Reframing public housing in Richmond, Virginia: Segregation, resident resistance and the future of redevelopment

Source: Amy L. Howard, Thad Williamson, Cities, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 22 December 2015
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From the abstract:
This paper is a three-part assessment of the history of public housing in Richmond, Virginia and an account of current efforts to create a progressive model for public housing redevelopment in the city. Part One provides a short history of Richmond’s creation of nearly exclusively African-American public housing in the East End of the city in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and describes a regional context in which virtually all public housing in the entire metropolitan area is located within a central city that is home to just one-sixth of the overall metro population. Part Two provides an account of the Blackwell public housing complex in Richmond under the Hope VI program, beginning in the late 1990s, and an account of the tenant activism that arose in response to the many problems and shortcomings with that project. That activism later resulted in the tenant-led coalition Residents of Public Housing in Richmond Against Mass Evictions (or RePHRAME). Together non-profit and tenant activists in RePHRAME have collaborated over the past several years to challenge redevelopment practices that threaten to diminish the number of public housing units in the city. Part Three is an in-progress report on an effort we are each personally involved in that includes participation by RePHRAME members as well as several community organizations and leaders that have been part of the RePHRAME coalition: to create a new resident-driven, progressive redevelopment process for the city. This process aims to build consensus among city policymakers and many tenants that redevelopment of the city’s highly concentrated public housing units for the sake of improving opportunities and living conditions for residents is a moral imperative. Recognizing and articulating the history of segregation, mismanagement, and deep distrust between residents and public authorities, this process takes seriously the deep-seated and legitimate concerns of tenants with the aim of assuring much more positive outcomes in future redevelopment processes.