PI Original Matthew Blake Monday February 27th, 2012, 6:09pm

Transforming The Plan For Transformation

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Housing Authority announced Saturday a “Plan For Transformation 2.0,” in which they will “recalibrate” the Plan for Transformation, a huge undertaking launched in 2000 to relocate public housing residents to mixed-income housing units.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Housing Authority announced Saturday a “Plan For Transformation 2.0,” in which they will “recalibrate” the Plan for Transformation, a huge undertaking launched in 2000 to relocate public housing residents to mixed-income housing units.

It is not yet known what Emanuel and the CHA – under Charles Woodyard, who Emanuel appointed in September to head the authority – plan to retransform, and how new political leadership will respond to the prolonged housing market slump that has dogged CHA and left hundreds of public housing residents in temporary living situations.

“The major thing is that we update the plan to meet the realities of today,” says CHA spokeswoman Kellie O’Connell-Miller.

CHA said a public input process is key, but there are no planned public meetings.

Instead, CHA announced four meetings over the next month for public housing residents, with the first tonight at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The general public can contribute their input at an online forum created by CHA. The forum launched today and closes March 30.

Asked about a public input process that is arguably brief, Miller said CHA already had “twelve stakeholder meetings” where the agency “engaged different groups like foundations, faith-based community groups, and business groups.”

Robyn Snyderman, vice president for community development at the non-profit Metropolitan Planning Council, says that her group has already convened one such stakeholder session with corporate leaders.

“The meeting was about ensuring the private sector can step up to provide retail jobs and housing investment,” Snyderman says.

The Plan for Transformation has waxed and waned on private investment. Jointly created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mayor Richard Daley, and CHA, the idea was to move resident from public housing projects to mixed-income units.

Private developers would work with CHA – and get HUD cash – to build developments that included public housing, affordable rental and ownership housing, and market-rate condos. This ambitious vision – to use public housing as a catalyst for both economic development as well as race and class integration – worked to an extent during the housing bubble at places like Westhaven Park, formerly the Henry Horner housing project.

But the housing bust stalled development and left many pubic housing residents moving from place to place with a housing voucher in hand.

Plan for Transformation critics– like the Coalition to Protect Public Housing – argue that the city has enriched developers and accelerated the gentrification of neighborhoods like River North, home of the former Cabrini-Green project, while displacing public housing residents.

Supporters – like housing attorney Alexander Polikoff, who sued CHA– point out the crime, filth, and de facto segregation that resulted from the old public housing system.

Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois, says that research his group has done shows the plan has not significantly integrated public housing residents with the rest of the city.

“The data pretty consistently shows that [public housing residents] still live in high poverty, racially-segregated neighborhoods,” Palmer says. “It’s unclear if residents are better in any specific way [since the Plan for Transformation].”

Snyderman of MPC notes that the plan “has attracted some real, high-quality private sector professionals,” though acknowledges private investment slowed after the financial meltdown. “The world has changed since the plan for transformation was on the drawing board,” Snyderman says.

Image: AP Photo/Spencer Green

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