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The CHA's Plan for Transformation: How Have Residents Fared?

CHA Families and the Plan for Transformation Series

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Document date: August 11, 2010
Released online: August 11, 2010

Abstract

This series presents findings from the Chicago Panel Study, a follow up to the Urban Institute’s five-site HOPE VI Panel Study, the only national study of outcomes for families affected by HOPE VI revitalization. The HOPE VI Panel Study tracked resident outcomes across a broad range of domains from 2001 to 2005. The Chicago Panel Study is continuing to track the 198 sample households from the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Madden/Wells Homes.

The purpose of the study is to track the circumstances of CHA residents to assess how they are faring as the Plan for Transformation progresses. Overall, as this series of seven briefs documents, we find that, after 10 years, the story for CHA families is far more positive than many observers—including ourselves— would have predicted at the outset. Regardless of where they have moved, most families in our study are living in considerably better circumstances. However, the study also highlights the serious challenges that remain, most significantly, residents’ extremely poor health and persistently low rates of employment.


The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the full report in PDF format. Part of the CHA Families and the Plan for Transformation brief series.

Introduction

This series presents findings from the Chicago Panel Study, a follow up to the Urban Institute’s five-site HOPE VI Panel Study, the only national study of outcomes for families affected by HOPE VI revitalization (Popkin et al. 2002). The HOPE VI Panel Study tracked resident outcomes across a broad range of domains from 2001 to 2005. The Chicago Panel Study is continuing to track the 198 sample households from the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Madden/Wells Homes.

The CHA’s Plan for Transformation, launched in October 1999, was an ambitious effort to transform the agency’s distressed public housing developments, replacing most with mixed-income communities and comprehensively rehabilitating the remaining properties. The ultimate goal of the Plan for Transformation was to demonstrate that it was possible to convert distressed public housing into healthy communities that would provide residents with opportunities for a better life.

The challenges the CHA faced in attempting to transform its public housing were immense. The agency was one of the largest housing authorities in the country and had an extraordinary number of distressed units—its plans called for demolishing or rehabilitating 25,000 units in all. The CHA’s troubles were the result of decades of neglect, poor management, and overwhelming crime and violence. Further, CHA’s residents were especially disadvantaged: because of the terrible conditions in CHA’s family developments, many tenants who had better options had left long ago, leaving behind a population dominated by extremely vulnerable families (Popkin et al. 2000). And, like most housing authorities, when the CHA began implementing its revitalization plans, the agency had little experience in providing case management or relocation counseling and struggled with developing adequate services. The agency negotiated a Relocation Rights Contract with its resident leadership in 2000 that formally spelled out the CHA’s obligations to leaseholders during the transformation, including the services to be offered to residents while they waited for permanent housing. By the time the CHA moved into the later phases of relocation in Madden/Wells, the agency’s relocation and supportive service system had evolved to become unusually comprehensive, and included both relocation counseling and case management (Popkin 2010).

In October 2009, the CHA marked the 10th anniversary of the Plan for Transformation. The changes that the plan has wrought over the past decade have been dramatic and have changed the city’s landscape. Most striking is the absence of the massive high-rises that dominated some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods for half a century. These developments have been replaced with new mixed-income communities that represent the best current thinking on how to create affordable housing without creating pockets of concentrated poverty. But while the physical impact of the CHA’s transformation is evident, the impact on the families that had lived in CHA’s distressed developments—and endured its worst days—has been less visible (Popkin 2010).

The purpose of the Chicago Panel Study is to track the circumstances of CHA residents to assess how they are faring as the Plan for Transformation progresses. Overall, as this series of briefs documents, we find that, after 10 years, the story for CHA families is far more positive than many observers—including ourselves— would have predicted at the outset. Regardless of where they have moved, most families in our study are living in considerably better circumstances. However, the study also highlights the serious challenges that remain, most significantly, residents’ extremely poor health and persistently low rates of employment. Further, despite their improved quality of life, most CHA families continue to live in poor, predominantly African-American communities that offer limited access to economic and educational opportunity.

(End of excerpt. The full report is available in PDF format.)



Topics/Tags: | Cities and Neighborhoods | Employment | Families and Parenting | Housing


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