Theses Master's

That’s Rad? Nuance, Complexity, and the Future of US Public Housing

Roberts, Danielle

Public housing has always been a battleground in the fight between the public and private sectors (Vale & Freemark, 2019). At the same time, the role and importance of Public Housing cannot be understated. One interviewee mentioned, “if a resident is struggling to stay in our housing, what chance will they have anywhere else?” Nationally, the stock of public housing units has continued to age and deteriorate, leading to unhealthy living conditions for its residents. The Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program addresses these capital needs, but this is not the first attempt to improve living conditions. Public housing residents and housing advocates who remember the displacement caused by HOPE VI are rightfully skeptical of relying on the private sector “fix” public housing. Therefore, this thesis aims to answer an urgent question: what are the critical financial, physical, social, and political determinants that Public Housing Authorities make during RAD conversion?

Using both decision tree algorithms and semi-structured interviews, this thesis seeks to understand how these conversions occur, which can inform the analysis of tenant outcomes. For example, 45% of conversions do not rely on debt or tax credit financing, and 13% include a transfer of assistance from one building to another. This thesis concludes that RAD is neither the privatization boogeyman nor the savior of public housing. Further analysis of RAD must therefore provide more nuance and complexity to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of a program that provided the most funding to public housing in a generation.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Baird-Zars, Bernadette V.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 27, 2022