The Financial Times featured Purpose Built communities in a story published on December 12 titled “Fifth of US adults live in or near to poverty” (subscription required) that discusses the increasing inequality in the United States and what poverty looks like across the country.
One in five US adults now lives in households either in poverty or on the cusp of poverty, with almost 5.7m having joined the country’s lowest income ranks since the global financial crisis.
In looking at the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the reporters spoke to the leadership of Purpose Built Communities and the Renaissance Heights Development Group, one of the newest Purpose Built Communities Network Members, as an example of an effort that is a potential solution to inter-generational urban poverty:
“In America, poverty and place are tied together in really deep ways,” says Carol Naughton, the president of Purpose Built Communities, a non-profit organisation. People are “trapped in intergenerational poverty tied in one place” with substandard schools and higher crime rates. “It is much harder than if you are poor in an economically diverse neighbourhood.”
Her organisation, whose backers include Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, offers one possible answer. A cornerstone of its strategy is bringing mixed-income housing to poor areas, ending the segregation of those at the bottom of the income ladder. This is coupled with top notch, “cradle through college” education, and facilities to improve local health.
One of projects it is involved in is now bearing fruit in south-east Ft Worth, Dallas’s sister city less than 40 miles to the west. There, a vast Walmart superstore opened in 2013 on a formerly crime-ridden lot once owned by a Masonic orphanage.
In the area, called Renaissance Heights, a broader strategy is now gathering momentum, bringing in new housing for a variety of income groups, as well as a YMCA, health facilities, and a high-achieving new school called Uplift Mighty.
Larry Tubb, one of the leaders of the regeneration effort, says it is crucial to end the isolation that afflicts so many poor communities. “We can’t live separately – we see what happens when we try to do that. So let’s see what happens when we try to live together,” he said.
Victor, a bus driver who lives in the area, says the change since developers arrived has been striking. ”The area was really running down, housing was being abandoned, people were leaving animals all over the place, there were abandoned cars,” he says. “Someone had to come in and save this area.”