Cabrini-Green Redevelopment

During Clinic last semester, we explored and discussed the evolution of affordable housing. Throughout our five part lecture series, we identified the meaning of affordable housing, what prompted affordable housing as well as the development and the redevelopment of affordable housing. What I enjoyed most about this series was learning not only about the legal and business issues, but the social issues individuals faced during that time.

Let's take a second and rewind back to 1967. During this time, one of the social issues affordable housing applicants faced was the segregation of blacks to specific areas of the city. Based on my knowledge of the history of the Civil Rights Movement, it was no surprise to me to learn that segregation of blacks took place by sending black applicants to the developments in the predominantly black neighborhoods. (Nope, I was not surprised at all.) 

What did enlighten me was the legal response to the segregation issue. In a 1981 Consent Decree, the Court introduced the concept of Revitalizing Areas where areas with a substantial minority population undergo redevelopment to quickly integrate the areas. Since then, HUD announced the Hope VI program, which revitalized the worst public housing projects in the United States into mixed-income developments. As a result, the Chicago Housing Authority's (CHA) drafted a redevelopment plan called the Plan for Transformation.

Now let's fast forward to the present. It has been many years since the birth of CHA’s Plan for Transformation and many affordable housing units have been demolished and redeveloped. More specifically, it has been over 20 years since the initial demolition began of the former Cabrini Green public housing development. In April 2014, CHA announced its plan for further redevelopment of the remaining vacant areas formally known as Cabrini Green. The plan consists of a goal to build 2300-2800 mixed-income housing units in buildings constructed on fourteen parcels of the total fifty acres of land.

Since then, renderings of the new Cabrini-Green redevelopment have been featured in various online news reports. More recently, the Chicagoist featured a report about a new high rise where two bedroom units will start at $3200 a month. Many viewers of the post expressed concerns about gentrification. Some viewers stated that it was unfair to the many former public housing residents forced out of Cabrini to now charge so much money in rent for market-rate units. Others stated that it was a form of gentrification because the former public housing residents that once lived in the Cabrini Green area would not be able to afford to live in the new units.

After reading the comments from the article referenced above, there are a few notes I would like to share in an attempt to lessen the ‘gentrification argument’ blow. The new apartment renderings to the CHA’s redevelopment plan for Cabrini Green calls for the buildings to be integrated with mixed-income residents. The CHA’s plan states that the units will allocate thirty percent of those units as public housing, twenty percent of those units as affordable housing, and fifty percent as market rate units. In other words, some former Cabrini Green residents will have the opportunity to apply for the units set aside as public housing and live in the new developments for a more affordable rate than $3200 per month. This supports HUD’s plan to revitalize once segregated neighborhoods to be more integrated in support of better community development.