Mayor Daley, HUD Reach Agreement to Transform Chicago Public Housing
By Eugene T. Lowe
Several months after the city of Chicago released a draft plan to its citizens to transform public housing, an agreement was reached and announced on February 5 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Chicago Housing Authority that would permit the plan to go forward. The announcement was made by Mayor Richard M. Daley, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, residents of the Chicago Housing Authority, and from the Illinois congressional delegation – Congressman Bobby Rush, Congressman Danny Davis, and Senator Richard Durbin.
As originally proposed, the plan was to produce more than 24,000 new or rehabbed CHA units on the site of existing public housing developments. A total of 17,000 public housing units were to be demolished, including 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.
When the plan was released in September, 1999, the Chicago Public Housing Authority said that change was needed because much of the city’s public housing was obsolete and plagued with crime and drugs, and had large concentration of extremely poor families. Faced with excessive overhead costs, there was limited capital funds to meet needs. Management was poor, and residents programs were poorly coordinated and without substantive performance measures and outcomes.
But from the outset, questions were raised by residents, Congressmen Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, and HUD concerning the possibility that families living in public housing could be displaced during demolition and relocation as outlined in the plan. The agreement addresses these concerns by ensuring that residents receive legally enforceable guarantees of HUD-subsidized housing both during and after the demolition, relocation and rebuilding of public housing. Some residents will get rental assistance subsidies under the Section 8 program, and some will get the opportunity to move into new public housing.
Under the agreement, the Chicago Public Housing Authority will receive 10 years of block grant and other funding – including more than $1. 5 billion in redevelopment funds – to demolish and replace or renovate 25,000 public housing units.
Secretary Cuomo said: “Everyone agrees that change must occur at the CHA. The City rightly wants redevelopment to move quickly. Residents are understandably concerned about losing their homes and being forced to move. Our challenge was to make the plan work for both the City and the residents, or ultimately it will not work at all. Today’s agreement provides the City with the flexibility the CHA needs to move forward while protecting CHA families during the demolition and relocation.”