After the Projects: Public Housing Redevelopment & the Governance of the Poorest Americans, by Lawrence J. Vale, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2019.
Reviewed by: Rachel Garshick Kleit, Ohio State University
HOPE VI takes different forms in cities across America. Lawrence Vale’s After the Projects makes an argument that a complexity of forces creates quite varied redevelopment outcomes and that local variations in poverty governance are the cause. These influences are rooted in each locale’s public housing history, its decades-long experience with urban renewal and development, and the relative power of tenants, private for- and non-profit developers, and government. This book is an expert’s attempt after 20 years of observation and research to make sense of myriad local details to understand variations the national phenomenon of public housing revitalization. Vale creates a sophisticated and nuanced analysis of the governance of the poor, helping to explain variations in public housing redevelopment across the US.
Vale evaluates the success of HOPE VI by addressing two questions. First, does redevelopment expand housing options for very low-income households? Second, does redevelopment prioritize the return of original tenants to the new community? Representing variations across the country, the four cases in this book – Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, Tucson — vary from as little as 12 percent of original households returning to as much as 70 percent.
To explain the moving target of the HOPE VI redevelopment plan, Vale creates a theory of poverty governance, embellished on the nifty metaphor of a “constellation” of actors involved in governance, complete with illustrations of star maps and galaxies. Building on political economic theories of urban redevelopment, the constellation metaphor allows Vale to demonstrate that negative outcomes are not inevitable under a neoliberal policy framework, and that, through the influence of community-based non-profits, tenant advocacy groups, or thoughtful public servants, equitable outcomes can occur. Thus, After the Projects is a significant addition to the literature on both public housing and urban redevelopment.
The reviewer may be reached via e-mail at Kleit.firstname.lastname@example.org.