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Self - Help Improvement of Public Housing: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications

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In numerous public housing neighborhoods in Israel, one can observe a widespread process of user-initiated expansions of small housing units. The residents of these neighborhoods are working-class families with below-average income. These people frequently function as passive users of the welliare state's services, including housing services. A study on their housing-related attitudes and behavior discovered that when they were given a chance, a considarable portion of them turned into active, participating users. When they gained control (ownership) over their housing, when the physical conditions enabled it, and when the administrative institutions did not inhibit it, many of them renovated, expanded the area and greatly improved their living conditions.The improvements included frontages and yards, and thus, not only themselves but also their neighbors and neighborhoods benifited from the housing expansion process. When subsidized loans and on-sight technical assistance were provided, the numbers grew, especially from among lower-income families. The conclusions are that old public housing can be made responsive to new needs, and that public-individual partnership can create a positive dynamics in low-status neighborhoods.

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