Preserving the Projects: An Approach to Reclaiming Mid-century Public Housing




Garrison, Leah Miranda

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Under the guise of neighborhood improvement, historic mid-century public housing sites are being demolished across the United States. Because there is a stigma of crime and violence associated with public housing and because the complexes appear neglected and deteriorated, when a site is bulldozed the reaction of the general public to the demolition is usually satisfaction and a sigh of relief. The now displaced residents and the surrounding neighborhood rarely have time to react before a mixed-income development, the traditional "fix" to replace declining public housing complexes, is built in its place. When mid-century public housing sites are razed, a significant piece of history and architecture, along with an established community, have been sacrificed in the name of progress, harkening back to America's urban renewal sins of the 1950s and 1960s. In many cases, these complexes are not only eligible for the National Register of Historic Places but are in stable condition requiring only rehabilitation and the reversal of decades of indifference. This thesis examines an alternative approach that balances both the needs of the public housing authority and the community in which the complex resides. With a high demand for more affordable housing units, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has introduced a relatively new initiative to retain public housing called the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. This program, combined with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits, offers a unique solution for preserving historic mid-century public housing complexes that will satisfy all parties involved.


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architectural history, historic preservation, historic tax credits, public housing, RAD, rental assistance demonstration