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Thread: Chicago housing projects

  1. #1
    Jul 2003

    Chicago housing projects

    briefly turning on the tv yesterday evening, i happened to tune into "60 minutes," which had a segment about the city of chicago tearing down a number of their notorious housing projects and instead putting up new mixed-income units.

    i didn't get to catch the whole thing, but i have two questions...

    1. does anyone know the full story on this? (i'm too darn lazy to go searching the web myself, you see.)

    2. does anyone have any thoughts about the pros/cons of this strategy. as much as my feeble mind can understand, the benefits are that some families are able to escape the horrendous conditions of the housing projects, and the burdens are that the absolute number of low-income housing units are dropping precipitously (sp?).

    additional thoughts? will we ever solve the need/desire for public housing?

  2. #2

    Jul 2002
    Chicago, IL
    I don't know all the details, but the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) is razing all of their public housing high-rises and replacing them with mixed-income housing on the same sites.

    Approximately two-thirds of the high-rises have come down since 1999, but the construction of the mixed-income housing has been slower to move forward. The CHA has issued RFPs to bring on developers of new housing, and the CHA is trying to enforce an income mix of 50% market rate housing, 30% "affordable" housing (for households earning 80%-120% of the Chicago MSA median household income), and 20% former public housing high-rise residents. It has worked in some places, like near Cabrini-Green on the Near North Side and the former Henry Horner Homes site near the United Center on the Near West Side. In those areas, the gentrification market is strong, the new housing is up and supported by new commercial development. It hasn't worked in other places, like the State Street Corridor on the South Side (the projects that most outsiders associate with "Chicago projects"), where the market for market rate housing is much softer.

    And what really hasn't worked well is the placement and re-education of the 80% of former public housing high-rise residents who won't qualify for homes in the new developments. The CHA is relying on Section 8 vouchers and telling former residents to find their own places. The result has been a large influx of former public housing residents in neighborhoods where few had been before, and a lot of talk about how those neighborhoods are being "destabilized". This is particularly true for Chicago neighborhoods like South Shore, South Chicago, Roseland and Englewood, and for the south suburbs like Harvey, Markham, Riverdale and Calumet City.

    The CHA refers to it as an experiment, and it truly is that.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
    May 2003
    City of Low Low Wages!
    I believe this is part of the federal Hope IV program. Hope IV has worked very well in other cities, and even most of those that were displaced ended up living in better conditions than they did in the projects.

    I think the affordable housing component is awesome and should make it easier to get stronger affordable housing requirements on all developers when the program suceedes.

    Yes, the program is an experiment, but the projects were experiments too, and they failed by any reasonable measure. Something had to be done about them.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    I may like to criticize the flatlanders, but in all honesty, Chicago has been making some very noticable improvements under Mayor Daley. There is a generally progressive attitude toward development, and Daley is unabashedly adopting practices from European cities. It all seems to be working. (Now if only they could export the bums to some other city. )

    The HOPE programs through HUD are one of the better products of the Clinton Administration. (Damn, saying goof things about two Democrats in one thread - I am not feeling well today.) HUD finally recognized that the towers and other projects it helped to construct in the 1960's-1970's failed to work as communities. The push is now to redevelop many of these often uninhabitable older projects with mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods that eliminate many of the problems of the past.

    In theory, having a unit open to the sidewalk gives the resident some ownership, where they can watch the street, allow their kids to play outside, and maybe have a small patch of dirt next to the stoop where they plant some flowers. It also removes interior corridors where crime might occur, makes it easier to observe activity at individual units, and opens up a network of streets, sidewalks, and small courtyards for social interaction.

    These programs are going on in most medium and large cities. Quite a bit has been written about them. ULI has several good articles. HUD is another source.

  5. #5
    Aug 2005
    Burlington, VT

    Chicago Public Housing and HOPE IV

    Though the HOPE IV program is well intended, in Chicago it is a different matter. The fact is that Chicago allowed the high rises to be unmaintained for such a long period of time and refused to do routine maintance, which caused the project high rises to become unsafe. It's funny how the CHA can get away without being punished for allowing people to live in such horrible conditions.
    In the case of Horner Homes, which was considered to be the safest project in Chicago, the area only had influence from one gang, and the residents in the buildings had sucessfully lobbied for repairs, etc. But when HUD took over the CHA, they allowed that project to turn into a fester hell.
    The reason that Cabrini Green was slated for destruction was because it sits near the valuble Gold Coast, and Chicago doesn't want an eyesore to look at.
    Pretty much, though HOPE IV has helped out so many other cities, it is being used as a political ploy to steal the land under the projects for "better" people.
    As far as Mayor Daley goes, his father was to blame for the forced segeration of the people in the projects, so why did the people of Chicago elect him? I know that he is pretty much copying what his father did, but more stealthy.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
    May 2003
    One of the reasons that the projects that were built in the 60's and 70's failed is because there was such a heavy concentration of people in poverty living side by side. This is not a Chicago phenomenon but happened in most areas of the country where high-rise projects were put up and created an unreasonable concentration of poverty. These new developments have good and bad sides. Mainly, the bad is that overall there are usually less units available for those in need. The plus side is that those units that do exist are of better value because of the mix of market-rate housing and subsidized units.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Mar 2005
    London, UK
    High-rise 'projects' for low-income public housing failed very abdly almsot everywhere they were tried, even in countries with sturdier saftey nets / socialized medicine, etc.

    Reasons: partly the concentration of poverty effect, partly the high rises themselves and urban fabric rape that accompaneid them and partly the infantilization of the sub-proletariat.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  8. #8
    Apr 2004
    Cairo, NY


    The public housing revitalization program is HOPE VI, not HOPE IV.

  9. #9
    Most of what I've heard is criticisms of Chicago's public housing. That's too bad, and Chicago will always be notorious for it.

    What have other cities come up with that deals with the poor?

    Despite criticisms here, I for one agree with what the city is currently doing to reform public housing. Keep in mind that 99% of Chicago's public housing is poor as hell black people and many of them have major problems with education, job training, crime, and some degree of drug addiction/gang violence, etc.

    This is by all means not a blanket description--I know a lot of successful people grew up from very stable families in public housing.

    That being said, Chicago has demolished most of these highrises. It is replacing them with housing that generally is 1/3 public housing, 1/3 "affordable", and 1/3 market rate. The land that these neighborhoods are being built on have an ENORMOUS potential for gentrification and profitable real estate growth. The risk that the city is taking--that middle-class people will be willing to live next door to public housing residents, is a huge leap of faith and is also a big service to the poor who will be getting this housing.

    Chicago is not creating ghettos. It is creating walkable, mixed-income neighborhoods. I just hope the experiment works

  10. #10

    Nov 2004
    Kansas City
    Chicago is not creating ghettos. It is creating walkable, mixed-income neighborhoods. I just hope the experiment works

    While that may be true, it is also destroying whole communities and displacing thousands of families who were promised to be relocated, and that is not happening. The diaspora of public housing residnets has also lead to an increase in gang violence, as gang members are being forced to move into territories occupied by rival gangs. While all of this is not the fault of Hope IV, it is not being helped by it. Obviously something had to be done, but the city is not living up to its end of the deal.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
    Mar 2005
    Dibs on the Northeast
    Quote Originally posted by iamme
    One of the reasons that the projects that were built in the 60's and 70's failed is because there was such a heavy concentration of people in poverty living side by side. This is not a Chicago phenomenon but happened in most areas of the country where high-rise projects were put up and created an unreasonable concentration of poverty. ...
    Agreed. It has never made sense to me to concentrate 'poor' housing in one area and then expect people living there to live up to some other neighborhood's standards. We know that this type of project housing doesn't work. Why not take random pieces of property throughout the city (perhaps through sale or tax auction properties) and restore or rebuild houses in all (or many) sections of the city? Ideally, the people taking advantage of HUD, HOPE VI, or section 8 programs will take pride in living in a better neighborhood (in a house they can still afford) and crime infested/slum type areas will happen less frequently.
    On the other hand, I wonder how far such a plan would get in the face of extreme NIMBYism... It'd be a good experiment, I think. (does any know of communities that have tried this and it's actually working??)
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

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