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The Failures and Merits of Place-Based Initiatives

Targeting select low-income communities for an infusion of resources isn’t the answer to the problem of urban poverty. But what is?
Low-income housing in Brownsville, New York City
Low-income housing in Brownsville, New York CityShannon Stapleton / Reuters

Is it time to kick programs like Promise Zones and Choice Neighborhoods to the curb? Are these place-based initiatives, which funnel streams of resources to neighborhoods of concentrated poverty and racial segregation, futile in the face of rapidly expanding wealth gaps? Yes and yes, says Occidental College urban studies scholar Peter Dreier. In “The Revitalization Trap,” a column for the National Housing Institute’s Shelterforce blog that Dreier wrote earlier this month,  he argues that organizations focused on community development have “fallen into the trap of focusing on revitalizing low-income neighborhoods, without challenging the corporate and political forces that create economic inequality and widespread poverty.”

And further: