MacArthur Foundation has announced seven grants totaling nearly $3 million in support of efforts to implement Chicago's Plan for Transformation of public housing. Since 1999, the Foundation has provided more than $17 million in grants to aid the process of greatly improving public housing in the city.
Over the past three years, the Foundation's support has helped streamline management systems at the CHA, improve social service delivery to public housing residents, provide better relocation assistance to those affected by the transformation, build participation by tenant groups in the transformation process, and promote successful mixed income communities by bringing together residents, community leaders, and public officials to share ideas and concerns.
In 1999, the City of Chicago launched the most extensive overhaul of public housing in the nation. The Plan for Transformation calls for the CHA to demolish more than 16,000 public housing units and build or renovate 25,000 units over the next seven to ten years. Working with city agencies, private developers, and civic and community groups, the CHA will create mixed-income communities and, in the process, help revitalize some of the city's most distressed neighborhoods. The transformation is intended to help ensure that residents of public housing are full participants in the process that determines where they will live.
"Many of life's opportunities begin with a good home in a good neighborhood, and we want to help make this a reality for public housing residents," said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. "The Transformation Plan is an historic opportunity to bring about fundamental improvements in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods while improving the quality of life for public housing residents. The Plan is focusing resources in an unprecedented way to overcome the isolation that historically has accompanied public housing developments."
A grant of $750,000 to the National Opinion Research Center will be used to gather reliable information about the impact of the Plan for Transformation on residents of public housing. This effort will gather information from residents about how the relocation process is proceeding, provide independent data about the process of relocation that will be used to improve programs and policies, and serve to verify the accuracy of the CHA's new data tracking system.
Business and Professional People in the Public Interest (BPI), a public interest law and policy center that has played an active role in ensuring that the redevelopment of public housing results in mixed-income communities, received $750,000 over three years to provide technical assistance and to advocate for the transformation's effective implementation. BPI represents CHA residents to help ensure they have a choice over what type of neighborhood and housing they will live in. To continue this work, BPI will deploy staff to the planning and development projects affecting current residents of public housing, develop and disseminate information for effective planning and execution, and monitor the progress of the plan. BPI will continue existing work at Henry Horner Homes - a public housing development on Chicago's west side where strategies for effective transformation have been tested - to ensure that the vision and goals for that redevelopment are achieved.
A grant of $470,000 over two years to the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) will enable the Council to continue its program of public education and communication in support of the Plan for Transformation. The Council will host quarterly public meetings about the transformation, publish fact sheets about its progress, and evaluate proposals from developers on plans for specific CHA sites. In an effort to improve the relationship between the CHA and its residents, MPC will help ensure that information about the transformation of public housing is made available to public housing residents, civic and community leaders and organizations, and the general public.
The Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities received a grant of $250,000 over two years to adapt its counseling services to better meet the needs of current public housing residents who want to relocate to low-poverty neighborhoods. The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has contracted with the Leadership Council to help prepare at least 500 public housing families for such moves, often called "mobility" or "opportunity" moves because people relocate to better neighborhoods. The Foundation's grant will provide additional resources to the Leadership Council to help ensure that its new program is effective and achieves its goals.
The Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research has been awarded a grant of $288,500 over two years to evaluate the mobility counseling services being delivered by the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities under contract to the Chicago Housing Authority. The evaluation research will supply important information about how public housing residents experience their moves and about the differences among neighborhoods in their receptivity to public housing families. The evaluation is designed to deliver findings on an ongoing basis to both the CHA and to the Leadership Council.
A grant of $125,000 over one year to the Marcy-Newberry Association will provide support to the Westside Consortium to help local social service agencies and larger institutional actors inventory the social service and community resources available to west side residents, and produce and distribute a resource guide. In the process, the Consortium will also identify and propose solutions to service gaps and provide staff support to local service providers working with the residents of Horner, Rockwell, and ABLA public housing developments.
A grant of $80,000 was awarded to One Economy Corporation to devise technology-based solutions to help public housing residents gain access to information about social services in their communities, including information about jobs, childcare, counseling and health care. Specifically, One Economy will work with community groups, residents, and others to produce a plan for increasing resident access to the Internet and computers, developing local content for a website, and expanding the project to other developments and neighborhoods.