2000 in Review: City Promises ‘Transformation’ for Public Housing

For the first time in six years, the Chicago Housing Authority spent an entire year under city–”not federal–”control, and showed signs of making significant changes in the lives of Chicago’s 23,162 public housing families.

The year began with the CHA board approving its 10-year, $1.5 billion “Plan for Transformation,” to demolish 51 high-rises and create mixed-income communities of publicly funded, affordable and market-rate housing.

One sign of transformation took place at the helm. Often-criticized Chief Executive Officer Phillip Jackson resigned June 1. The CHA Board named 17th Ward Alderman Terry Peterson to replace Jackson.

On July 26, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the CHA $20 million to demolish 10 vacant high-rises: eight in the Robert Taylor Homes along South State and Federal streets, one in nearby Stateway Gardens, and one in the Henry Horner Homes on the near West Side. By the end of the year, nine buildings had been torn down.

In August, the Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council, which represents tenants of the near North Side development, settled its 4-year-old lawsuit against the CHA. The parties had originally reached an agreement in 1998, but The Habitat Co., the court-appointed receiver responsible for building all new CHA housing, scuttled that deal. The new agreement provides the residents partial control over the redevelopment.

CHA residents scored a victory in October with the approval of the Relocation Rights Contract, which guarantees that residents forced to relocate by the CHA can return to public housing if they complied with their leases as of Oct. 1, 1999. The contract also requires the agency to provide three to six months’ notice before relocating residents.

Still, the year closed with thousands of residents still living in dilapidated high-rises. The agency’s task in 2001 will be to convince residents they will benefit from the transformation as much as the middle- and upper-class families the CHA hopes to lure to the new mixed-income neighborhoods.

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