Looking at Chicago’s Experience with Mixed-Income Public Housing

Looking at Chicago’s Experience with Mixed-Income Public Housing

by December 4, 2015

Chicago Chicago and many other cities around the world have turned to mixed-income housing as a strategy to provide housing for low-income people. That approach, which received a closer look in a new book that examines public housing transformation in Chicago, will be the topic of an event Thursday, Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton St.

The discussion, “Integrating the Inner City: Chicago Public Housing Past, Present and Future,” will feature a conversation with Robert Chaskin, professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Mark Joseph, associate professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western University. The discussion is free and open to the public.

The event is a celebration of the release of Chaskin and Joseph’s new book, “Integrating the Inner City – The Promise and Perils of Mixed-Income Public Housing”, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Joining the scholars in the conversation will be members of the Youth Advisory Council of the National Housing Museum. Those CHA residents, aged 14 to 21, represent the communities of Stateway Gardens (now Park Boulevard), Henry Horner Homes (now Westhaven) Lathrop Homes, and the Austin community. Natalie Moore of WBEZ-FM, will be the moderator.

Chaskin and Joseph and their research team spent six years in field research in preparing their book, which is a study of the largest effort in the nation designed to remake public housing and address concentrated urban poverty, Chicago’s $3 billion Plan for Transformation. They attended community meetings, did in-depth interviews, and reviewed volumes of data.

Although completely transforming the built environment where public housing complexes once stood and contributing to safety and neighborhood revitalization, the benefits of this transformation have largely not been realized for the majority of public housing residents relocated to make way for the new developments, the scholars found.

Central to the transformation was the replacement of large-scale public housing complexes into mixed-income communities.

The new housing, erected by private developers, includes units for public housing residents as well as higher-income renters and owners. This mixed-income housing was intended to create new opportunities for public housing residents who had previously lived in highly segregated communities that limited their access to opportunity in the city at large and contributed to their continued poverty.

“At the center of the Plan is a stated emphasis on integration–on breaking down the barriers that have left public housing residents isolated in racially segregated, severely economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and, through relocation and community development, incorporating them into the broader contexts, institutions, and opportunities provided by the city as a whole,” the authors write.

But achieving effective integration through housing is more complicated than simply moving poor and wealthier people to the same development. Housing redevelopment, by itself, is an ineffective way of overcoming the problem of poverty, they found.

The event is jointly sponsored by the Urban Network, the National Public Housing Museum, the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, the Kreisman Initiative on Housing Law and Policy, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. •

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