NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 9, 2006

Mixed income townhouse and apartment developments have replaced the 16-story monuments to drugs, despair and degradation that were the landmarks of Chicago's public housing for 50 years, says David Broder of the Miami Herald.

Now, except for a handful of relics awaiting demolition, two-story apartment buildings, air-conditioned, brightly painted, with units fully carpeted, modern kitchens, washing machines and dryers are more likely to be seen. 

More remarkable, says Broder, is any given building will likely contain identical units -- some public housing, some subsidized, affordable rentals and some market-rate rentals or owner-occupied.

But the real success of the units extends further than merely clean buildings:

  • Already, 174 families that were living in subsidized or public housing units have saved enough to make down payments to purchase their own units.
  • The units have improved their surroundings; the city opened a Montessori preschool in one neighborhood, the University of Chicago-runs a charter school in another, and the brand-new recreation center -- with an indoor pool and an outdoor water park, a huge gym and day-care center -- has opened in a third.
  • The city's investment of $242 million in the units has triggered more than $1 billion of private and outside public financing.

Mayor Richard Daley and Chicago Housing Authority CEO Terry Peterson are convinced that these successes are the result of people learning by example.  Living among people who go to work every day and seek to improve their families' lives rubs off on welfare mothers, they say.

Source: David Broder, "Public housing: Here's a place where it works," Miami Herald, August 7, 2006


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