Improving Public Housing In Chicago
July 17, 2003 | Press Release | Housing

MacArthur has announced nearly $2.5 million in grants to help the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) meet the goals of its plan to transform public housing in the city and to ensure that public housing residents and neighborhoods benefit from the changes.

The Plan for Transformation is the most ambitious effort to improve public housing in the country. Over the next seven to ten years, the Chicago Housing Authority will demolish more than 16,000 public housing units and renovate or build approximately 25,000 new units of housing in neighborhoods across the city, many within the context of new mixed income communities on the sites of former public housing developments.

"The Plan for Transformation is an historic opportunity to revitalize city neighborhoods and improve the lives of many of Chicago's residents," said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the Foundation. "These grants address the need of the city for a consolidated budgeting process, support for residents' participation in the physical planning process, more effective communications from the CHA and, most importantly, objective information about the impact of relocation and redevelopment on people's lives. Such information is essential to holding the CHA accountable and to providing guidance for program improvement."

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago received a grant of $780,000 over two years to continue tracking the experiences of public housing residents as they relocate and settle into new housing. Research to date indicates that almost two-thirds of public housing residents chose to move to private housing using Section 8 vouchers, as opposed to staying in public housing during redevelopment. Findings also show that fully 85 percent of the CHA residents who moved in 2002 and 2003 were satisfied with the services designed to help them relocate from sites ready to begin construction. The grant will help NORC build on its survey of 918 public housing residents who started the relocation process in 2002 and early 2003 to include at least 400 follow-up interviews, and to begin to survey residents who will move in 2004. The funds will also be used to conduct research with people who are not officially residents of public housing but are living with public housing leaseholders. Results of the survey will be shared with the Chicago Housing Authority, the Central Advisory Council of tenant leaders, the independent monitor of the Relocation Rights Contract, and others.

A grant of $340,000 over four years was awarded to Columbia University to continue a study of 400 families relocating from Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes public housing development in an effort to understand the impact of the transformation of public housing in Chicago on people and communities. The grant will allow researchers to document the settlement patterns of the 400 families and to record the residents' individual experiences in the communities in which they are resettling. This is expected to generate information about the process and impact of relocation and resettlement on public housing residents and communities, which will allow the CHA to develop appropriate policies and service programs to meet resident needs. The first phase of the study, which was completed in June 2003, has helped the CHA improve its approach to delivering social services to CHA residents during their relocation. The research at Robert Taylor Homes has demonstrated a need to tailor programs to provide for the varying needs and circumstances of public housing residents, rather than follow the "one-size-fits-all" approach used in the past.

The Urban Institute, a national nonpartisan research and policy analysis organization based in Washington, DC, received a grant of $308,000 over two years to conduct two studies related to the development of mixed-income housing on residents and their neighborhoods. The first is a national study of the impact of the HOPE VI program-a federal funding program designed to help develop mixed-income communities at public housing sites across the country-on the original residents at five developments, including one in Chicago. It is the only study to assess the effects of public housing changes on original residents over time, and it will track a variety of outcomes for adults and children, including the type and quality of housing, employment and income, health, education, and child resiliency. The second study will examine the implementation of development at Chicago's Ida B. Wells development and look at the effectiveness of the support services for residents. A separate grant to the Urban Institute for $75,000 will support efforts to identify low-poverty neighborhoods in Chicago where there is housing available to public housing residents who are using vouchers to relocate to private market units.

A grant of $340,000 over 18 months was made to S. B. Friedman & Company, a private consulting firm that does market research and financial analysis in the area of real estate development and public-private partnerships, to help the Chicago Housing Authority and other City of Chicago agencies develop comprehensive budgets and manage costs for the planning, site preparation, and financing of mixed-income housing developments. The efforts of S. B. Friedman & Company are expected to help the City manage the overall cost of the Transformation Plan throughout its implementation by consolidating resources across City agencies in a way that allows for a more effective and efficient expenditure of City resources for public housing redevelopment.

The Chicago Housing Authority received two grants totaling $560,000. One grant for $310,000 is to retain community development consultants to work closely with residents to design redevelopment plans at LeClaire Courts, Atlgeld Gardens, and Lathrop Homes. These funds will be used to help plan for the physical redevelopment of these sites and to ensure that residents participate fully in the process.

A second grant for $250,000 is for activities designed to help the CHA better communicate information about its progress on the Plan's objectives to key constituencies. These include quarterly reports for stakeholders and site-specific brochures for residents about the process for moving back to developments once construction is complete.


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