In the late 90's, Project HOPE IV granted cities money to destroy thousands of public housing units, including Cabrini Green and Robert Taylor Homes
in Chicago. The cities were suppose to replace the high rises with mixed income housing, including some public housing units. The problem is, the
families that need the housing the most are being forced onto the streets and their leases violated by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) for minor
...The first comprehensive census conducted at Wells, a half-square mile of dilapidated brick buildings, researchers found 388 squatters, including
94 children, camping out in vacant units and hallways. Among about 2,000 legal residents, the study says, one in five have lease violations - mostly
unauthorized roommates or nonpayment of rent or utilities - that could make them ineligible for relocation by the housing authority, and a third need
four- and five-bedroom apartments that are difficult to find inthe private market.
Nearly halfway through the authority's 10-year transformation plan, the most ambitious of a nationwide effort to tear down the vast public housing
projects that had become devastating enclaves of concentrated poverty, the study says the city is unprepared to accommodate residents who do not
qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers or meet strict criteria for entry into the new developments. A separate study of housing projects in seven
cities nationwide, scheduled for release this month by the Center for Community Change, found similar problems: that 72,000 public housing units about
to face the wrecking ball would be replaced by just 41,500 new units.
Over four months this winter, Urban Institute researchers interviewed three-quarters of the 750 official resident families of Wells. The study
suggests that 100 families are at risk of losing their rights to replacement housing because they have household members whose names are not on the
lease. Another problem highlighted by the study is a mismatch of unit size: 34 percent of Wells residents said they needed at least four bedrooms, but
only 10 to 15 percent of the new developments will be such large units.
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
The CHA is demolishing the high rises they had originally built because under a federal mandate, if the buildings would cost more to repair than
to demolish, the government would give cities the funds to do so. The CHA was already infamous for lack of maintance in the buildings. At the Robert
Taylor Homes, the largest public housing complex in the world, the garbage shute was backed up to the 14th floor in one building. Light bulbs and
fixtures were never replaced or fixed. Urine filled the hallways. One winter, also at the Robert Taylor Homes, the furnace broke, and the residents
were left without heat for weeks. Instead of fixing the furnace, the CHA used the emergency to "evacuate" the residents, so the building could be
The projects are not the best place in the world to live, but there, the residents have bonded, like an extended family, despite all the violence
there. In the case of 5 year old Eric Morse, who was thrown from the 14th floor by two children (10 and 11) in the Ida B. Wells project, instead of
letting the matter die when the publicity did, two teenagers from the projects created a radio show for NPR where they interviewed the people of the
projects, and tried to make heads or tails of what happened. The fact is, despite all the negative press that the high rises had gotten, because of
the community support, it is not a bad place to live.
The whole concept of "The Plan for Transformation" as CHA calls the razing of the high rises was to provide public housing residents with safe
homes, but now it is known that it was a land grab, especally in the case of Cabrini-Green which sits about a mile from the rich Gold Coast. Most of
the residents were given Section 8 Vouchers to find housing until the new homes were completed, but are put into neighborhoods that are equally, if
not worse, than the projects where they had come from. These residents are being killed by gang members that know people from the projects are
usually controlled by a gang, so they are seen as a threat. The system needs to change for the people who truly need public housing and the city
needs to be held responsible for all the problems that they had ignored in the high rises.
Related News Links: