I’m Here. Job’s There. Personal And Planning Views Of Public Housing Spatial Dislocation

New York Housing Authority high rise building on Coney Island
Unity Tower NYCHA jeh photo by Jim Henderson is licensed under the public domain
Unity Tower, New York Housing Authority building on Coney Island. Cheap land drew public housing construction close to the beach but not to jobs.

Two stories provide different perspectives on the handicap of spatial dislocation for tenants of American public housing. Decisions made to site public housing projects were and still often are at best short-sighted and wrong-headed. At worst they are examples of a long history of deliberate government discrimination.

First, a PBS television documentary takes a more personalized look at the life and times of a single public housing project: East Lake Meadows, a former Atlanta public housing development plonked down a daunting distance from available jobs in the downtown.

Read more including the scheduled date and time of the documentary on PBS at WGBH.org: New Documentary Shows The Discriminatory History Of Public Housing

The second perspective is spatial analysis that compares the geography of American city jobs in relation to the housing types occupied by workers.

The study shows that, whatever the reasons that lay behind the choices of public housing locations, most of its tenants are today spatially disadvantaged compared to those living in other forms of housing. Public housing tenants, in most cases predominantly black, still continue struggle against this institutionalized discrimination.

The story however, is not entirely bleak. The changing structure of cities over time has in some cases brought centres of employment closer to public housing. In these happier endings, tenants have actually found themselves more favourably placed geographically than those in other forms of housing.

Read more in CITYLAB: For Those Living in Public Housing, It’s a Long Way to Work