Housing projects are a type of housing tenure, where the land is leased to a private firm, either local or central. They are usually managed by non-profit housing associations. Most housing projects are in middle-class areas where the houses are low cost and in good repair. A housing project can be a complex development, like a townhome development, an apartment complex or a condominium. The term “housing project” can also be used to refer to any structure that facilitates the construction of single family residences, or more complex developments such as schools.
Some housing projects are earmarked for low-income groups. They may be public housing units or ones that are privately owned. One of the most recent housing projects in Chicago is the Bowflex housing complex on the North Side. It consists of thirty-eight residential floors, four commercial floors, one hotel and one hundred and eighty thousand square feet of office space.
These housing projects have helped alleviate some social problems in the neighborhood. There was a time when some people did not go out to the grocery store or to the corner store. When the store got close to their neighborhood, some people would watch television or read a newspaper at home. This made the neighborhood more safe and less intriguing to criminals, because it was no longer a place where crime could happen. But now there is evidence that social problems are caused by people who choose to live in these projects over neighborhoods with better employment prospects and better crime rates. The evidence is not clear on this, but some social scientists believe that this is what is happening.
If more working-class residents move into these homes, the rents will increase. And since these homes also cater to low-income families, this will likely happen. But what is unfortunate here is that in many cases the lower-income workers are the ones helping to pay for the homes. If the number of working-class residents in a neighborhood increases, the cost of housing goes up. And this means higher rents for HOA homeowners too.
East Harlem real-estate investors have been purchasing homes in the projects since the 1970s. In many cases they are still buying properties, but they are selling the homes to mostly middle-class HOA residents from Brooklyn and the Upper East Side. Those areas have seen a drastic decrease in crime and an increase in home values. The success of these neighborhoods has encouraged other neighborhoods in the area to look at their HOA options. So now you see properties in East Harlem being sold by private entities who are making an effort to keep the neighborhood intact and attracting new residents.
But East Harlem resident Frank Pruitt-Igoe believes that it’s a good thing when people move into the projects and the HOA takes care of the maintenance. “I think it’s great,” he says. “I don’t mind if the housing projects have people paying for maintenance or paying for the taxes, because that’s their problem. I don’t mind if people move in and don’t move out – I’d rather see them stay there because they like the neighborhood.”
Some of the housing authorities in the city have started to promote developments that focus on economic development and job creation. For example, the Housing Development Corporation has started working on projects that will sell homes that have been repaired or updated to attract high-end buyers. And the Housing Authority of Staten Island is working on getting developers to build affordable homes that are located in low-income areas. But in order for these projects to work, public housing projects need to be supported by the state and the city.
For example, Staten Island Economic Development Corporation Executive Commissioner Arthur Rubens has asked the state’s congressional delegation to support affordable housing development in Staten Island. He cited statistics showing that income levels of people living in low-income Staten Island neighborhoods have increased during the past two decades, but the number of affordable units built has remained flat. “We simply can’t have a population of low-income people who can’t afford to live in a home,” said Rubens. “That’s why we need the federal government and local municipalities to work together to encourage investment in low-income and affordable housing.”