A government report concluding that the revival of inner cities is not displacing great numbers of poor people was called "irresponsible" yesterday by the National Association of Neighborhoods.
Milton Kotler, executive director of the association, said its 130 member organizations and citywide coalitions "are seeing with their own eyes that many poor and moderate income people are being evicted or forced out of their homes or apartments because of private and public revitalization."
Kotler said the report issued Tuesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development "will mislead the public" because its conclusion "is not based on hard numbers. HUD merely reiterated a set of old studies and it was by no means a comprehensive revies."
HUD Assistant Secretary Donna E. Shalala, who released the report, said Tuesday that it did not contain solid data, but said that available studies have convinced HUD that displacement "is not a major national phenomenon with huge proportions of the total poverty population being involved."
Shalala said, however, that HUD is "deeply concerned" about the plight of people who are displaced and would recommend within 45 days ways to cope with their problem.
Yesterday Shalala said getting exact figures on displacement would "take too long and cost too much money, and we take the problem so seriously that we have advised the Secretary [Patricia RobHarris] not to wait for precise numbers before we develop a policy for dealing with it."
The report is known to have generated controversy within HUD. Sterling Tucker, assistant secretary for fair housing, reportedly complained to Shalala about the lack of numbers. She is said to have replied, "How many people were discriminated against last week? How many kids don't read up to grade level? Exact numbers don't matter. It's the problem that counts."
However, Kotler argued that numbers are important because "if Congress thinks they are small, it may not be motivated to do anything about the problem."
He said that the HUD report refers to studies of displacement in Seattle, which indicated that 19 percent of the people who moved there did so because of "eviction or changed economic conditions," and in Portland, Ore., which found that as many as 5,000 people there are displaced annually.
"To say that huge proportions of the poverty population are not involved is to misrepresent the problem," Kotler said. "We never said there are 'huge proportions,' but we do say that the problem is a national phesomenon and that large numbers of people are being hurt."