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Emanuel’s CHA plan challenged

UPDATED – While Cabrini Row House residents prepare to challenge CHA plans for mixed-income development, CHA resident leaders and housing advocates are questioning Mayor Emanuel’s update to the agency’s Plan For Transformation.

The Cabrini-Green Local Advisory and supporters will hold a press conference Thursday morning (May 16 at 9:30 a.m., 530 W. Locust) to announce “a new initiative to protect the Carini Row Houses,” according to a release from the Legal Assistance Foundation.

Row House residents have called on CHA to fulfill the promise in the original PFT to rehabilitate the development as 100 percent public housing; that plan was put on hold in 2011.

Meanwhile, resident leaders and community organizations called on the CHA board to reject the mayor’s plan and return to the drawing board — and to heed input from the public, including an emphasis on preservation and rehab of existing units rather than subsidizing private development as the most cost-effective way to meet CHA’s obligations.

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Thousands of rehabbed units vacant in CHA

The Chicago Housing Authority has thousands of vacant units of housing, much of it rehabbed but left unoccupied, according to a citywide housing coalition.

The Chicago Housing Initiative will release data showing “a growing epidemic of vacant public housing units” outside the CHA board meeting, 2915 N Leavitt, at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, September 20.

Calling it “a senseless waste of desperately needed housing,” the coalition is calling on CHA to immediately begin leasing all rehabbed and habitable public housing units.  The group is seeking a meeting with CHA interim chief Carlos Ponce.

According to the Housing Initiative, the CHA has over 6,000 vacant units in family and senior housing, including more than 3,300 rehabbed units. The group’s figures show that only 68 percent of CHA’s family housing is occupied.

Meanwhile there are over 47,000 families on CHA’s waiting list, in addition to thousands of seniors.

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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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