NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Chicago Will Destroy Nation's Largest Public Housing Project

June 16, 1998

Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes -- a collection of 28 ratty, 16-story high-rises on 642 acres -- is scheduled for demolition. Fifty years ago, it was hailed as a bold and progressive social innovation. In 1994, it was cited by the Clinton administration as the worst public housing in the nation.

Over the years it had become the scene of gang gunfire, open-air drug markets, rampant poverty and mismanagement.

The national policy on public housing began changing three years ago.

  • In 1995, Congress revoked a 58-year-old requirement that if a house or apartment occupied by a poor person was demolished, it had to be replaced with low-income housing.
  • In 1996, Congress ordered an inspection of substandard housing projects nationwide -- ordering those not measuring up to be torn down in 10 years.
  • These two acts essentially gave cities permission to raze high-rises without the obligation to replace them.
  • Last month the Chicago Housing Authority submitted final plans for razing Taylor Homes to the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- which the agency quickly approved.

The project will be replaced with single-family homes in a private, mixed-income development. Only 25 percent of the new houses will be set aside by the private developers for displaced public housing residents. As many as 15 out of 16 of Taylor's 16,000 residents will have to find somewhere else to live.

Source: Debbie Howlett, "To Save Housing, City Destroying It," USA Today, June 16, 1998.


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