HOPE VI is a plan by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is meant to revitalize the worst public housing projects in the United States into mixed-income developments. Its philosophy is largely based on New Urbanism and the concept of Defensible space.
The program began in 1992, with formal recognition by law in 1998. As of 2005, the program had distributed $5.8 billion through 446 federal block grants to cities for the developments, with the highest individual grant being $67.7 million, awarded to Arverne/Edgemere Houses in New York, NY.
HOPE VI has included a variety of grant programs including: Revitalization, Demolition, Main Street, and Planning grant programs. As of June 1, 2010 there have been 254 HOPE VI Revitalization grants awarded to 132 housing authorities since 1993 - totaling more than $6.1 billion.
An exemplary precursor and inspiration to the HOPE VI model was the Columbia Point Housing Projects on Columbia Point in Boston, Massachusetts. Built in 1954, and consisting of approximately 1,500 apartment units, they fell into disrepair and became quite dangerous. By the 1980s, only 300 families lived there and the buildings were falling apart. Eventually, realizing the situation was almost hopeless, Boston turned over the management, cleanup, planning and revitalization of the property to a private development firm, Corcoran-Mullins-Jennison, in 1984. The construction work for the new Harbor Point development began in 1986 and was completed by 1990. It was a mixed income community, called Harbor Point Apartments.
Congress established the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing in 1989 to study the issue of dilapidated public housing. After submitting the report to Congress in 1992, legislation creating the HOPE VI grants was written. The first HOPE VI pilot grant was given to the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) in 1993. The original HOPE VI grant application by AHA was based on renovating/modernizing Techwood Homes, the nation's oldest housing project, and about a third of adjacent Clark Howell Homes. The grant envisioned Techwood/Clark Howell remaining entirely public housing. The mixed-income concept did not exist when the first HOPE VI grant awards were made and they were only made to housing authorities. Atlanta-based The Integral Group partnered with McCormack Baron Salazar of St. Louis to submit a proposal to AHA in the fall of 1994 in response to AHA's request for proposals. That resulted in the creation of Centennial Place, which has remained a successful mixed-income community. Instrumental in the process was AHA's new CEO Renee Lewis Glover, who has guided the agency through the demolition of all of its large housing projects and replaced them with mixed-income communities modeled on Centennial Place. The first HOPE VI mixed-income community (where public housing was a component) was Phase I of Centennial Place, which closed on March 8, 1996.
In FY 2009, HOPE VI received a $120 million budget; however, in FY2010 no funds were budgeted for HOPE VI and a new Choice Neighborhoods program had a proposed budget of $250 million. Over the course of 15 years, HOPE VI grants were used to demolish 96,200 public housing units and produce 107,800 new or renovated housing units, of which 56,800 were to be affordable to the lowest-income households. The new and renovated housing units were mixed income, less dense, and sought to attain better design and integration into the local neighborhoods.
HOPE VI makes use of New Urbanism, meaning that communities must be dense, pedestrian-friendly, and transit-accessible. Housing rarely comes in the form of apartments. Instead, private houses, duplexes, and especially for public housing projects, row houses are preferred, because these buildings directly interact with the street. Similarly, houses always stand close to the street, with small front yards. It is common to see porches on the buildings, as well as small apartments for single residents built over garages or on the ground floor.
By applying defensible space, most communities are specifically designed or remodeled with private property, emphasizing security. Buildings are low-rise and often integrated directly into failing urban areas, in an effort to revitalize them. Private custodianship, with individuals taking care of their assigned part of the project, is a critical element. Likewise, providing residents with high-quality materials and houses is believed to encourage pride in the space and an interest in keeping things in good condition. This, theoretically, mitigates vandalism.
In general, much of the philosophy comes from a theory that apartment buildings are not healthy spaces for human habitation. Only with substantial wealth can an apartment building maintain the characteristics of security, social networking, and urban integration that the designers feel is necessary for a healthy community. Instead, the lower-rise, urban feel with a sense of safety in the built environment satisfies that need.
Many of the elements of the program do not involve construction of buildings at all. More funding goes to housing assistance vouchers than in previous programs. As with the strategy of constructing in-fill housing in middle-class neighborhoods and providing new housing for market-rate buyers, this element helps integrate residents into existing neighborhoods, to produce a certain cohesion. In almost all implementations of the program, housing authorities and non-profits have provided resident-assistance information programs for new homeowners, teaching them and their neighbors how to take care of a house that they must protect.
Some critics have said that local authorities use the program as a legal means to evict poor residents in favor of more affluent residents in a process of gentrification. They have said that less than 12% of those displaced from old housing eventually move into the replacement housing. One writer asserted that in the case of a section of Cabrini-Green in Chicago, residents were forced out for HOPE VI redevelopment by armed police.
Federal auditors found that HUD was awarding grants based on the ability of the area to generate income for the city rather than the actual state of the housing project in question. Only seven of the first 34 grants went towards the development of high-rise housing.
Some have criticized the new developments because they result in a net loss of housing for the poor.  As the program does not require a "one-for-one" replacement of the old housing unit, the new unit does not have to house the same number of tenants as the old housing unit did. (The one-for-one replacement policy was repealed by Congress in 1998, separately from HUD's implementation of HOPE VI.) The Urban Institute reported that the number of units receiving a federal subsidy and available for the deeply poor to live in is cut in half in developments arising from the program. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has said that no HOPE VI grants should be allotted without requirements for one-for-one unit replacement.
The NLIHC maintains that in order to acquire federal grants, local housing authorities have "demolished viable units and displaced families." The program has been called "notorious" for its allotment of federal grants for demolition of public housing, and some say it has resulted in a "dramatic loss of housing."
Some have criticized the plan for having the right goals but not accomplishing them, or not going about them in the right way. The National Housing Law Project issued a joint report saying, "HOPE VI has been characterized by a lack of clear standards, a lack of hard data on program results, and misleading and contradictory statements made by HUD." The report said:
"HUD's failure to provide comprehensive and accurate information about HOPE VI has created an environment in which misimpressions about the program and its basic purposes and outcomes have flourished- often with encouragement from HUD. HOPE VI plays upon the public housing program's unfairly negative reputation and an exaggerated sense of crisis about the state of public housing in general to justify a drastic model of large-scale family displacement and housing redevelopment that increasingly appears to do more harm than good."
Criticism has also been targeted at the private management of the eventual redevelopments, which are built with mostly public funding. Others have characterized this is a positive aspect of the program.
Al Levine, Seattle Housing's deputy executive director of development noted that most housing authorities did not commit to replacing demolished units, "Seattle Housing is unique among housing authorities in the HOPE VI program in committing to one-for-one replacement housing for every unit. We take this commitment very seriously."