When he retired March 18, Hartford Housing Authority Executive Director John
Wardlaw was rightly praised for demolishing most of the city's federally
funded, dilapidated public housing projects and replacing them with attractive
This was a Herculean task
but a necessary one. Mr. Wardlaw, who knows public housing
as well as anyone, said the projects had become unlivable.
He called them "concentration camps
for the poor" and "incubators for social ills."
His work turned night to day in the former Stowe Village, Bellevue
Square, Charter Oak Terrace and Rice Heights projects. Dutch
Point is going through the same transformation. Unfortunately,
the principal tool Mr. Wardlaw used to accomplish this near-miracle
might be cut by the federal government.
President Bush's budget proposal would eliminate funding for
the Hope VI program next year, and require the Department of
Housing and Urban Development to recapture the $143 million allocated
to the program this year.
Hope VI should not be eliminated. It is necessary, and it works.
Launched in 1992 following
a national study of "severely
distressed" housing projects, Hope VI helped local authorities
remove and replace dysfunctional housing.
A joint study of Hope VI last
year by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution concluded
that the program "has
achieved substantial success; it has demolished some of the most
distressed and destructive housing environments, replaced them
with much higher-quality housing and, in many cases, with mixed-income
Instead of an incubator for social ills, Hope VI created an
incubator for new ideas in public housing. Through Hope VI, HUD
essentially deregulated public housing and gave local authorities
considerable leeway. They responded with new approaches to management,
finance, income mixing and, especially, design. Many Hope VI
projects are beautiful examples of new urbanism.
As the 2004 study says, there were also some problems with the
program, most significantly that residents of the old projects
didn't always benefit from the redevelopment. But this and other
problems are being addressed.
As long as there are still hopeless public housing projects
in this country - and there are - Hope VI should stay in business.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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