Moving Past Picket Fences: The Meaning of “Home” for Public Housing Residents

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The literature on the meaning of “home” has generally focused on creating lists without giving much attention to the context that shapes meanings. Recently, scholars have argued that to understand “home” it is important to know the range of meanings that different people in different contexts give it. In this article, we focus on the meaning of “home” for public housing residents and consider how they construct the meaning of “home” and if they find that meaning in public housing. Our findings suggest that respondents consider their public housing residences to be “home,” and they construct this meaning using the dimensions of home identified in the literature. However, how respondents used these dimensions were, in some ways, different because of the context of living in public housing. Respondents emphasized the social dimension, and this dimension appeared to organize the other dimensions. As such, our findings support arguments that context matters to the meaning of “home.” They also suggest that policymakers need to broaden their understandings of public housing, as places that can be “home,” and use this understanding when making decisions about housing transformations.

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