Resistance was Futile: The Case of Public Housing Elimination in Atlanta 

Deirdre A. Oakley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Undergraduate Director
Sociology, Georgia State University

Friday, September 12, 2014
12pm – 2pm
Faculty Lounge, 3rd floor, Armitage Hall
Lunch will be served 

photo credit: Mindy Stombler


Dr. Oakley is an Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at Georgia State University and the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies. Her research, which has been widely published in both academic and applied venues, focuses primarily on how social disadvantages concerning education, housing, homelessness as well as redevelopment, are often compounded by geographic space and urban policies. Since 2008 she has been collaborating with Drs Lesley Reid, Erin Ruel (both from Georgia State University) on two complementary National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NSF– funded projects examining the impact of public housing elimination in Atlanta. Dr. Oakley has provided Congressional Testimony concerning public housing preservation and the Neighborhood Choice initiative to the Financial Services Committee. In addition, Dr. Oakley was a guest editor, along with Drs Jim Fraser (Vanderbilt University) and Diane Levy (The Urban Institute), on a special Cityscape symposium concerning public housing transformation that was published in the July 2013 issue. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College with a B.A. in American History. She received her M.A. (Urban Geography) and Ph.D. (Sociology, which a specialization in Urban) from the State University of New York, Albany.    

HOPE VI (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere) sought to transform public housing by demolishing large, spatially concentrated—and in many cases deteriorating—developments and replacing them with mixed-income housing. This has meant the relocation for the majority of public housing residents to private market rental housing with the help of a voucher. While there have been a few grassroots-based initiatives in some cities that have compelled public housing authorities to more formally acknowledge the needs of the public housing residents, in Atlanta such mobilizations became futile. Atlanta is the first city to eliminate all of its traditional project-based public housing, and its initiatives to do so have received national acclaim, with the label “The Atlanta Model”. This paper documents how Atlanta’s public housing resident and advocacy groups attempted to stop the last demolitions, and how the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) was able to get past this loosely-structured movement successfully with the help of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The paper highlights the hegemonic public housing transformation regime that Atlanta was able to create, a regime which not only disempowered resident protest and resistance, but their input as well.