Refugees and Public Housing Redevelopment

  • Rachel Garshick Kleit Ohio State University
  • Lynne C. Manzo University of Washington
Keywords: Public Housing, Immigrants, Refugees, Redevelopment, HOPE VI, Adaptation


In some US metropolitan areas, such as Seattle and Minneapolis, rising numbers of immigrants and refugees in public housing have increased the diversity among assisted housing residents is commonplace and creating new challenges for implementing the redevelopment. However, US redevelopment policy does not recognize this diversity. Responding to this gap, this paper summarizes findings from focus groups with Cambodian, Vietnamese, Somali, and Eritrean immigrant and refugee residents of three US HOPE VI public housing redevelopment sites in the Seattle, Washington, metropolitan area, where each site was at a different stage of redevelopment. Results indicate that these immigrants and refugees recognize their differences from mainstream American society and that public housing serves simultaneously to build and maintain in-group social ties while easing their interaction with the mainstream. Additionally, they experience ambivalent relationships to power, expressing gratitude for government and humanitarian agencies, while experiencing distrust of these and other unfamiliar US institutions such as utility companies or the housing authority itself. In addition to the usual stigma associated with public housing redevelopment or immigrant status, these respondents expressed heightened experience of stigma due to the disdainful judgments of non-subsidized co-ethnics. Their experiences suggest that in some ethnically diverse public housing communities, policies that recognize the diversity of experience can improve public housing redevelopment projects and facilitate the successful adaptation of immigrants and refugees to their adopted homeland.


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