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Altgeld residents oppose demolition plans

Residents of Altgeld Gardens say they were blind-sided by a new CHA plan to demolish a third of their Far South Side public housing development, and they are organizing to oppose it.

Led by People for Community Recovery, they’ll call for reconsideration of the plan – and a community-led redevelopment plan – at a hearing on CHA’s annual redevelopment report, Tuesday, September 11, 6 p.m., at the Charles A. Hayes Center, 4859 S. Wabash.

In the agency’s 2000 Plan For Transformation, CHA committed to redeveloping all of Altgeld Garden’s 1,998 units as public housing.  But in an annual update just issued, CHA said it has budgeted $7.3 million to demolish 648 units at Altgeld that have yet to be rehabbed.

“At a time when there is a housing crisis in the city of Chicago, what are they thinking?” said Cheryl Johnson of PCR.  “This is not right.  They are not going to get away with this without a fight.”

According to the new CHA report, the agency is “exploring options” for Altgeld, including the possibility of “integrating other housing types.”  In the meantime, “CHA has determined that it will undertake planning for the demolition” of all vacant, non-rehabbed units there.

Deemed ‘viable,’ left vacant

The Plan For Transformation committed CHA to complete rehab of 5,000 public housing units in developments determined by building assessments to be “viable,” including Altgeld, Lathrop Homes, and Cabrini Row Houses.

But in subsequent years, even while some rehab was carried out, the agency stopped leasing out vacant units.  Now just 18 percent of Lathrop’s units are occupied, and 21 percent of the Cabrini Rowhouses, according to the Chicago Reporter.  Altgeld is nearly one-third vacant.

As revealed by the Chicago Housing Initiative, CHA exploits a legal loophole to get federal operating subsidies for unoccupied units.

In 2010, over residents’ objections, CHA hired a development team for Lathrop that included a major for-profit, luxury housing developer, and last year CHA put the Cabrini redevelopment on hold, citing outside groups opposing its renovation as 100-percent public housing.

The Reporter recently talked with homeless families who are among 40,000 families on CHA’s waiting list, noting that they have little hope “of ever hearing from CHA or getting an apartment.”

Johnson said she knows displaced Altgeld residents now residing in homeless shelters.

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Category: housing, public housing

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3 Responses

  1. Wherewithall says:

    Large public housing projects do not work. Regardless of the intentions, effort, passion or funding provided. Warehousing large swaths of poor people always disappoints.

    Projects don’t work in Paris, Cairo, London — or even Scandanavia! And certainly not in racist, corrupt and bare-knuckled Chicago, Illinois.

    I am not without compassion for those victims of the “public housing penitentiary” but that doesn’t mean that we can continue to support a system that continues to fail.

    The CHA is right on this one.

  2. Curtis says:

    These are all medium-size, low-rise developments. They have all worked in the past, prior to disinvestment. They were all deemed viable by the CHA’s own assessment, after the feds eliminated the requirement of one-for-one replacement for any public housing units demolished. What clearly doesn’t work, judging from the situation of people on CHA’s waiting list, is demolishing housing for low-income people without providing any replacement.

  3. Jeff says:

    If the remaining unrehabbed units in Altgeld are viable for rehab and rental, then that seems like the best solution, at least 648 more families would have a home, the development would be full and hopefully things would continue to improve there. Nobody is going to buy a market rate house or condo in that area, it just is not going to happen. What would they replace the razed units with? What is the real reason they want to tear these down? well could be that it just eliminates 700 units of housing so CHA has 700 less units/families to worry about. Or is that land going to be developed for something other than housing? Some type of factory? or municipal development? The units they have rehabbed look pretty good and there is a core group of people who live there that are trying very hard to build a community. A new (good) school would be a nice investment or some churches, health clinics, how about razing some of the liquior stores and other run down crap and build a new Walmart or a Savealot, that would be money well spent to actual bring up the community plus provide some decent jobs so people can get off welfare.

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