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Crime maps

The map of South Shore shootings on page 1 of the Tuesday Tribune’s Metro section (the web story features a much simplified version) called to mind a discussion of maps in this month’s Atlantic.

The article is about the crime wave following the dispersal of public housing residents to far-flung neighborhoods in Memphis; it also talks about public housing demolition in Chicago.

A Memphis couple — a crime researcher and a housing researcher — discovered that the husband’s map of changing crime patterns mirrored the wife’s map of public housing displacement.

The article discusses the widely-heralded 1991 study of a small group of Chicago  public housing residents who showed signs of success after being vouchered out to suburbs.  But a large followup study produced results another researcher called “puzzling.”

“Today social scientists look back on the whole grand experiment” — replacing public housing with vouchers — and “use words like ‘baffling’ and ‘disappointing.'”

Public housing residents aren’t moving into low-poverty neighborhoods, they’re moving from high-poverty to moderate-poverty neighborhoods — a trend “likely to produce more bad neighborhoods and more total crime.”

“Nobody would claim vouchers, or any single factor, as the sole cause of rising crime. Crime did not rise in every city where housing projects came down. In cities where it did, many factors contributed: unemployment, gangs, rapid gentrification that dislocated tens of thousands of poor people not living in the projects. Still, researchers around the country are seeing the same basic pattern: projects coming down in inner cities and crime pushing outward, in many cases destabilizing cities or their surrounding areas. Dennis Rosenbaum, a criminologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told me that after the high-rises came down in Chicago, suburbs to the south and west – including formerly quiet ones – began to see spikes in crime; nearby Maywood’s murder rate has nearly doubled in the past two years.”

The author of the 1991 Chicago study, Northwestern sociologist James Rosenbaum, now says: “People were moved too quickly, without any planning, and without any thought about where they would live, and how it would affect the families or the places.”

The federal HOPE VI program which funded the CHA’s Plan for Transformation now “stands as a bitter footnote to this story. What began as an ‘I Have a Dream’ social crusade has turned into an urban-redevelopment project. Cities fell so hard for the idea of a new, spiffed-up, gentrified downtown that this vision came to crowd out other goals.

“‘People ask me if HOPE VI was successful, and I have to say, “You mean the buildings or the people?”‘ said Laura Harris, a HOPE VI evaluator in Memphis. ‘It became seen as a way to get rid of eyesores and attract rich people downtown.’

“Phyllis Betts told me that when she was interviewing residents leaving the housing projects, ‘they were under the impression they could move into the new developments on site.’ Residents were asked to help name the new developments and consult on the architectural plans. Yet to move back in, residents had to meet strict criteria: if they were not seniors, they had to be working, or in school, or on disability. Their children could not be delinquent in school.

“Most public-housing residents were scared off by the criteria, or couldn’t meet them, or else they’d already moved and didn’t want to move again. The new HOPE VI developments aimed to balance Section 8 and market-rate residents, but this generally hasn’t happened.”

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Category: housing, public housing, violence

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