units that--unusually--opened directly onto the street.6

People "might have adapted to these design problems; indeed, they might have discovered ways to make even the high-rises work socially," Fishman pointed out. "But public-housing tenants could not adapt to an environment of constant breakdown caused by the inability of the typical housing authority to budget even the most minimal standards of maintenance raised from rents these tenants."7

The Beginning of Hope VI

The financial crisis within HUD, interlaced with the social crises occurring in inner-city neighborhoods in the 1970s and 1980s, had ever-worsening consequences. A system of triage maintenance set in, and when tenants vacated units or the level of disrepair sank low enough, it became easier for housing authorities to leave the units vacant. Indeed, by the early 1990s, barely two-thirds of the most severely distressed public housing was occupied.

The introduction of the Hope VI program into this environment was not initially welcome. "They thought that working with design was too lavish," Dan Solomon said. "They still had the idea that the housing is supposed to be temporary, but mostly, they just didn't have time to deal with design."

Using the results of the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing, which recommended physical reconstruction and tenant support services, and was bolstered by support in 1993 from Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Christopher Bond (R-MO), Cisneros's program went much further. Hope VI aimed not merely at physical reconstruction, but set out a multi-pronged agenda of utilizing New Urbanist design principles, deconcentrating poverty, raising occupancy standards for tenants, and restructuring the management of public housing.


Begun in 1993, the Chicago-based nonprofit Congress for the New Urbanism began arguing for a return to the traditional, pre-suburban patterns of designing neighborhoods and downtowns, but influenced only a tiny percentage of the development market. The design guidelines written for Hope VI brought the basic street grid back into use, advocated a housing stock that varied in size, price, and style, and called for a thoughtful blending of public orientation and semiprivate spaces for individual residences. Far from being shelved and ignored, the principles appear to have influenced every Hope VI project built in the past decade. In an interim assessment, HUD found four design concepts common to every site: the properties were connected to the surrounding area by street grids and sidewalks, there were private entrances that faced the street and enhanced safety, there were improved exteriors, and in general, density had been reduced.8

Despite the initial resistance by housing-authority managers that Cisneros and the New Urbanists encountered, it would be difficult to find anyone ready to argue today that the projects rebuilt under Hope VI are anything less than a major improvement over their predecessors. One aspect of the program's design freedom, however, is a source of ongoing controversy: the abandonment of the one-for-one replacement rule (when the new project does not have to have the same number of units as the old), and the attendant reduction in density and net loss of public housing units.

Prior to Hope VI, demolish-and-rebuild programs that required one-for-one replacement of all the project's units had failed. Resource-poor local housing authorities declined reconstruction funds because they could not finance construction or maintenance of the same number of units. Hope VI repealed the requirement in order to broaden the options of housing authorities to design and finance projects suited to their own needs and assets.

The Urban Institute, a social policy research nonprofit, reported that without the one-for-one replacement rule, many projects rebuilt through the program lost units. Further, the number of housing units that receive a permanent "deep" federal subsidy, and thus are available to families living at or below the poverty line, has been cut nearly in half.9

Combined with erratic relocation and tracking programs and rates of return typically as low as 50 percent, the overall loss of units has many housing experts worried. As the Urban Institute wrote, "questions persist about whether the total number of deeply subsidized replacement units compensates fully for the loss of public housing units under Hope VI."10

Public Housing Finance and Management

Despite the historical impulses that kept management of public housing local, by 1990 the program had grown into one in which federal rules and regulations entirely governed local administration. While the rules ensured equal access and fairness to tenants, they also prevented any local housing authority from innovative or entrepreneurial management of its assets. In contrast, Hope VI deregulated one branch of public housing: grant recipients were encouraged to build partnerships with private for-profit and non-profit developers, to find subcontractors to manage rebuilt projects, and generally engage in more market-directed activity, such as finding business tenants for retail and commercial space within a mixed-use project.

As local housing authorities began to develop their Hope VI programs, the program's philosophy took shape in the guidelines set for who might live in the rebuilt units. As it happened, the program's rollout coincided with the "Personal Responsibility Act" welfare-reform legislation enacted in 1994, which tightened eligibility rules for public housing and a number of federal-assistance programs. Lawsuits and community organizing efforts won the original residents the right to return in most cities, but critics point out that demolition and building schedules of as long as six years contributed to many families' decisions not to return. In the worst instances, shoddy recordkeeping meant that local authorities simply lost track of families they once housed. "The evidence from several studies indicates that housing authorities generally failed to plan adequately for relocation or to provide sufficient support to residents during the process," noted the Urban Institute. "As a result, many original residents now live in other troubled public housing developments-in some cases, as bad as or worse than those they left."11

In the early 1990s, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) managed the "largest gallery-style high-rise public housing portfolio" in the country, according to Director of Development Carl Byrd. Its physical condition had reached such a deteriorated state that it had begun to empty the buildings and give families vouchers to find housing elsewhere. Demolition and rebuilding only began once CHA obtained the first of its eight Hope VI grants, plus an additional $1.65 billion pledge from HUD to support the authority's ten-year "Plan for Transformation." CHA then launched one of the most ambitious public-housing-reconstruction efforts in the country. Under a contract negotiated with residents of the high-rises, residents who remained compliant with their leases from 1999 through the opening of refurbished buildings had a right to return to one of CHA's 25,000 units. And there was more: along with not violating its rules, these new residents faced assessments of their credit history, criminal background, drug history, employment and economic self-sufficiency record, and housekeeping habits. Once in the unit, residents were expected to perform annual community service.

It is difficult to overstate the degree to which such changes sought to turn the ship of public housing. "The first grants were large-up to fifty million dollars," said Mirian Saez, executive director of the Chester, Pennsylvania Public Housing Authority, which manages housing authorities in receivership for legal and financial troubles and has brought several Hope VI projects to fruition. "This was unusual, because many of the authorities were struggling themselves. In some cases it took them years just to build up the capacity to be able to undertake the redevelopment."

Deconcentrating Poverty

By being located almost exclusively in low-income neighborhoods, public housing was linked with the worst examples of urban poverty in the public mind--and after decades of decline, it scarcely mattered whether the projects were a cause or a symptom. "[L]ittle argument exists about the results of this extreme concentration of poverty," wrote Edward Goetz of the University of Minnesota, in his 2003 book Clearing the Way: Deconcentrating the Poor in Urban America, which examines poverty deconcentration policies and programs. "It produces a range of social problems whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. [S]chool delinquency, school dropout, teenage pregnancy, out-of-wedlock childbirth, violent crime, and drug abuse rates are all greater in these communities than would be predicted by a linear extrapolation of poverty effects."12

The most recent generation of response emerged in the 1990s, when a movement of social scientists, urban planners, housing specialists, and mayors and city councilmembers began to pursue strategies to deconcentrate the poverty in America's cities. Hope VI's collection of ideas-design for neighborhood integration, density reduction, eligibility standards, management freedoms, and crime reduction-embody several current theories about deconcentrating poverty. First, just as design had imprisoned or isolated in the past, now it could integrate and uplift. Second, the integration of the welfare-dependent with the employed exposes young people and children to aspirations they might otherwise miss. And third, the benefits of capitalism might work in small and large ways to raise expectations not only of residents but of the public institution that governs their lives.

In effect, Hope VI granted cities a fundamentally different tool-one that is operating largely unknown to many Americans, and through which cities are pursuing goals that Americans, left to themselves, do not typically set out to achieve when buying a home. Instead of segregating by class, people with vastly different economic characteristics have become neighbors in the same building. This works in part because the fortunes of cities have changed, drawing younger professionals back to an urban life, and in part because public housing authorities can exercise full control in choosing who can live in their units. Instead of segregating by class, the neighborhoods where Hope VI projects are located may be growing more economically and ethnically diverse than they have ever been. In Chicago, Henry Horner Homes, formerly seven high-rise buildings, has been recently rebuilt by CHA into 764 units of three-story walk-ups and town-homes. In six-unit buildings in this project, CHA houses two welfare-dependent families, two households whose earnings place them at 80 percent of Chicago's median, and two who rent at going market rates. CHA will maintain these ratios as tenants change, but the units are interchangeable-the finishes, size, layout, and amenities are the same in each, no matter who rents it.

San Francisco's Projects

From October through December 2004, 229 families moved into the newly opened apartments at North Beach Place. Through early 2005 the residents will be joined by another 112 families who qualify for tax-credit-funded affordable housing. A Trader Joe's grocery store is now open on one ground-floor corner. Tourists wait for the cable car on Taylor Street, where a pedestrian walkway connects the car's turnaround point to Bay Street and Fisherman's Wharf.

North Beach Place is San Francisco's fourth Hope VI site. The San Francisco Housing Authority completed the project in partnership with Bridge Housing and the John Stewart Company, which now manages the housing.

I walked around the project recently with Rosemary Dudley, an urban planner and designer who studied early Hope VI projects in Boston. "Early on, the guidelines set for the program seemed to result often in overly cute, peppy projects," Dudley said. "It seemed that projects were saying, 'Hey, don't I look neighborly?' but they didn't have any connection to the actual place where the project was rooted."

The completed North Beach Place is obviously a new building, but other than lack of wear it shows no signs of what was once a highly stigmatized place to call home. Along Francisco Street, mature street trees stand next to the four-story building. We found small stoops leading to front doors, and while blinds on the first floor were closed for privacy, plants, doormats, and house slippers had already collected outside some front doors. Dudley pointed out the basic elements that make the building pleasant to walk alongside: the low fences and stoops, modest but unmistakable signs of transition from the public to the private realm; a pattern to the recessed and outcropping portions of the building's face to the street; the fact that it stood taller and complemented the surrounding buildings. While a portion of the units open directly onto the public streets, most of the front doors open into the private open space within the project, accessible only to residents through gates to the streets--a common feature of Hope VI projects. Within the development, residents can look out their windows at the landscaped park, where a sidewalk loops past built-in chessboards and playgrounds.

The project does not perform quite as well along Bay Street: perhaps the heavy traffic there convinced the designers to adopt a protectionist stance. Along the sidewalk, one can peer through smoked glass into what might be community rooms, but that seem more like an afterthought. A lone mature tree marks the gate on that side; only a few more had been planted during construction, it appears. The cable car turnaround and the Trader Joe's offer two orientation points, but the building does not draw the eye or walk the body along.

The housing for senior citizens along Columbus Street is one of North Beach Place's most interesting features. Painted bright yellow, it has lattice details that mirror an unattractive office building across the street, but in a surprisingly appealing way. In contrast to the individual front doors of the family housing, the seniors here use a common entrance, which appears to grant them a measure of security and privacy. I noticed a lobby through the front window where people might sit to watch passersby.

It's hard to argue with a program that knocks down dilapidated public housing and builds modern buildings in their stead. Indeed, in researching this article it was difficult to find any resident of the new housing, or planner, developer, architect, or elected official who didn't express unqualified support for the program, simply by comparing new projects to their predecessors. But as the experiment of Hope VI got underway, the impact of relocating people from their homes and neighborhoods was deeply felt, which for some echoed back to the displacement ordered by the urban renewal programs four decades earlier. Added to this was the uncertainty of who would be allowed to return, and how many units would be available.

Relocation itself turned out to be an experiment in economic integration, for residents were given vouchers that they could use in any urban or suburban market in the region. In one study reported by the Urban Institute, rates of return varied considerably, and in general fell below 50 percent. But while some residents who wished to return were unable to because of the heightened eligibility standards and the reduction in units, the low rate of return does not signify broad dissatisfaction with the program: another study showed that families used their housing vouchers to move into better neighborhoods, and as many as 40 percent had managed to move into more-affluent areas.

According to James Tracy, training institute coordinator at San Francisco's Community Housing Partnership, only by organizing did North Beach residents win a guarantee from the San Francisco Housing Authority and Bridge Housing that all of the units would be replaced. In fact, North Beach Place actually added units, from 229 units in the original project to 341 units today. (At Plaza East in the Western Addition, 276 high-rise units were replaced by 193 townhouses and flats; Hayes Valley saw 294 units demolished and 193 rebuilt; Bernal Dwellings replaced 208 units with 160.) "The success of Hope VI depends on your standard," Tracy said. "For the housing authority and developer, once a new building is up, that defines success. But from a standpoint of community preservation, losing units in the San Francisco housing market is not a successful project."

San Francisco's political commitment to affordable housing meant that Hope VI developers would not attempt the same range of economic integration as Chicago has. Instead, the projects have been repopulated with families living at or below area median income levels. This move also reflects the reality of steadily dropping subsidies for very-low-income families: the sources of financing have grown more complex, and as new local, state, and private sources are tapped, eligibility is opened to a different set of possible tenants than the neediest families traditionally served by public housing (of North Beach Place's $105 million cost, $23 million was from the Hope VI grant). "In view of where HUD is heading, we clearly worry that the funds for very low-income families are simply disappearing," said Lydia Tan, Bridge Housing vice president, . "But we also learned from experience that projects where all of the residents have very low incomes is not a long-term sustainable model."

Has Hope VI contributed to gentrification? The result, particularly in a tightly constrained housing market like San Francisco, where property values in all neighborhoods tend to climb over time, is unclear. But housing-authority representatives tend to shake their heads when accused of gentrification. "We haven't made any bones about what we're trying to do," says Chicago Housing Authority Director of Development Carl Byrd. "Yes, critics see a loss of affordability and displacement, but homeowners are seeing the value of their homes increase three- and four-fold because of the new development. And in a community that was neglected for a long time, the new retail and other commercial investment that's taking place now wasn't going to happen but for our investment."

Edward Goetz, at the University of Minnesota, finds the deconcentration-of-poverty model incomplete. In the face of continuing economic segregation in nearly every regional housing market, Goetz asserts that "[a] more comprehensive policy to address urban poverty ...would extend beyond the relocation of assisted households to address zoning and other regulatory barriers erected by exclusive and exclusionary communities."13

Sharen Hewitt worked as a liaison between the San Francisco Housing Authority and public housing residents as the relocation efforts began for San Francisco's first Hope VI projects. "The theoretical model of providing people with services to help them move toward self-sufficiency was strong," Hewitt says. "But it didn't work because of simple things, like databases being lacking. How could you help improve people's status if you lost track of them?" Hewitt also points out that except for child care, the program's economic development goals-where the program held out hope that residents would start small businesses in the neighborhoods around their rebuilt homes--generally did not come to fruition.

The arguments for deconcentrating poverty tend to downplay the role of race. But critics contend that the program, which dispersed overwhelmingly African American public housing residents, and implemented a rebuilding process at the end of which return rates for the original families hover at fifty percent, echoes the urban renewal that invaded and dispersed black communities fifty years ago. Public housing's intersection with race-first excluding minorities, then segregating them from whites, next equalizing access to facilities that had begun to fall apart, and finally concentrating and isolating them-is an issue perhaps even more alive today. Public housing under Hope VI is consciously marketing itself as reborn, and its remaking coincided with America's urban renaissance of the late 1990s. Affordable housing experts worry about where the new variables will lead, in concert with rising land values and home prices in the private housing market, and the fact that given a choice of where to live, most Americans still segregate ourselves. In this context, some experts believe that the public commitment to housing the most vulnerable-never strong in the first place-has now evaporated entirely.

The Future of Hope VI and Urban Neighborhoods

The question that nobody can yet answer is whether these ideas will endure, and what impact they will have on people's lives. While cautioning that steep barriers remain firmly in place for the poorest Americans, housing advocates are cautiously endorsing Hope VI's first decade. "Thus far, research indicates that mixed-income public-housing developments can be successful in creating well-managed communities that attract higher-income tenants," the Urban Institute reported. Enumerating and assessing the broad community impacts that the program aims for is a complex task, but among the studies examined by the Urban Institute, it is already clear that projects around the country have leveraged the investment to catalyze new parks, libraries, and police stations, as well as banks, restaurants, and supermarkets. Other research reveals improvements in the quality of life in neighborhoods where Hope VI projects have been built, including per-capita income increases, drops in unemployment and crime, and downward shifts in the concentration of poverty. Economic indicators, such as rates of lending and mortgage originations, have been shown to rise.14

"It's way too early to tell whether these changes will be a success," said CHA's Byrd. "The proof won't be seen until we know how kids do who are now growing up in these communities."

In San Francisco, Valencia Gardens is likely the last Hope VI grant the City will receive. Hope VI received $143 million for the 2005-2006 fiscal year, down from original annual appropriations of about $500 million, and grant eligibility has been broadened to include small- and medium-sized cities. The Bush Administration's recently released budget proposes eliminating the program altogether, as it did in 2003 and 2004. Greg Fortner, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Authority, wants to keep the program's ideas alive in other ways. In 2003 the Housing Authority issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) asking developers to examine the feasibility of building on any of their remaining 18 properties. The RFQ was rooted in the notions now familiar in Hope VI projects-they could contain public and non-public housing, be built in partnership with for- or non-profit developers, increase density, and be managed by third parties-but he perhaps underestimated the hair-trigger sensitivity of San Francisco's neighborhoods. A small storm of accusations that he was seeking to gentrify public housing ensued, and Fortner backed down. But he still hopes to find ways to rebuild San Francisco's last deteriorated projects. Fortner firmly believes that Hope VI has wrought dramatic change: "You improve the human condition when you improve the home that people live in. You also improve the human condition when you improve the surrounding neighborhood conditions. It can't do anything but help."


1 Dan Solomon reenacts the story of the bumpy collaboration between Congress for the New Urbanism and HUD in Global City Blues, Island Press, 2003.

2 "Affordable Housing: Designing an American Asset" exhibit, National Building Museum in Washington D.C, 2004. Available at http://www.nbm.org/Exhibits/current/Affordable_Housing.html.

3"The Pruitt-Igoe Myth." Katharine G. Bristol, Journal of Architectural Education, May 1991.

4 A Citizen's Guide to Public Housing. Catherine Bauer. Vassar College, 1940.

5 "Rethinking Public Housing," Robert Fishman, Places.

6 Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through Urban Design, pp. 131-135. OscarbNewman, 1972.

7 Fishman, op. cit.

8 "Interim Assessment of the Hope VI Program Cross-Site Report," HUD 2003. Cited in A Decade of Hope VI: Research Findings and Policy Challenges, p. 20. Urban Institute, 2004.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., p. 21.

11 Ibid., p. 49.

12 Clearing the Way: Deconcentrating the Poor in Urban America. Edward J. Goetz, Island Press, 2003.

13 Ibid.

14 A range of studies of the impact of Hope VI is cited in A Decade of Hope VI, pp. 41-46. Urban Institute, 2004.

Rachel Peterson is a law student at the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, and writes about urban planning issues. She is the former executive director of Urban Ecology.