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Cityscape: Volume 16 Number 3 | Article 2


American Neighborhoods: Inclusion and Exclusion

Volume 16, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Building Ties: The Social Networks of Affordable-Housing Residents

Elyzabeth Gaumer
Ahuva Jacobowitz
City of New York

Jeanne Brooks-Gunn
Columbia University

The views presented here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development or the City of New York.


Despite decades of investment in affordable housing, little is known about the social connectedness of the population served or the use value of interactions among residents. In this article, we use cross-sectional survey data from recent movers to a single affordable housing complex in New York City (N = 120) to assess the structure of social networks and the content of local relationships, specifically the exchange of expressive, instrumental, and informational support. Respondents living in affordable housing report a diversity of ties, including friends, family, and neighbors. We find that within-building networks differ in key ways from networks of individuals who live in the same neighborhood but not in the same residential building. Residents interact less frequently with building ties, report few close ties in the building, and do not perceive building neighbors to be essential resources. When we examine the content of these relationships, however, we find that building residents do provide and receive multiple types of support, particularly informational resources. We further find that the characteristics of building neighbors are associated with the odds of providing or receiving specific types of support or resources. Expressive (or emotional) support is more likely between similar individuals, and having children is associated with both provision and receipt of support of all kinds. Receiving information about childcare or finding a school or tutor for one’s child is more likely from a building tie who is better off. Understanding affordable-housing residents’ social context can support policies that target this population and improve our understanding of social integration in this setting.

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