Cincinnati -- Workers are increasingly part of the mix among Cincinnati public housing residents, according to University of Cincinnati surveys that find more working families using local developments as "rungs" in their housing climb.
Hundreds of local public housing residents - those in Cincinnati's "Bix Six" units (Laurel Homes, Winton Terrace, English Woods, Lincoln Court, Millvale and Findlater Gardens) as well as those in 11 senior housing structures and at scattered sites -- were surveyed in 1995 (385 residents), 1996 (340 residents) and again in 1997 (468 residents) by nationally recognized housing researcher David Varady, UC professor of planning, who examined resident demographics, moving plans and desires, housing and neighborhood conditions, and attitudes toward management and homeownership.
Wolf Preiser, UC professor of architecture, and graduate student Larisa Keith assisted with the survey project. UC's Institute for Policy Research collected data for the surveys conducted on behalf of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), the 17th-largest public housing authority in the nation.
CMHA residents, like their counterparts nationally, are becoming more diverse in terms of income as the authority attracts more moderate-income residents, according to the survey. "CMHA has moved closer to performing the role established for public housing in the original 1930s legislation. It was created as a way-station for the temporarily unemployed, as a resource rather an entitlement, appropriate for the early stages of a housing career before families rented larger units in the private market or become a homeowners," Varady said.
Between 1995 and 1997, the overall proportion of residents who were employed rose from 24- to 33 percent. Among certain types of developments, the number of those employed rose more dramatically. The proportion of employed Big Six residents jumped nearly 20 percent (from 26- to 44 percent) while the proportion of employed scattered site residents nearly doubled from 35- to 61 percent. The average income of residents rose by about $1,000. Those earning $6,000 or more rose from 34- to 47 percent.
During the same time period, the number of residents who were high school graduates rose from 51- to 59 percent. The proportion of residents receiving welfare dropped from 56- to 48 percent, noted Varady.
These shifts come, in part, from new residents. The number of new residents (as represented by those who have lived in a local public housing unit for less than one year) nearly doubled between 1995 and 1997, from 16- to 27 percent. The average length of residence in a CMHA unit now stands at slightly over four years as opposed to slightly over five years in 1995.
According to Donald Troendle, CMHA executive director, the local housing authority is retaining and attracting more moderate-income residents with niche marketing campaigns and a variety of physical and service improvements to become competitive: computerized tracking of all repair/work orders, expanded service hours, new playgrounds, landscaping improvements and extensive kitchen and bath modernization.
"For instance, we aggressively market the child care services
available either on-site or nearby because it's such an important
issue to most working families," explained Troendle, adding that
2,400 CMHA families were now known to contain a job-holder as
compared to 1,235 four years ago. That translates into a
predicted $24 million earned by local public housing residents as
a group this year.