The Chicago Housing Authority has completed most of its scheduled public input process for the “Plan For Transformation 2.0” – but advocates criticize CHA for not providing a better idea of how they might re-transform public housing.
“It appears to be a pretty limited public input process,” says John McDermott, housing and land use director of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, then-Mayor Richard Daley and CHA launched the sweeping Plan For Transformation in 2000, with the idea that tens of thousands Chicago residents would move from public housing projects, like the Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini-Green, to mixed-income developments.
The financial crisis decidedly slowed the Plan For Transformation and in February, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CHA announced a Plan For Transformation 2.0 to “recalibrate” the original plan. It is not yet known whether the city will use this opportunity to revise their vision of situating public housing units near market rate homebuyers, a plan hurt by the housing bust, and that McDermott says is "fundamentally flawed."
CHA has engaged people in three main ways. There were meetings with specific “stakeholders”, i.e. a meeting with just developers, or just community advocates or just aldermen; there were four meetings open to public housing residents; and there is a Web site still open to the general public that collects people’s ideas.
Leah Levinger, a coalition coordinator at the Chicago Housing Initiative, wishes that CHA brought the various stakeholders together.
“They have created these different conversations,” Levinger says. “They discussed term-limits at the researcher's briefing [meaning someone can stay in public housing for a limited time], but not at the advocate's briefing. That makes us a little wary about where this going.”
Levinger also asserts that the meetings open to public housing residents were not encouraging. “There was very little opportunity for a dialogue about where the process is going and why CHA is even convening [these meetings],” Levinger says.
In an e-mailed response to questions, Matt Aguilar, a spokesman for CHA, says that the stakeholder meetings “were both well-attended and productive” and that the resident meetings “drew an average of about 200 people per meeting.”
“The suggestions and recommendations have been tremendous and have helped CHA gain a new perspective as it moves forward with the recalibration,” Aguilar wrote.
As for the ideas forum, there have so far been a total of 77 proposals posted since CHA launched the site five weeks ago. The most popular, as voted by site users, include better dispersing pf public housing units across the city, stripping public housing subsides from parents whose children skip school, and term limits for residents.
Aguilar describes the ideas forum as quite productive. But McDermott and Levinger argue that the forum is not optimal for many who live in public housing, or are on the public housing waiting list. “It’s not the best forum for families with limited access to technology,” Levinger says.