Abstract Marginalization of the poor through housing programs is a worldwide concern. As resource constraints, whether real or politically defined, have justified tighter eligibility criteria in many developed countries, the poor have been targets for programmatic changes. This article examines policy changes in the United States that will reduce the proportion of low-income tenants living in public housing on the basis that economic mixing and reduced density will facilitate the production of community. While the intention to improve housing conditions for the poor is an amiable goal, a real concern is that such a change in national housing policy is based too narrowly on a belief in physical determinism. By ignoring systemic conditions that produce economic and racial segregation in the first place, these changes can only lead to fewer units of public housing for those with the greatest needs. I conclude that the concern with producing community in public housing developments is better interpreted as a rhetorical smoke screen that masks a more powerful rationale for getting the Federal government out of the business of maintaining permanent stock of housing for the very poor.