April 23, 2009
ATLANTA—Georgia State University student Emily Turner, whose research focuses on the lack of inner-city public housing for low income populations, was one of three students in the nation selected to receive a prestigious research award. Turner was awarded $1,000 from the American Planning Association and Community Development Division.
“This is an organization that I deeply respect and I am humbled that they granted me this award,” said Turner, who is conducting her research through the College of Law's Urban Fellows program, while completing her master's degree at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. “As a student one cannot help but to question whether or not their self-driven research is on target, but having received this grant, I feel as if the APA sees a great deal of merit in my endeavors, further motivating me to move forward.”
Specifically, Turner's research focuses on the greatly reduced number of public housing units available in the inner city since the launch of Hope VI, a $5 billion federally-funded housing program. The program, launched in 1992, was created to avoid mass pockets of concentrated poverty, by uniting with the private sector to provide a variety of housing types that include but are not limited to public housing units.
Turner questions the availability of public housing and the purpose of the housing program, which was originally created to serve low income populations. Since Hope VI was established, Atlanta has implemented 15 Hope VI mixed income developments and Denver has implemented 11. And although the number of housing options might have broadened, Turner says the qualifications and income levels of thousands of residents more than likely have not.
The ultimate goal of the research project is not to undermine the Hope VI/Mixed-Housing initiative, but rather to highlight some severe flaws that urgently need to be addressed, Turner said. She plans to collect data to evaluate the population currently being served by Hope VI in comparison to the pre-Hope VI housing initiative. In addition, she will use digital maps to evaluate each Hope VI project relative to the city's center, to one another, and their proximity to city services such as parks and transit stations.
“I feel that the low-income and poor populations are not only being underserved, but are also being stripped of rights that they are entitled to through public housing,” said Turner, who holds a bachelor's degree in architecture from Syracuse University. “Urban renewal certainly has its perks, but there are ways to accomplish substantial progress in the housing sector through holistic economic development and responsible housing policies.”
Turner hopes her research will not only inform city planners, policy makers and the general public of the need for housing policy reform, but also create a catalyst for responsible public housing with architectural value and a transparent desire to serve the poor and low income.
“Housing is simply not a luxury,” Turner said. “We need to make certain that the public sector continues to help the people that it was originally intended to serve.”
Georgia State Law Professor Colin Crawford, who oversees the Urban Fellows program as co-director of the Center for the Comparative Center of Metropolitan Growth, explained that Turner's work began in the Study Space project, which brings together a small, international group of academics and graduate students working across disciplines.
“We spent a week together intensively studying the effects of urbanization on the physical and built environment and we are absolutely delighted that this experience proved central to the theorization of Emily's research and receipt of this prize,” Crawford said. “It is recognition well deserved and we hope it is the first of many such prizes that our fellows will receive."