Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 88, Issue 3, pp 436-453

First online:

Sense of Place among Atlanta Public Housing Residents

  • Griff TesterAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Georgia State University
  • , Erin RuelAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Georgia State University Email author 
  • , Angela AndersonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Georgia State University
  • , Donald C. ReitzesAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Georgia State University
  • , Deirdre OakleyAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Georgia State University

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For almost two decades now, cities around the country have been demolishing traditional public housing and relocating residents to subsidized private market rental housing. In this paper, we examine sense of place, consisting of both community and place attachment, among a sample of Atlanta public housing residents prior to relocation (N = 290). We find that 41% of the residents express place attachment, and a large percentage express some level of community attachment, though residents of senior public housing are far more attached than residents of family public housing. Positive neighborhood characteristics, such as collective efficacy and social support, are associated with community attachment, and social support is also associated with place attachment. Negative neighborhood characteristics, such as social disorder and fear of crime, are not consistently associated with sense of place. We argue that embodied in current public housing relocation initiatives is a real sense of loss among the residents. Policy makers may also want to consider the possibilities of drawing upon residents’ sense of place as a resource for renovating and revitalizing public housing communities rather than continuing to demolish them and relocating residents to other neighborhoods.


Sense of place Place and community attachment Public housing transformation