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Abstract

Public housing has been on the chopping block for almost two decades now in an effort to deconcentrate poverty. In 1992 the federal government created the Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE) VI program. HOPE VI is driven by the assumption that deconcentrating neighborhood-level poverty will yield better access to upward mobility opportunities for former public housing residents. To accomplish this, existing public housing is demolished and replaced with mixed-income developments. Public housing residents are relocated, many with Housing Choice Voucher subsidies to private-market rental housing. However, by its very definition mixed income means that only a small percentage of former residents get the opportunity to return. Do voucher relocated residents end up in lower poverty neighborhoods with greater upward mobility opportunities? We examine the spatial organization of relocation within the critical discourse on the deconcentration imperative. We highlight Atlanta because it recently became the first city in the nation to eliminate all of its public housing. Findings reveal that voucher relocatees end up in neighborhoods with modestly less poverty than the public housing neighborhoods they left. Questions remain about what poverty deconcentration means vis-à-vis policy goals. We provide recommendations for future research.