The Plan for Transformation

Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley announced the Plan for Transformation in February 2000. No new public housing had been built for 20 years prior and the existing stock was decaying. Of the 39,000 public housing units in Chicago, only 25,000 were occupied. Those leaseholders were told their buildings were being demolished and they would have to move. If they didn't opt for Section 8 vouchers, they were moved to temporary public housing pending full implementation of the Plan. The CHA estimates implementation will cost $1.6 billion and be complete by 2015.

The Plan for Transformation:

1. Build or rehabilitate 25,000 units of public housing.

2. Construct new mixed-income neighborhoods where housing projects stood.

3. Move public housing residents into new neighborhoods with Section 8 vouchers.

The new mixed-income properties are the plan's centerpiece. In theory, one-third of their residents pay market rate for condos and townhomes; one-third pay subsidized rent, and one-third come from the list of poor families displaced when the old projects were razed. In theory, modern construction, proximity to downtown and competitive prices make the market-rate homes attractive to middle- and upper-class families. Sales of those units, donated land and federal subsidies make it worthwhile for private developers to complete construction on time. Retail and transit are supposed to follow.

The Plan for Transformation as of August 2008:

1. 15,138 units demolished.

2. 16,707 new units in place, 2,600 of them in new mixed-income developments.

3. 4,332 affordable or market-rate units delivered or under construction.

The mixed-income experiment is having mixed results. Landlords are having hard time filling all three types of units. The housing glut, construction delays and a tough job climate have all taken their toll. The affordable housing units are mostly occupied by underemployed poor people. Many public housing residents are chafing under a growing set of restrictions, from work requirements to background checks. Others are in limbo, having moved many times while waiting for new units to be built or old ones to be rehabilitated.

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