The program found available units in the suburbs and

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Unformatted text preview: f racially segregated tenant placement of the Chicago Housing Authority. The program found available units in the suburbs and placed lowincome households with Section 8 certificates in them. The Gautreaux program was implemented with great care; officials found cooperative landlords and screened tenants for reliable rent payment, good housekeeping, and large families. Despite its origins, housing advocates soon celebrated Gautreaux as a way that poor urban dwellers could improve school performance and obtain better jobs (Rosenbaum 1991). Demonstrating the historic tendency of housers to overreach, the Bush and Clinton administrations instituted the Moving to Opportunity demonstration program to expand the Gautreauxstyle dispersal policy to Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The task of duplicating the carefully constructed Gautreaux program all over the country will not be an easy one. The implementation of large and complex government programs in housing and other fields has rarely run smoothly. Indeed the program stumbled at the outset when officials failed to educate the residents of blue-collar suburbs outside Baltimore about the limited scope of the plan. Because of the ensuing storms of protest, the Clinton administration delayed the implementation of the program in Baltimore (De Witt 1995; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 1996). As its early problems indicate, the Moving to Opportunity program risks the kind of political disasters that beset the public housing program. In blue-collar neighborhoods, the words “Section 8”—like the words “public housing”—have become a pejorative term associated with loud, unruly, and possibly dangerous tenants. (Only a minority of subsidized families fit this description, but as with public housing, a few bad actors ruin the reputation of the whole group.) In Boston, for example, neighborhood residents became aggravated over the influx of holders of High Ambitions: American Low-Income Housing Policy 441 Section 8 rental certificates into buildings owned by absentee landlords and complained so bitterly that the mayor convened a special task force to calm the situation (Committee on Subsidized Housing/Absentee Landlord Issues 1993). Just the threat of an influx of inner-city poor triggered large-scale protests in Baltimore. If resumed, an aggressive dispersal program will only provoke more controversies and resistance. At a time when many are fighting to keep basic social programs alive, right-wing commentators have begun to use the threat of a campaign to enforce socioeconomic heterogeneity throughout metropolitan America as ammunition to suppress all government housing programs (Bovard 1994). Yet even if the Moving to Opportunity program had been able to copy Gautreaux perfectly, it would have failed to solve the problems of the poor. A second look at survey data shows that Gautreaux achieved far less impressive results than earlier conclusions suggested. Although more likely to obtain jobs, lowincome arrivals in...
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