U.S. Assisted Housing Programs and Poverty Deconcentration: A Critical Geographic Review

  • George C. Galster


The personal and social costs of concentrating low-income (typically minority) households in neighbourhoods with high proportions of similarly disadvantaged households has long been of concern in the U.S. In this chapter, Galster explores four federal housing programs tasked with reducing poverty concentrations over the last 25 years: (1) scattered-site public housing; (2) tenant-based Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV); (3) private developments subsidized through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC); and (4) mixed-income redevelopment of distressed public housing estates (HOPE VI). Based on a synthesis of the evidence, four conclusions are drawn. Residents of U.S. public housing on average reside in significantly more disadvantaged neighbourhoods compared to participants in any other assisted housing program. Residents of other types of site-based assisted housing programs (particularly LIHTC) do not reside in significantly different residential environments than tenant-based HCV holders. HCV households live in somewhat lower-poverty neighbourhoods than equivalent households who do not receive housing subsidies, but the comparative differences are more modest for residents in LIHTC units. HCV holders typically do not substantially improve their neighbourhood circumstances with subsequent moves. In understanding how these post-public housing policy efforts have not produced more significant deconcentration of poverty the chapter identifies both the scale and structure of the housing programs, characteristics and needs of residents, and structural barriers. In conclusion, an amalgam of supply-side and demand-side housing program reforms is suggested, coupled with non-housing strategies. Importantly, the US experience offers selective lessons for housing policymakers in Western Europe, though there are vast differences in the origins and policy options available for addressing concentrated poverty.


Public Housing Disadvantaged Neighbourhood Housing Program Public Housing Resident Public Housing Development 
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© Springer Science and Business Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Urban Studies and PlanningWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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