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CHA Families and the Plan for Transformation

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For more than a decade, the Urban Institute has been following the experiences of Chicago Housing Authority families as they were relocated and their buildings were demolished and replaced with new, mixed-income housing. In this series of five briefs, we describe key successes and challenges faced by CHA and its residents. We also outline the lessons from this research for cities grappling with how to improve troubled communities and provide decent, affordable housing for vulnerable citizens.

Brief 1 highlights the key lessons for federal policy:

How Chicago’s Public Housing Transformation Can Inform Federal Policy

by Susan J. Popkin

Distilling a decade’s worth of research on Chicago’s public housing transformation, this brief outlines the important implications for cities across the nation grappling with how to improve their most troubled communities and provide decent, affordable housing for vulnerable families in an era of shrinking resources.

Brief 2 provides an overview of the research findings:

CHA Residents and the Plan for Transformation

by Susan J. Popkin, Megan Gallagher, Chantal Hailey, Elizabeth Davies, Larry Buron, and Christopher Hayes

Most former CHA residents now live in better housing in safer neighborhoods. And, those who received intensive case management and supportive services through the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration have significantly lower rates of depression, better physical health, and higher employment rates. Despite these gains, many adults struggle with extremely high rates of debilitating chronic illnesses that prevent them from finding full-time jobs, and many children grapple with the fallout from growing up with chronic violence.

Three more briefs cover key topics in more depth:

An Improved Living Environment, but…

by Larry Buron, Christopher Hayes, and Chantal Hailey

Chicago’s Plan for Transformation improved housing quality for former CHA residents. Although the new neighborhoods are still poor and racially segregated, they have higher rates of collective efficacy, less social disorder, and fewer signs of physical disorder. But, many respondents are having trouble affording food and paying bills and utilities. Voucher holders, in particular, are moving frequently with no perceptible improvement in housing or neighborhood quality. In fact, voucher holders report more housing problems than public housing residents.

Improving the Lives of Public Housing’s Most Vulnerable Families

by Susan J. Popkin and Elizabeth Davies

Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration participants, who were particularly vulnerable and hard to house in 2007, received intensive supportive services focused on improving family stability, mental health, and self-sufficiency. Working-age Demonstration participants living in traditional public housing (and subject to the CHA work requirement) experienced health and employment gains. In contrast, the health of Panel Study respondents—comparable CHA residents who did not receive intensive services—deteriorated steadily. Despite these overall positive results, chronic disease remains a major challenge, and mortality rates for these CHA residents are shockingly high.

Chronic Violence: Beyond the Developments

by Chantal Hailey and Megan Gallagher

The youth who lived through CHA’s Plan for Transformation remain in crisis. Many exhibit the short-term effects of growing up around violence, including high rates of criminal and delinquent behaviors. In 2011, fear and violence was affecting youth whose families had relocated with vouchers more than it was affecting those who had relocated to mixed-income or public housing. To manage their exposure to violence, some youth socially isolate themselves, or their families continue to seek refuge by moving. Still, some children are witnesses, victims, and perpetrators of violence as they leave their protective networks and enter new communities.

Long-Term Outcomes for CHA Residents

The Long-Term Outcomes for CHA Residents study builds on two major Urban Institute research initiatives that examined the effects of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Plan for Transformation on resident well-being:
  • The Chicago Panel study (The Panel Study), funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, was a follow-up to the five-site HOPE VI Panel Study, which examined resident outcomes from 2001 to 2005. In Chicago, the Panel Study tracked residents from the CHA’s Ida B. Wells Homes/Wells Extension and Madden Park Homes who relocated between 2001 and 2008. Researchers surveyed a random sample of 198 resident heads of household in 2001; follow-up waves were conducted with 174 residents in 2003, 165 residents in 2005, and 136 residents in 2009. A high mortality rate contributed to the sizable attrition between 2001 and 2009. The Urban Institute conducted in-depth, qualitative interviews with select residents to better understand the lives and challenges of these individuals and families.
  • The Chicago family Case Management demonstration evaluation (The Demonstration)—a partnership between the Urban Institute, the CHA, Heartland Human Care Services, and Housing Choice Partners—tested the feasibility of providing intensive case-management services, transitional jobs, financial literacy training, and relocation counseling to vulnerable public housing families. The demonstration ran from March 2007 to March 2010 and targeted approximately 475 households from the CHA’s Dearborn Homes and Madden/Wells developments. Researchers administered resident surveys to the universe population in these sites: 331 residents in 2007 (response rate 77 percent) and 287 residents in 2009. Again, mortality contributed greatly to study attrition. In-depth interviews and an analysis of CHA administrative records, case manager reports, and publicly available data helped researchers contextualize survey findings. A supplemental process study, which relied primarily on in-depth administrative interviews, weekly service implementation monitoring, and regular meetings with project partners, assessed the efficacy and cost of the Demonstration’s implementation. The Demonstration was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Partnership for New Communities, JPMorgan Chase, and the Chicago Housing Authority.
The Long-Term Outcomes study consists of 10- and 4-year follow-up surveys, respectively, and in-depth interviews with Panel Study and Demonstration participants. In summer and fall 2011, researchers surveyed 106 Panel Study respondents and 251 Demonstration respondents; 24 respondents were represented in both samples. Researchers supplemented this work with 31 in-depth, qualitative interviews with adults and youth. Administrative data specific to clients and to their neighborhood enriched the analysis. The principal investigator for the study is Susan J. Popkin, Ph.D., director of the Urban Institute’s Program on Neighborhoods and Youth Development. Funding for this research was provided by the MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Housing Authority.
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