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Relocating Vulnerable Public Housing Families

Brief 5

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Document date: December 01, 2010
Released online: December 01, 2010

Abstract

The Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration was an innovative effort to improve the circumstances and life chances of CHA’s most vulnerable families, with the goal of ensuring stable housing in better conditions. This brief explores relocation outcomes for Demonstration participants, including their experiences with relocation services. Generally, participants live in much better housing in neighborhoods where they feel safer. However, most still live in public housing, and their new neighborhoods are still poor, racially segregated, and crime ridden. To better serve vulnerable families, relocation counseling needs to be intensive, long term, and integrated with other services.

The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the entire brief in PDF format.


Introduction

Not surprisingly, the CHA struggled with relocation. The process was initially very contentious; two lawsuits were filed against the agency, and a court-appointed independent monitor oversaw relocation (Popkin 2006). The Relocation Rights Contract, negotiated in 2000, formally spelled out the CHA’s obligations to leaseholders during the housing transformation. The contract defined the terms for lease compliance and the steps residents could take to “cure” lease violations and remain eligible to move into the new mixed-income developments. The contract also specified the services to be offered to residents while they waited for permanent housing; by mid-decade, the CHA had developed a comprehensive relocation and case management system (Popkin 2010).

When the Plan for Transformation began, the CHA’s family public housing developments were among the poorest, most troubled communities in the nation. As extensive social science literature has shown, living in communities with concentrated poverty undermines residents’ safety and mental health, and it seriously limits access to employment, social networks, quality schools, and adequate health care (Cutler and Glaeser 1997; Ellen and Turner 1997; Massey and Denton 1993; Roman and Knight 2010; Wilson 1987). CHA’s public housing is now dramatically better, thanks to improved management and new construction and design ideas (Business and Professional People for the Public Interest 2009).

The CHA’s transformation efforts have undoubtedly changed the face of public housing in Chicago; the notorious developments are gone and are gradually being replaced with new, mixed-income housing. Evidence about how the original residents have fared is mixed but generally more positive than many originally expected (Vale and Graves 2010). The CHA Panel Study, which tracked a sample of residents from the Madden / Wells development from 2001 to 2009, shows that, eight years after the Plan’s inception, most of these residents are living in better housing in substantially safer neighborhoods (Popkin et al. 2010). Still, even with these gains, most former Madden/ Wells residents are living in moderately poor, predominantly minority communities that offer little opportunity for them and their families (Buron and Popkin 2010).

In addition, the Plan has not been able to help CHA’s most vulnerable families — those “hard to house” families with multiple, complex problems such as serious mental and physical ailments, addiction, domestic violence, and histories of lease violations. These problems often make them ineligible for mixed-income housing or unable to negotiate the private market with a Housing Choice Voucher. These families risk being left behind in CHA’s remaining traditional public housing developments, barely better off than before the Plan for Transformation began.

The Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration was an innovative effort to improve the circumstances and life chances of CHA’s most vulnerable families, with the goal of ensuring that participants were stably housed in better conditions. The Demonstration— a partnership of the Urban Institute, the CHA, Heartland Human Care Services (Heartland), and Housing Choice Partners (HCP)—provided households from the CHA’s Dearborn Homes and Madden / Wells developments with intensive case management services to test the feasibility of providing wraparound supportive services in public and assisted housing, Transitional Jobs, financial literacy training, and relocation counseling and support (Popkin et al. 2008). The Urban Institute conducted a rigorous evaluation, including a baseline and followup survey, administrative interviews, focus groups with service providers and program administrators, in-depth resident interviews, and analysis of program and administrative data.

Initially, the CHA planned to relocate only some of the residents in Madden / Wells and none of the families in Dearborn (Popkin et al. 2008). But as conditions in Madden / Wells deteriorated, the CHA accelerated its plans and closed the development in summer 2008. At the same time, the agency received additional federal funds to comprehensively rehabilitate Dearborn. As a result, nearly all Demonstration participants had to move.

Generally, participants now live in much better housing in neighborhoods where they feel safer. However, most still live in public housing, and their new neighborhoods are still poor and racially segregated. This brief explores relocation outcomes for Demonstration participants, including their experiences with relocation services and their housing and neighborhood outcomes.

(End of excerpt. The entire brief is available in PDF format.)

This brief is part of the Supporting Vulnerable Public Housing Families: An Evaluation of the Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration series.



Topics/Tags: | Cities and Neighborhoods | Housing


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