Date of Graduation

12-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Political Science

Advisor

Valerie Hunt

Committee Member

Brink Kerr

Second Committee Member

John Gaber

Keywords

Affordable Housing, Community Development, Community Development Corporations, Housing Policy, Public Policy

Abstract

The individuals who staff the nation's 4,600 Community Development Corporations (CDCs) represent the front line in production of affordable housing for America's poor. CDC staff members work within chronic funding uncertainties, applying complex and often ambiguous policies, under pressure to address shortfalls in affordable units. As such, they represent a prime example of Lipsky's (1980) street level bureaucrats (SLBs): agency workers with no formal policy role, who nevertheless shape policy by exercising discretion in the course of implementing ambiguous directives under stressful and alienating conditions.

The purpose of this study is to uncover how CDC SLBs experience their work and influence the implementation of affordable rental housing policies for Extremely Low Income (ELI) households in Washington, D.C. Semi-structured interviews and a follow-up survey were conducted with staff members of three Ward 8 CDCs, and interpretive policy analysis was applied to their responses. Analysis indicates that CDC staff members generally view the LIHTC, HPTF, and HOME policies as beneficial, but confusing, and difficult to administer. They view government funders and private developers as either unwilling or unable to fund support services that ELI renters need. There was some evidence of desire for more advocacy-based approaches that harkened back to the CDCs' original mission of community empowerment. On the other hand, support was lacking such goals as maintaining economic and racial diversity as neighborhoods gentrify. Although Lipsky (1980) emphasized the alienation experienced by SLBs, these findings suggest that, in certain contexts, SLBs may experience a positive attachment to their organizations, clients, and mission, even while experiencing frustration with policy ambiguities or inefficiencies.

Included in

Public Policy Commons

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