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For a long time, many American cities housed their poorest residents in giant public housing towers that had little going for them except for the fact they were affordable. Crime was rampant and indiscriminate, drugs were everywhere, and children who grew up in housing projects often had little access to educational opportunities that would allow them to live a better life than their parents did. Perhaps the most illustrative story of the horror of the housing projects was that of Dantrell Davis, the seven-year-old boy shot to death on his way to school one morning in the Cabrini Green project in Chicago.
Many of these projects are now gone. The HOPE VI program, developed by Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the 1990s, sought to dismantle huge problem projects and replace them with single and multi-family homes. Families received vouchers as the projects were torn down, allowing them to move to other neighborhoods, in a process that policymakers hoped would decentralize poverty. The Richard Allen Homes in Philadelphia, Cabrini Green in Chicago, the Techwood Housing Project in Atlanta, and dozens of others are now gone, replaced by smaller-scale housing developments. […]