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HUD No. 97-79
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-1420Wednesday,
Or contact your local HUD officeMay 21, 1997


Washington - Improved information, better management of public housing developments, and safe, secure neighborhoods, weigh more heavily than race in shaping public housing residents' attitudes toward public housing in Allegheny County, Pa., according to an Urban Institute study released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The study, designed to determine the most productive and effective way to desegregate public housing developments in Allegheny County, Pa., was conducted in early 1996 as one of the Department's consent decree requirements under Sanders vs. HUD, a 1988 lawsuit involving allegations of illegal racial segregation by the Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA).

In 16 focus group meetings with current ACHA residents and individuals on the waiting list, respondents said that they are more concerned with how safe, secure and drug-free an environment is rather than what color their neighbors are. At the same time, researchers found that respondents knew little about ACHA developments in which they did not live, particularly those in which their race was underrepresented, and that the media shaped their impressions about other parts of the county. Those receiving the least information about other developments had the most negative views or stereotypes.

Despite a long history of racial residential segregation in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, white focus group participants said that a 50-50 racial mixture in their neighborhoods was "acceptable as a potential moving destination, so long as other physical and social dimensions of the residential environment were acceptable."

In addition, the report concluded that desegregation is possible where management provisions such as good tenant screening and orientation, good maintenance and repairs, and community building activities are ongoing. An examination of ACHA's Sharps Terrace development during the study, for instance, revealed that community building activities there lead to interracial friendships, mutual education, and the "decisive shattering of interracial barriers."

"What we've found through this study is that reluctance on the part of individuals with different backgrounds to relocate masks opportunities for desegregation," said Dr. George Galster, a professor in Wayne State University's Urban Policy Program and the principle investigator for the study. "When you have open communication, pride in a community and decent, safe surroundings you have the fundamental building blocks necessary to build strong communities."

"The results of this study prove that viable, multiracial communities can be established," said Susan Forward, deputy assistant secretary for Enforcement and Investigations in HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Desegregating Allegheny County's public housing developments must be done carefully, but with the cooperation of federal and local agencies, civic officials, community groups, and others who can provide critical information and key resources it can be accomplished."

Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research Michael A. Stegman said: "This is the most useful report we have sponsored on public housing desegregation in the last decade."

The study also recommends that public housing managers screen applicants in an effort to ensure that new tenants meet all admission requirements. Under HUD's One Strike Policy, any public housing resident arrested for committing a crime will be evicted. Similarly, the Department's Operation Safe Home initiative targets the collective resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, public housing staff, and residents to stamp out the worst infestations of gangs, drugs, and violent crime in public housing developments and the surrounding neighborhoods.

ACHA developments included in the study were chosen based on whether they were predominantly black, predominantly white or integrated, and according to whether they were for families or for senior citizens only.

To obtain a printed copy of the study, contact HUD User at 1-800-245-2691. An electronic copy of the study can be obtained via HUD's Home Page at http://www.huduser.org. by clicking on What's New.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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