The struggle for the future of public housing in Memphis, Tennessee: Reflections on HUD's choice neighborhoods planning program


This paper critically examines the Choice Neighborhoods Planning Initiative that was carried out in the Vance Avenue Neighborhood in Memphis Tennessee (USA). It tells the story of the involvements of a coalition of 25 neighborhood organizations in partnership with the City and Regional Planning (CRP) Department at the University of Memphis – called the Vance Avenue Collaborative (VAC) – in the CN Planning Initiative. Launched in 2011 with significant community support, the CN Planning Initiative ended in 2013 with a resident-led oppositional planning effort that challenged the institutional plan. The VAC story explores some of the pitfalls that might arise in institutionally-created spaces for citizen participation, by revealing the broad range of tactics used by public officials to marginalize democratic citizen participation. Based on the issues that emerged during the CN Planning Initiative, the VAC created alternative strategies to respond to those generated through institutional planning. These counter-strategies, framed in Advocacy Planning and Action Research approaches were able to secure some important achievements along the way and might be useful for communities within publicly sponsored urban revitalization efforts.

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