A New Role for ManagementMay 9th, 2012 | By Marisa O'Donnell
Erin M. Graves
Journal of the American Planning Association. 2011.
Could onsite management really be a key determinant of the success of mixed-income housing?
This is one of Erin Graves’s key findings in a recent article for the Journal of the American Planning Association that is based on her ethnographic study of a Boston mixed-income housing complex over 14 months.
Graves, a policy analyst at the Boston Federal Reserve, analyzes mixed-income housing in the context of four propositions about the relationship between poverty and “socioeconomic mixing”: culture and behavior, institutional improvements, informal social control, and improved social ties for low-income residents.
Did the culture and behavior of residents change? Though the author did find some lower-income residents with altered behaviors, change was not common. Most residents had no regular contact with their neighbors. However, rules imposed by management did seem to change resident behavior.
Were there institutional improvements? Most of the market-rate families chose to travel outside of the neighborhood for goods and services and were largely unaware of organizations within their neighborhood. There was no additional advocacy for neighborhood institutions. Policing was the exception.
Did informal social control expand? Graves’s data suggests that market-rate and subsidized residents alike looked out for the general wellbeing of the neighborhood. Additionally, management played a strong role in preserving the safety and order of the property with formalized rules and their own security service.
Did social ties improve? The author found minimal contact between market-rate and low-income neighbors. Market-rate neighbors gave away furniture and appliances to their lower-income counterparts. However, in terms of “meaningful” social networking ties, only one subsidized resident reported receiving job-networking assistance from a market-rate neighbor.
In contrast, management provided plenty of job resources for both youth and adults in the complex. Management was a more crucial resource in career networking for low-income residents at this complex than their market-rate neighbors.
Graves concludes that
My observational data…suggest that some benefits to low-income residents living in mixed-income developments do occur, as proposed by social theorists and policymakers. Yet, the experience also shows how management mediates relationships…and, consequently, reveals an area where practitioners can intervene to help ensure that the social goals are achieved in mixed-income developments.