How a Philadelphia Mayoral Candidate Influenced U.S. Public Housing

Former HUD counsel and current Philadelphia mayoral contender Nelson Diaz laid the groundwork for "entrepreneurial" approaches to public housing. Whether the resulting projects were effective is up for debate.
March 10, 2015, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Jared Brey writes about Diaz's influential opinion, which created new options for public housing development and financing. From the article: "Nothing in the Housing Act of 1937, Diaz wrote, prohibited public housing projects from being owned by private developers, so long as the public units themselves were in compliance with the rest of the Act's rules and regulations. But in effect, the opinion helped inaugurate a new model for affordable-housing development that mixed public and private funding sources with federal low-income housing tax credits."

Following the manifest failures of earlier projects, "The legal opinion allowed public housing authorities to demolish high-rise projects and work with private developers to replace them with a mix of low-income and market-rate units. Residents who didn't return to the lower-density developments would receive rental subsidies through the Section 8 voucher program that could be used on the private housing market."

The Diaz opinion was well-received among advocates of private financing and mixed-income development. However, Brey writes, "Others are less sure how well it's worked. In Atlanta, the public housing authority has completely eliminated traditional housing projects and replaced former high-rises with rental vouchers and mixed-income neighborhoods. But poverty and racial segregation have not been eliminated, or even seriously diminished, as a result."

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Published on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 in PlanPhilly
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