As the ten-year Chicago Housing
Authority Plan (CHA) for Transformation advances toward its halfway point,
plans are gradually transitioning into groundbreakings, new construction, and
even complete new housing opportunities.
particular emphasis in many of these sites is to foster mixed-income
communities that appeal to families from a variety of economic backgrounds.
The vision is for homes affordable to former public housing residents alongside
moderately priced and market-rate housing. As of September of 2003, nearly 1,400
homes priced for former CHA residents or other eligible households had been
built or rehabbed in Chicago within mixed-income communities. Of the 25,000 new
or rehabbed apartments the CHA has committed to as part of the Plan for
Transformation, approximately 6,000 are expected to be within mixed-income
environments. The remainder will be a combination of senior housing, scattered
site apartments, and traditional rehabbed housing .
Redevelopment of dilapidated public housing within mixed-income
communities has taken place in the United States since the 1990s,
spurred to a great extent by federal grants available through the HOPE VI
program . To capture lessons learned both nationwide and here in Chicago,
the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) organized a roundtable on the Future of
Public Housing: A National Perspective on Creating Successful Mixed-Income
Communities on Oct. 28, 2003. The event, presented and moderated by MPC Housing
Committee Co-Chair Bernard Loyd, featured a panel of national and local experts
who provided “state of the art” information about promoting the appeal and
viability of mixed-income communities.
Despite the scarcity of studies on mixed-income communities, Paul
Brophy, principal of Brophy and Reilly — a Maryland-based consulting
practice specializing in housing and community development — outlined findings
from throughout the country.
“Mixed-income housing in distressed areas requires a great deal on the part
of the developer and other partners to create a product and an environment
capable of attracting market renters and buyers,” Brophy said. In order to make
these developments work, developers need to be deliberate about making the
homes successful within the community beyond just financial
viability. Careful marketing of the property and its surrounding neighborhood,
along with quality, well-staffed property management and services, help achieve
the main goal of creating a healthy and viable community of residents from
different walks of life. One of the best ways to promote interaction between
residents, suggested Brophy, is through celebrations, and also by
encouraging children living in the community to join sports and art
programs where they can intermix.
Venkatesh, a Columbia University professor who focuses research on public
housing residents, pointed out that strong interaction and community work might
not be enough to break down barriers among families living in mixed-income
developments. Like Brophy, he stressed the need to provide quality property
management along with supportive services to those residents that need them,
both through on-site providers and off-site “anchor” agencies operating in the
neighborhood. Knowing in advance new residents' backgrounds, needs, and
expectations is key to success. An important challenge in order to guarantee the
continuity of social services provision and avoid turnover is securing an
ongoing stream of flexible funds that extends beyond the first year after
residents move into their new homes.
Venkatesh identifies three stages in public housing residents’ moving-in
- First eight months after residents move in to
their new homes: stabilization period. During this time their immediate
problems should be addressed. Strategies to help people adapt to the private
market must be in place.
- Eight to18 moths after moving in. This stage requires
aggressive property management and help with job search and training for
- Eighteen to 36 months: Working with anchor services in the area is needed
in order to guarantee a safe and appealing community both within the
development and around it.
Mixed-income developments can
positively affect the stability and good health of the neighboring community. Mindy Turbov, principal of Turbov Associates, presented a
summary of four cases that she recently analyzed as part of an extensive study
on this topic sponsored by the Brookings Institution’s Center on Urban and Metropolitan
Policy. “Public housing has been usually seen as a cancer the eats the neighborhoods
around it,” Turbov said at the beginning of her presentation, “but well
planned, built, and managed mixed-income communities can heal these
neighborhoods, knitting them back together.”
After studying mixed-income communities in Atlanta;
Louisville, Ky.; Pittsburgh; and Saint Louis, Mo.; Turbov discovered four factors that
have made developments succeed:
- They included a substantial number of rental
units as a catalyst to jump-start the development.
- They were part of a larger master plan that
consciously included surrounding areas.
- A serious market assessment and a plan to change
adverse real-estate-market-related conditions was developed.
- Revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood was done
In the four cases analyzed, mixed-income housing had a
very positive impact on the surrounding neighborhood, leading to increased
private investment rates and family incomes, and decreased unemployment,
poverty, and crime rates. In Atlanta’s Centennial Place neighborhood, for
instance, a mixed-income revitalization strategy stimulated investment of
around $350 million in the surrounding area, in the form of new condominiums,
apartments, offices, hotels, and mixed-used developments. Crime rates decreased
93 percent between 1993 and 2002, and Centennial Place Elementary School
has the second highest test scores in the Atlanta school system while 65%
of their students are covered by the free lunch program.
Peter Holsten, president of Holsten Real Estate Group and a pioneer in the creation
of mixed-income communities in Chicago, shared his experience as the developer
of North Town Village, a development located off the Cabrini-Green site, on
the Near North Side. The community opened in June 2001 and has received awards
and extensive coverage in the local and national media. It includes 145 for-sale
and 116 rental homes — town homes, duplexes, coach houses, and mid-rise
A number of services have been developed for residents living
in North Town Village. Holsten prepares its own needs assessment for families
living in public housing and helps them develop 5-year plans. A
Resident Transition Program coordinated with the CHA’s Good Neighbor initiative
helps public housing residents settle and succeed in their new community by helping
them find good jobs and schools for their children. Community building activities are
part of the integration strategy, including quarterly parties where new
families moving into the community meet current residents. Renters are allowed to
attend condominium association meetings, and a Shared Area Committee composed of three
owners and two renters has been created to facilitate governance of the community.
The lessons and ideas shared by the speakers
were well received by an audience of more than 120 advocates,
public officials, developers, civic and business leaders, and other citizens. During 2004, MPC
will organize additional public events on the realities and future of mixed-income
communities in Chicago. Stay tuned for more information by checking back to MPC's
Resources on Mixed-Income Communities