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Scattered-Site Housing: Characteristics and Consequences, 1996

Report Acceptance Date: 
November 1996 (281 pages)
Posted Date:   
November 1, 1996

Although scattered-site public housing has been promoted as an alternative to large projects that concentrate poverty and problems, little systematic information is available about its characteristics and performance. However, Scattered-Site Housing: Characteristics and Consequences by James Hogan fills this gap with an important synthesis of survey data, secondary data, and case studies, describing scattered-site as "a demonstrably better housing choice for families than concentrated high-density projects."

Professor Hogan traces the scattered-site concept to the 1960s, when the "urban crisis" figured prominently in national policy debates. In the past 30 years, many medium and large public housing authorities (PHAs) have actively developed scattered-site housing -- defined by Hogan as projects of fewer than 15 units located in nonminority concentrated neighborhoods. However, such housingtypically makes up less than 10 percent of a PHA's inventory and is often located in small clusters of units.

Scattered-site housing is widely favored by residents, as shown in a 1983 national sample survey and subsequent case studies. PHA directors surveyed in 1994 also reported that residents favored and benefited from this type of housing.

There is some disagreement about costs associated with scattered-site units -- although many PHA directors surveyed believed that scattered-site units were somewhat more costly to manage, other studies have reported that higher maintenance costs are offset by better resident care and less vandalism.

Because scattered-site housing -- like all assisted housing -- frequently encounters initial opposition, Hogan addresses strategies to mitigate against problems. He also debunks the "myth" of property value decline and underscores the importance of good management, tenant screening, public relations, good design, and amenities. The report concludes that the future success of scattered-site public housing will depend in part on public willingness to widely disperse such units across metropolitan areas.

Scattered-Site Housing: Characteristics and Consequences provides valuable data to describe this approach to increasing the supply of affordable housing and suggests techniques to implement it successfully.