This article can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs regarding Examining Public Private Partnerships and the Production of Urban Space.
In the United States, urban regimes have long brought together public and private actors to provide public services. Given this, how do public–private partnerships (PPPs) change public housing? To answer this question, I examine a public housing project: the Ellen Wilson Dwellings in Washington, DC. In 1993, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded one of the first federal HOPE VI grants to a PPP to demolish the Ellen Wilson Dwellings and construct the mixed-income Townhomes on Capitol Hill in its place. The redevelopment that was supposed to help the residents of the Ellen Wilson Dwellings, in fact, permanently displaced nearly every one of them. I argue that the PPP, within the context of the 1990s dismantling of the state’s democratic accountability and welfare functions, allowed business groups and homeowners to stage a coup and take control of the Ellen Wilson Dwellings.