America’s communities face several challenges, not least among these is an ever-increasing lack of affordable housing. The affordable housing crisis has resulted in distressed neighborhoods nationwide that offer little opportunities for their residents, and a decrease in the economic heath and quality of life for many citizens.

However, intervening to improve the lives of public or assisted housing residents and transform these communities is often a difficult prospect, with many factors at play. New studies are showing local government needs to take a holistic approach to neighborhood transformation projects.

It’s becoming clear that subsidized rental and public housing projects alone have limited impact and rarely improve the economic and social wellbeing of a community, according to a new research report released by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Titled Evaluating the Role of Local Government and Project Stakeholder Engagement in Choice Nice Neighborhoods Transformation Planning and Implementation, the report summarizes the association’s three-year study of Salisbury, N.C.; Suffolk, Va.; and Norfolk, Va. And these communities use of grant funds from the to enact a Choice Neighborhoods Transformation Plan. This type of redevelopment takes into consideration the needs of those in public and assisted housing beyond their immediate physical environments.

The report found that local governments must consider the economic and social needs of public housing residents to ensure the transformation of the neighborhood as a whole. Whereas traditional community improvement planning focuses largely on the physical environment, the report demonstrates true transformation also requires planning and delivery of economic and social recourses as well.

“The broken window theory holds that if you maintain the built environment in a neighborhood, you can prevent more serious crime and social disorder,” Cory Fleming, an ICMA researcher and lead author of the report, said in a statement. “What this study indicates is that it takes a more comprehensive approach to planning for neighborhood redevelopment to truly improve lives.  Planning for the physical appearance of a neighborhood is important, but equally important is engaging citizens to learn what programs and services they need.”

For more information, click here for a direct download of the report.


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