LBBA’s ‘Legends South’ on the site of the former Robert Taylor Homes was one of a few projects featured in the recent Architectural Record article ‘Sheltering Chicago: The Changing Face of the City’s Public Housing.’ The article, written by Anna Fixsen, overviews Chicago’s public housing history from the isolated high-rise superblocks of the 60’s to CHA’s current ‘Plan for Transformation’ that guaranteed the addition of 25,000 new or rehabbed affordable housing units by 2010 in the form of low-rise, low-density, and mixed-income development.
While Chicago faces an urgent need for low-income and affordable housing—last year 282,000 Chicagoans applied for housing assistance, including nearly 16,000 homeless residents—the plan has yet to reach its goal. And even as construction moves forward, Fixsen fears rebuilding on CHA land, most of which is in long-segregated neighborhoods, will not rid Chicago’s public housing of its economic disparity and lack of services for the city’s most needy.
Studies by the Urban Institute show increases in earnings and physical conditions for about half of the relocated residents, yet almost all still lived in areas with high poverty and crime rates. The city is responding to these concerns with new initiatives to promote nonresidential development through tax incentives and land swaps. And a newly-revised affordable housing ordinance increases the fees developers pay when they do not meet the minimum requirement of affordable units. The fees collected by this ordinance go to underwrite affordable units elsewhere, and the tightened ordinance encourages development in less affluent areas.
The lessons learned from our public housing past—including expanding gentrification and the displacement of tens of thousands of people as buildings were razed—has invigorated Chicago with community organizations, action groups, and developers committed to revitalizing neighborhoods and expanding affordable housing through innovative strategies and collaborations. CHA’s “Plan Forward,’’ the “Reconnecting Neighborhoods Plan” and CMAP’s “GO TO 2040” all point to the growing awareness that the building of healthy, vibrant communities is not only through housing, but through safe and established communities that have access to opportunities and resources– where individuals feel empowered as citizens to use their neighborhood space to live their everyday lives to control and direct their future.
Interested in Chicago public housing? Two special screenings of documentaries shot at Cabrini Green are scheduled within the next week in Chicago:
Get IN Chicago and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events present a special screening of ‘Cooley High‘ in honor of its 40th anniversary this Thursday, December 10th, 5:30pm, at the Chicago Cultural Center.
The Black Cinema House presents a ’70 Acres’ Tuesday, December 15, 6pm, at the Stony Island Arts Banks