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Chicago Receives Comments On Public Housing Plan

By Eugene T. Lowe

A draft plan that will transform the public housing in Chicago is now before resident leaders and elected officials. Public comments are now being garnered before the $1.5 billion plan will be submitted to the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for approval on December 1 of this year. The plan will transform public housing developments in Chicago from isolated pockets of poverty into new and rebuilt mixed-income communities aimed at fostering economic independence for its residents.

The Chicago Housing Authority Plan for Transformation: Improving Public Housing and the Quality of Life for Its Residents will produce more than 24,000 new or rehabbed CHA units on the site of existing public housing developments, enough to accommodate all current, lease-compliant CHA residents who want to remain in public housing.

The change is needed because the public housing, much of it obsolete and plagued with crime and drugs, has a large concentration of extremely poor families. Faced with excessive overhead costs, there are limited capital funds to meet needs. Management is poor, and residents programs are duplicative, poorly coordinated and without substantive performance measures and outcomes. In addition to these problems are new federal regulations that threaten to put Chicago back on the “troubled” list.

A total of 17,000 public housing units will be demolished over the next five years, including all open, gallery-style high rises. Less than half of the units slated for demolition are occupied and, during redevelopment, all lease-compliant CHA families can choose between new or rehabbed on-site housing or Section 8 housing. After redevelopment, they will be given first preference in returning to their current public housing developments.

The properties that will be torn down include the 32 high-rise buildings of the Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway Gardens on the city’s South Side and the eight buildings of the Cabrini-Green project on the West Side.

Chicago Housing Authority Chief Executive Officer Phillip Jackson said of the plan: “This process will not be problem-free. Change never is. But standing still is not an option. What now exists has failed - failed the residents, failed taxpayers, and failed our city. It’s time to acknowledge that failure and take the steps necessary to produce transformation.”

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