Authors to discuss Chicago’s experience with mixed-income public housing on Dec. 3

Chicago, along with many other cities around the world, has turned to mixed-income housing as a strategy to provide better homes for low-income residents. That approach, examined in a new book co-authored by Prof. Robert Chaskin, will be the topic of a discussion at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton St.

The event, “Integrating the Inner City: Chicago Public Housing Past, Present and Future,” will feature a conversation with Chaskin, professor and deputy dean for strategic initiatives at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, and Mark Joseph, associate professor at Case Western University. The discussion is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.

The event will celebrate the University of Chicago Press' release of Integrating the Inner City: The Promise and Perils of Mixed-Income Public Housing. Chaskin and Joseph examined over six years of field research on the largest effort in the nation to remake public housing and address concentrated urban poverty: Chicago’s $3 billion plan for transformation. After attending community meetings, conducting in-depth interviews and reviewing volumes of data for their study, the scholars found that despite new housing, safety improvements and neighborhood revitalization, the majority of public housing residents who were relocated have not reaped the intended benefits.

Joining the scholars in the conversation will be members of the Youth Advisory Council of the National Housing Museum. Chicago Housing Authority residents, aged 14 to 21, will represent the communities of Stateway Gardens (now Park Boulevard), Henry Horner Homes (now Westhaven), Lathrop Homes and the Austin neighborhood. News reporter Natalie Moore of WBEZ-FM will moderate the discussion.

Central to the planned transformation was the replacement of large-scale public housing complexes with mixed-income communities.

The new housing, erected by private developers, includes units for public housing residents as well as higher-income renters and owners. This mixed-income housing was intended to create new opportunities for residents who had previously lived in highly segregated communities that limited their opportunities in the city and contributed to their poverty.

“At the center of the plan is a stated emphasis on integration—on breaking down the barriers that have left public housing residents isolated in racially segregated, severely economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and, through relocation and community development, incorporating them into the broader contexts, institutions and opportunities provided by the city as a whole,” the authors write.

But achieving effective integration through housing is more complicated than simply moving poorer and wealthier people to the same development. Housing redevelopment, by itself, is an ineffective way of overcoming the problem of poverty, they authors wrote.

The book release event is jointly sponsored by the Urban Network, the National Public Housing Museum, the School of Social Service Administration, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, the Kreisman Initiative on Housing Law and Policy and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.