Friday, September 19, 2008

The "D" Word

At Tuesday's Braddock East Advisory Group (BEAG) meeting, ARHA Vice Chairman Connie Ring warned the Growler against the continuing use of the term "deconcentration" when referring to Alexandria's public housing situation.

The previous week, at the Council's Work Session on public housing, Planning & Zoning Director Faroll Hamer stated that it was not a good word and would not be used further by the City.

Why?

Ms. Hamer's own Braddock Metro Neighborhood Plan, approved by Council just six months ago and written by many of the same consultants who are working on BEAG, features a section entitled "Deconcentrating Public Housing" on page 57 and on the following page states:

Since the 1990s, the national policy approach has been to remove social and economic pockets of poverty by deconcentrating public housing, scattering low-income housing throughout the middle class communities ... (Emphasis added]
The report further states:

Locally, the City and the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) have long endorsed deconcentration by scattering public housing sites throughout the City. [Emphasis added]
The term has been in use for a long time by the City. For example, there are the recommendations of the 1999 Fair Share Task Force, which state on p. 14:

The City should support the efforts of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) to replace old, concentrated, large public housing projects with scattered site, smaller projects, and consider use of tenant-based Section 8 certificates and vouchers. [Emphasis added]
The Virginia Housing Development Authority, which grants tax credits for redevelopment projects like James Bland, also uses the term freely. In a January 2007 E-newsletter, VHDA Executive Director Susan Dewey wrote of working with private partners on the "deconcentration of poverty"

And the Federal Government's own regulations talk about deconcentration. In 24 CFR Part 903 relating to Public Housing Agency Plans, Subpart A is an entire section devoted to discussing "Deconcentration of Poverty and Fair Housing in Program Admissions."
The purpose of this subpart is to specify the process which a Public Housing Agency, as part of its annual planning process and development of an admissions policy, must follow in order to develop and apply a policy that provides for deconcentration of poverty and income mixing in certain public housing developments and to affirmatively further fair housing in admissions.
So why the censorship on the part of Alexandria officials?