Public Housing

Public housing is a program by the government that aims at providing houses to low income earners and the poor.  In the United States, public housing was and is still common among the different ethnic groups of America. These are the ones, who mostly live in these houses. Housing projects were high rising or low rising buildings that were in an area where the poor could easily access accommodation. These houses are projects, and government agencies manage these houses. This essay will focus on public housing in the United States, its past, present and future.


The key determinant that drove the government to invest in public housing was the slow rising of slums and slum areas. People who did not have adequate income inhabited these areas. The government then came in to solve the problem and proposed the public housing projects in neighborhoods. The first beneficiaries of the public housing system were the whites. These whites were mostly war veterans, who had gone off to war and returned with no homes to live (Vale 22).  Years later, the working class began to increase and had no homes to live in; this was so especially for the African Americans. Activism by black protesters saw the housing projects established in the black neighborhoods such as Brooklyn.

The government continued to support and put up various laws that reinforced the affordability of this public housing. This saw the low-income earners also acquire housing in the projects. The projects then began to become congested and stereotyped as neighborhoods filled with crime. In the 1980s, public housing became associated with blacks and Latinos with remarkably few whites living in these houses.

This notion of public housing belonging to different ethnic groups saw the destruction of these projects. The support that these houses were receiving from the government stopped. This was especially during the Reagan rule (Vale 30). The projects then began to deteriorate, and their conditions became worse as well as inhabitable. The poor families had no choice but to continue living in such pathetic conditions.

Public housing areas have now become dangerous areas. These areas are associated with poor hygiene and extremely high crime rates. This has seen the push of laws that will permanently eliminate these projects from the urban areas and provide for safer neighborhoods. There is consideration of demolishing the projects. This will make life exceedingly difficult for the poor families that have exceptionally low income.

'Ghettofication' of the public housing

This is a term used to refer to the process that saw public houses turn into ghettos or slum areas. Whatever the intentions for public housing were, they later turned against the planners and resulted into a disaster. Here, are various reasons that led to the public housing becoming slum or ghetto areas. First, there was a weakening of the working class in urban areas. They began to have low income and the rates of the houses reduced (Husock 44). This resulted into attraction of more poor people into public housing than it had been in earlier times.

Second, the presence of public policies destroyed the public housing of United States. There were several policies that the federal government introduced, which were responsible for the downfall of the public housing. He first of the policies introduced was that no one was to pay more than a quarter of what they earned for the public housing. This resulted into discouraging the middle class in living in the projects. They saw that it would be better for them as middle class income earners paying for private housing.

Another policy that was introduced was that of leniency in the rules and laws that regulated the public housing. Initially when public housing began, they conducted serious screening on who was to be awarded the houses (Gyourko & Glaeser 106). In some states, the rule of screening began to be ignored, and anyone could get access into the public housing. This discouraged the middle class who had initially settled there, and they began to move away to other areas even into the suburbs.

There was also the policy that allowed the department of housing and urban development (HUD) to put up private homes for those that lived in the public housing. These private homes were apartments that they could afford with the government assistance. It involved the families receiving vouchers that reduced the amounts that they were paying toward the private housing. This made many middle class shift and acquire the private homes, leaving the projects for extreme poverty.

Additionally, the entry of the private sector in the public housing saw the houses head for the worst. These private real estate owners and businessmen were strongly against the public housing (Vale 56). The private owners began to infiltrate and changed the conditions, as well as the prices of the public housing. They entered into contracts where they could build subsidized housing but had an option to convert them after a period of twenty years.

Reasons for public housing

When housing projects began, there was not a greater need for projects or public housing as there is in today's society. Public housing became established to help the poor get places to live. This was so especially for the wartime workers. In today's society, we cannot have public housing system abolished especially in these depressive and difficult times. Public housing is crucial because it gives the poor and low-income earners places to live where they can afford to pay (US department of housing and urban development 3). If they abolished public housing there would be suffering of these families, and many would end up in the streets. Public housing also made the eradication of slums that were forming in the city effective.

Public housing has also helped in improving the living conditions of the poor. The poor and low-income earners were living in extremely unfavorable conditions. The situations of the shelters that they were in were unhygienic and harmful to the dwellers. Public housing provided for an easy way out of this situation because they could afford to say in well-maintained houses. Today, many states are advocating for the demolishing of the housing projects reason being that these areas are becoming concentrated with poverty and are prone with crime. On the contrary, there states like the New York state that has been able to maintain their housing projects.

The New York state public housing

The state of New York has had successful public housing, and it has continued to house its citizens comfortably. This is proving to be difficult for other states around the country such as in New Orleans and Chicago. These two states are demolishing high-rise project houses and replacing them with low-rise buildings or leaving the poor families deserted. In this essay, we will examine the success that New York has had with their public housing and maybe this can be implemented by other states.

New York City has several programs that are under the public housing system. These programs include; the first program is public housing for low-income earners. In New York state, there are approximately 140 housing projects that consist of around 65, 000 houses. These houses are home to around 280,000 people who have a low income (Wolkoff 145). The people who are in charge of these low income housing is the local authorities of the New York City. This housing receives subsidies from the government per year. The system used to finance this housing is the general bond obligation. The housing also has a program dedicated to modernizing the houses. This program gains support from other programs financially such as the home energy assistance program.

The second program is the middle income housing this housing id dedicated to the middle class or working class. This class bears the characteristic of being too rich to be housed in the public housing for the poor also being poor to fair in the real estate market. This then qualifies them for government assistance to acquire homes. The state gives these chances of providing houses to the middle class to the private contractors expected to provide housing at moderate prices. This is because they receive assistance from the government by getting tax incentives and receiving subsidies while acquiring materials for building.  There have been an approximate of 9500 houses built in these programs, so as to benefit the middle class income earners (Wolkoff 145)

Additionally the policies introduced in this state to cater for the low income earners have boosted their housing programs. One such law that passed is the Mitchell lama law. The act aimed at helping the housing developers to be attracted to the provision of moderate housing business. The act enabled the government to provide for low costs and low taxes for those involved in developing these houses. This saw an increase in the number of developers The third program of housing in this state is the presence of a trust fund. This trust fund is for the low-income earners housing. It began its operation in 1985, where it received its first boost of an approximately $ 25 million (Wolkoff 146). This continued from the first year to even the fifth year. The fund aims at helping develop and improving projects of the low-income earners. This is so especially, where in New York City, the number of low income earners may raise annually.

There are several factors attributed to the success of public housing in the New York state. This is so especially compared with the other states that are hurriedly demolishing their projects and forcing the poor to have no place to live. One such factor is that, in New York, the level of maintenance and caring given toward the projects is high (Bloom 56). The state has not sat back and watched the projects become ruined. They are actively becoming engaged in renovating the projects to modernity and into proper standard of living.

 A second factor is the presence of supporting policies formed towards public housing.  Policies have contributed to the degrading of what was once an attractive form of living for many people. The creation of destructive policies will result into demolishing the public housings. This is similar in other states. One problem that New York State has faced is the problem of their housing being able to withstand for many years, in other words the viability of their public housing (Bloom 66). This problem though has tried to be covered with making renovations to the public housing in the state for the better. To conclude New York State has been able to maintain and continue to house many low-income earners in the public houses. Their success should be emulated by other states in order to maintain public housing instead of destroying a program that helps the needy.

Present public housing

Presently, public housings lack a desirable reputation in many states. Public housing for many today is high rising buildings in neighborhoods concentrated with crimes and for extremely poor people (Bruegmann 78). Another notion that comes with public housing today is that is a form of housing that belongs to the black and Latino community. This has resulted into a debate of bringing and demolishing this establishment and replacing them with better housing facilities.

Public housing today has an immense impact on the neighborhood that surrounds the projects. This is one of the many reasons why people are advocating for the demolishing of these houses. They are claiming that public housing is promoting crime in the surrounding area. In addition, it is making businesses close up and make losses in the same area. This, in turn, has resulted into business men and working class in fleeing the area thus making the areas head for the worst.

The other problem that public housing is posing in today's community is the fact that they are permanent buildings. This; therefore, makes their demolishing difficult and, therefore, it does not encourage the investors to invest in renovating such buildings. In fact, this public housing is a hindrance to the refurbishing of cities into newer and beautiful metropolitan cities in many states around the country.

The Chicago, Illinois public housing

Chicago is the best example of what is happening in many states around the United States on public housing. Chicago is in a destruction streak, and it will not stop at anything until it sees all the public housing projects demolished. Currently the Chicago housing authorities (CHS) has overseen the destruction of approximately ten high-rise buildings. This is including the commonly known Robert Taylor homes.

The move that Chicago is aiming at is to demolish the high rising buildings.  This will be replaced with housing that can accommodate mixed classes of people as well as private ownership of houses. The authority says that it will not stop at anything as it continues to destroy this high rising public housing. This should not be seen as discriminating the poor but rather as helping they acquire decent homes.

What then caused problems in Chicago? First, the way Chicago had planned and distributed its public housing has encouraged its downfall. Public housing in Chicago segregates to certain areas and these areas become labeled as black neighborhoods. The way the buildings were e also distributed must have had a large contribution to the development of the dangerous neighborhood. For instance, the Robert Taylor homes are in a stretch of approximately four miles (Husock 5). These projects were all identical except for the bricks used and faced each other.

As compared to New York City, this was the first mistake that the Chicago housing authority made in establishing public houses. It should have distributed these houses into different areas as in New York City. An additional problem that was present in Chicago was that most people in the projects had the government supporting them, unlike in New York where most families had a member of their family working (US department of housing and urban development 3). This resulted into concentrating crime in this public housing in Chicago as people had to find alternative means of earning income.

The demolishing of these high rising buildings maybe beneficial to moving the poor to better homes but not all will benefit. In fact, they will move from poorer conditions to worse conditions. In the course of this destruction, there are some who may be left homeless. The other fact is that demolishing and resettling of these families may cost more than simply renovating and continuously maintaining the current projects.

Future of public housing

In demolishing the tattered housing project, an alternative arise, which was the HOPE VI program. The program aims at creating low-rise buildings that would be more hygienic and raise the standards of living. The housings were also to cater and accommodate mixed income groups (Husock 6). This was to avoid the problem of segregating the poor and, therefore, encouraging crime to thrive. The main objective of this mixture of different classes of income was so as the low income earners could learn from their neighbors and improve their lives.

The HOPE VI, program is uncertain if it will succeed presently of in the future. This is mainly because it is based on a fallacy, that people will change their habits because of the environment they live. This may not work, as it is hard to cure poor and dysfunctional families. In fact, the HOPE VI program is a failure, and there is a need for a better housing policy.

The current government under president Obama is seeking to replace the program with the choice neighborhood initiative. The program aims at learning from the HOPE VI program. This means that it will learn from the mistakes and failures of the HOPE VI program and improve on it. It will also adapt its success (Husock 6). The major advantages of the HOPE program may have been the replacing of tattered buildings and the encouraging of low-income earners to move upward in the ladder of income.


Public housing is essential especially for the poor. Even though public housing turned out differently than it was before, it has helped house many people who would be homeless. The ghettofication of the public housing has seen many of these houses demolished in many states. On the other hand, public housing flourishes in other states. All in all, public housing is essential, and for whatever policies, which are, introduced care should be taken on the negative effects of such policies especially for the poor.

Order now

Related essays