Linking Residents to Opportunity: Gentrification and Public Housing

Samuel Dastrup and Ingrid Gould Ellen
Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, 18:3 (2016), pp. 87-107.

This article documents that most public housing in New York City, which was originally built decades ago in low-income areas, is now surrounded by neighborhoods with relatively high average household incomes. Higher neighborhood income is associated with improved neighborhood indicators—developments surrounded by increasing- and high-income neighborhoods have lower violent crime rates and are zoned for public elementary schools with higher standardized test scores than developments surrounded by low-income neighborhoods. In addition, New York City Housing Authority residents in developments with increasing- and high-income surrounding neighborhoods are more often employed, earn $1,675 and $3,500 more annually, respectively, after controlling for observable characteristics, and have higher adult educational attainment. To be sure, the benefits are not unqualified; our qualitative research shows that, although public housing residents appreciate improvements in the surrounding neighborhoods (especially improved safety), they can also feel alienated when the neighborhoods around them change and face challenges as day-to-day living expenses increase, even if rents are held steady.

Wagner Faculty