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Public Housing in Trouble Allen Parkway Village and the West Dallas Housing Project are not isolated cases of public housing in trouble. Even those who feel that APV is doomed know that other public housing developments in Houston will soon face similar problems. Nor is this solely a Texan problem. The future of public housing in America may be decided in this decade. U.S. Rep. Henry Gonzalez of San Antonio says that in just four years we may not have any public housing left if Reagan is re-elected and current policies are implemented. Of the current 1.3 million public housing units in the U.S., about 13 % is 40 years old, and a full 41 % was built in the ’50s or before. Housing authorities across the nation are deciding whether these developments should be renovated or demolished. The land under these developments, once on the edge of town, has since been swallowed by urban growth, making it prime realty. The “bombed out” areas of inner cities attest to the lack of planning behind many urban renewal efforts and leave no trace of the vital communities that were razed. This same pattern of urban renewal, or “urban removal” as it has been dubbed, could easily be played out again in our older public housing developments. The Reagan administration has radically redirected housing policy to an almost exclusive reliance on rental allowances to poor families rather than the provision of housing. If we are to retain that housing stock that now exists an important goal since some 500,000 low-rent units are lost each year HUD funding will not be enough under the current administration’s priorities. But with ingenuity, concern, and tenant participation, our older public housing stock could be turned into a natural resource instead of a national shame. D. C. Alternatives to Demolition Houston ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON, April 6, about 50 students and 10 faculty members from three Texas architecture schools met at Houston’s Allen Parkway village, a public housing project slated for demolition. They came from Rice, Texas A&M, and the University of Houston, at the residents’ invitation, to participate in a design competition set up to offer alternatives to the plans of the Houston Housing Authority. Some students were probably skeptical at the outset, having read the disparaging news reports, but neither the community nor the physical plant seemed ready to be torn down. The structurally sound and, to some eyes, elegant buildings with large open spaces provide a setting for one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Houston one with continually overlooked potential. The students spent all day Saturday developing proposals to renovate Allen Parkway Village, and on Saturday evening they displayed the drawings at a community meeting attended by more than 250 residents and concerned citizens. For the first time, people started thinking it might be possible to save Allen Parkway Village from the wrecking ball. Lenwood Johnson, president of the Allen Parkway Village Residents’ Council and the principal force behind efforts to save the development, says, “This may not look like the best place to live to a lot of people, but it could easily be improved and it’s an extremely important resource. It was here for me when I needed it, and I want to be sure it’s still here for others after I’m gone.” There are concerned civic leaders like Burdette Keeland, chairman of Houston’s planning commission, who believe “Allen Parkway Village should be left there the density could even be increased.” This was also the conclusion of the students and faculty. The design competition was just one part Dana Cuff is an assistant professor of architecture at Rice University. By Dana Cuff of a larger effort to bring the issue of Allen Parkway Village’s future into the public forum for debate and to work with the residents so that they may have a vote in the decision-making process. sents one third of all low-income family public housing in Houston. The twoand three-story structures are organized in long rows along traffic green spaces. The development is built of brick and concrete, which according to the director of housing authority maintenance is so sturdy that all the money made by selling APV will not be enough to build another project of that quality. Karl Kamrath, one of the original architects, says that both the construction and the architectural design is “first rate.” “The only thing that place needs is to be cleaned up and maintained, but the housing authority has never done that.” In 1983 the Houston Housing Authority commissioned a $57,000 study of APV and the surrounding Fourth Ward. The study suggested it would cost too much to renovate APV. Instead, it recommended redeveloping the land occupied by the housing project, coordinated with a Fourth Ward redevelopment plan. The 1983 technical study is important, since it has been the reference point for HHA’s decision to go ahead with demolition. The design competition among the local architecture students was organized as a response to the technical study. The twelve rehabilitation solutions presented by the students stand in stark contrast to the study team’s pessimistic assessment of rehabilitation. All solutions substantially increased 8 JUNE 15, 1984