Uptown in the News
February 27, 2005
At the halfway mark of Chicago's decade-long "Plan for Transformation," 4,600 families have been moved out of the notorious public housing high-rises with the promise that they could find better homes and neighborhoods
But the latest figures obtained by the Tribune show that three-quarters of those families are now concentrated in struggling segregated communities such as Englewood, Roseland and South Shore.
Critics say the migration of families has just exported the problems of public housing to increasingly unstable residential blocks
Justifiably or not, CHA families in those neighborhoods are blamed for everything from trash in the streets to drug-related shootings on previously quiet blocks.
The new numbers debunk a misperception that many went to the south suburbs -- only 141 families have moved outside Chicago.
The Plan for Transformation is the nation's most ambitious effort to overcome the failed 20th Century policy of warehousing the poor in cramped and crime-ridden high-rises. One of the goals is to "promote the deconcentration of low income housing."
Eventually, those who were moved out of the high-rises are supposed to be able to move into rehabbed apartments and new townhouses being built to replace the Robert Taylor Homes, Cabrini-Green and other CHA complexes. But critics say they fear that migration to the neighborhoods is permanent.
Many voucher holders will not pass stringent requirements to get back into the CHA's new developments, housing advocates predict.
After years in living in crumbling towers, former tenants also like the bigger, if often run-down private homes they can get with vouchers. Also family ties keep many rooted in disadvantaged areas.
Subsidized renters are replacing deceased neighbors and those who have lost their houses to foreclosure. Some long-time homeowners are also moving away, and many others are contemplating moving.
These factors create a fertile environment for real estate speculators seeking the guaranteed income that comes with participating in the CHA's housing subsidy program.
Despite a lawsuit charging the CHA with systematic segregation of the former public housing tenants, CHA officials argue they've developed a solid strategy to persuade public housing tenants to move to areas of low poverty. Each year, tenants are counseled about middle-income enclaves throughout the city that have improved school test scores and job opportunities. Right now, more than 400 Section 8 apartments in such "areas of opportunity" are available but vacant, the CHA said.
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