On Feb. 2, a panel of one national and four local experts discussed how to coordinate property management, social services and resident engagement to create healthy mixed-income communities.
The fourth edition of the “Building Successful
Mixed-Income Communities” forum series, co-sponsored by the John D. and
Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and MPC, in collaboration with the Chicago
Housing Authority (CHA), brought together a record number of experts and
individuals interested in planning, creating, and sustaining mixed-income
Lori Healey, vice chair of the CHA Board of Commissioners and a member of
MPC’s Resource Board, moderated a discussion featuring:
- Gayle Epp, vice president of Abt Associates, project
director for Abt's HOPE VI Technical Assistance Contracts. She has assisted
housing authorities throughout the country (including Cincinnati; Chester,
Penn.; and Milwaukee) in the transformation of dilapidated public housing into
- Steve Porras, vice president of LR Development, who is
responsible for the development of the 100-acre, $600 million Roosevelt Square
mixed-income community being developed on the former site of the ABLA public
housing complex on Chicago's Near West Side.
- Toby Herr, director of Project Match , which has
developed a community-based employment program derived from its experience operating
its own direct-service program, first in Chicago's Cabrini-Green neighborhood
and now in West Haven, the new mixed-income community created on the former
Henry Horner Homes site.
- Kevin Hardman, a resident of North Town Village, who
has been living with his family in this mixed-income community located in the
vicinity of the Cabrini-Green site since 2002.
- And, Meghan Harte, managing director of Resident Services at the CHA, who
oversees the Authority's departments of Relocation and Supportive Services,
and Community Development and Supports, as well as the Housing Choice Voucher
The panel discussion started with Lori Healey posing the following questions
- Given the often competing priorities facing the new
mixed-income sites, how do you create a sense of community by coordinating
property management, social services, and community engagement?
- Based on your work in this area, what are the key lessons you’ve learned
and your outstanding questions? For local panelists, where is help
(Left to right) Gayle Epp, Steve Porras, Toby Herr, Kevin Hardman and
According to Epp, “Community building does matter,” both for the individuals
living in mixed-income housing and for the surrounding neighborhood. Quoting
Prudence Brown and Kitty Barnes of the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the
University of Chicago, Epp stated: “Relationships among neighbors can serve two
important functions. First, they can provide social support to the
individual and family. Second, they can contribute to the community’s
store of social capital, networks of social ties that link people to one another
and help a community function effectively.”
Epp outlined a number of benefits to coordinating property management, social
services, and resident engagement strategies in mixed-income housing:
- Strong community ties lead to increased social control,
legitimating both written and unwritten norms of behavior.
- The responsibility for managing relationships between
residents is shared by individuals, the collective resident body (social
norms), and property management.
- Effective service delivery that enhances family
stability and links residents to neighborhood resources promotes stability of
- Minimizing turnover of residents at all income levels not only impacts the
‘bottom line,’ but also stabilizes the ‘collective community.’
Epp looked back to King’s Lynne, an early mixed-income housing community
developed in Massachusetts between 1977 and 1979, to extract some applicable
lessons from history. Though somewhat effective, the combination of property
management and social services at that site was more focused on calming down
crises and less focused on outreach and in-depth family supports.
The lesson learned was that the primary objectives of service programs
on and off-site should be:
- Information and referral to appropriate community
- Activities that promote a sense of community and the development of common
concerns across income groups.
The experience to date, said Epp, distinguishes three models of management
and services coordination:
- Services as a ‘management tool’ is a model that is
reactive to tenancy problems and seeks to keep residents in unit without
addressing root cause of family problems.
- Services in ‘advocacy role’ is a useful model when
residents do not trust management but can be a more adversarial model, diverts
energy from services, and may make residents become dependent on others to
advocate for their needs.
- Services and management in ‘partnership’ is a collaborative model looking
more comprehensively at resident needs, but which makes it difficult to
clarify specific roles of manager and service provider.
The main challenges of today’s mixed-income communities are, explained
- Fostering informal social ties and networking among
- The “governance issue,” or how to create resident
organizations that are functional and representative of renters and owners at
all income ranges.
- Managing the many expectations of residents, developers, property
managers, and the community at large.
Some of Epp’s recommendations include:
- Being clear to public housing residents – well in
advance of their move back to the new community – what the admission and
continued occupancy requirements are.
- Not hiding the mixed-income nature of the community,
but not overplaying it either, when marketing to market-rate residents.
- Deliberately planning for the creation of a resident
organization before occupancy.
- Focusing explicitly on community building and
developing strong social norms.
- Acknowledging that ‘communities’ evolve over time, and
that the roles of property manager, service connector, and resident
organization will change.
- Involving partners such as MPC that can play a role in convening forums
for property managers, service connectors/providers, and resident
Porras, of LR Development, began his presentation acknowledging developers
and property managers do not have all the answers to the question of “how to
create a healthy, sustainable mixed-income community?” and their work is always
in progress through a continuous checking of assumptions against reality.
Porras described the community-building model that his company
has set in place for Roosevelt Square, a neighborhood being redeveloped
on the former site of the ABLA Homes. The area is located in the vicinity of the
University of Illinois at Chicago campus, spanning from Cabrini Street on the
north to 14th Street on the south; and from Loomis Street on the east to Racine
Avenue on the west.
At Roosevelt Square, LR Development is partnering with Heartland Alliance and
Westside 2000 to offer services to residents. Complementarily, LR and its
development partners, Quest Development Group LLC and Heartland Housing, Inc.,
will contribute 10 percent of their developer fees, approximately $4 million to
fund Roosevelt Square Community Partners and its initiatives to ensure the
community’s long-term success.
Some of the services specifically designed for public housing residents
living in Roosevelt Square will include:
- case management;
- a transitional jobs program to serve residents who are
unemployed or with minimal employment histories;
- direct placement employment;
- construction training and placement;
- a minority vendors and contractors program providing
assistance to small, local minority-owned and woman-owned businesses; and
- a homeownership program that will provide down payment or closing costs
assistance to public housing residents interested in purchasing at Roosevelt
Through Roosevelt Square Community Partners, after-school, wealth creation,
and education programs will be offered to the entire community of
There have been many challenges in the short, but intense, history of
Roosevelt Square. Porras highlighted the reintegration of the neighborhood into the
larger community, both physically and socially, as one of those challenges.
Other problems that needed to be solved were related to political turf issues, and
the difficulty of designing comprehensive self-sufficiency strategies for a
very low-income population. Although the developer has overcome most of
the obstacles and started construction on Roosevelt Square in late 2004,
remaining concerns include development, financing, and occupancy timelines (which are
tied to each other and require careful coordination and timely execution);
the creation and enforcement of effective admission and occupancy
guidelines; and the guarantee of enough funding to complete the different phases of the
More than 200 attendees listen as Lori Healey introduces
Herr, director of Project Match, opened her presentation by pointing out
the many meanings of the word “community,” and proposing an alternative model of
service provision to mixed-income housing residents. Her formula’s goal is not
to promote community life in an abstract way, but to ensure that property
managers and residents of mixed-income housing are committed to the same goals.
That requires, according to Herr, a combination of well-maintained units,
activities generated by residents’ concerns and interests, and lifestyle
Project Match is implementing an intervention program for residents at
Westhaven Park, the new mixed-income community created on the former Henry
Horner Homes CHA site, on Chicago’s Near West Side. The group is partnering with
Interstate Realty Management Corporation, Near West Side CDC, and TASC to launch
this initiative, funded by the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust and
the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The CHA, the Horner Local
Advisory Council, and the Horner Residents Council are advisory
The target populations are both public housing residents and the community at
large. As many as 150 public housing residents at Westhaven will have the
opportunity to join “Pathways to Rewards,” a program that recompenses the steps
that residents take towards improving their work status, education and skills,
role in the community, and tenant standing. Rewards include free Internet and
cable service, utility bill payments, gift certificates, and more. “Pathways to
Rewards” was modeled after successful business practices such as Weight Watchers
® (from which “Pathways” took the system of points and support groups elements)
and airlines Frequent Flyers programs (with their logic of rewards to
customers). Children can also participate in the program and have a different
set of activities to fulfill in order to earn rewards such as books, toys, and
games. Winners will be recognized at bimonthly community events.
Along with “Pathways to Rewards,” Project Match is
recommending opening a business center and exercise rooms, establishing a
tenant-organized advisory committee, and organizing lectures, classes, and
clubs. These amenities and activities would be available for all Westhaven Park
Hardman, a neighbor of the North
Town Village mixed-income community (located in the vicinity of the CHA
Cabrini-Green site), offered the resident perspective on community building.
When Hardman moved into the community in 2002, he felt “a mix of excitement and
fear.” Now, three years later, he thinks “the community has come around,” and is
diverse and healthy.
“Of course, in a 261-household community you are going to
have competing priorities, but we –the residents— tried to focus on our common
goals and acknowledged that creating a community takes some time.” As people met
each other and become familiar with the neighborhood, “the original tensions
have melted away.”
Finally, Harte, managing director of Resident Services at the CHA, shared her
experience as an asset manager. According to Harte, mixed-income communities are
no different from any other communities: they need to create and respect their
own written and unwritten rules in order to prosper. “Struggles at community
meetings, arguments about landscaping and decoration, and complaints about
children playing outside happen in every neighborhood, regardless of the income
of the residents. It is all about building trust and about people learning to
live together,” she noted.
The first stages in the life of a mixed-income community are the more
delicate, noted Harte. During those initial years, some people won’t adapt to
the new surroundings and will move out, while others will build community by
creating relationships with their neighbors. After those first years, community
meetings, for example, will be less and less contentious.
Meghan Harte of the CHA shares her ideas on
community-building with panelists and the audience.
As a key implementer of the CHA Plan for Transformation,
Harte has had to find the right combination of natural adjustments and
intentional interventions needed to build community among residents. “CHA is not
an expert on this,” she said. “That is why we have an array of partners with
experience helping us through the process of managing properties, delivering
social services, and guaranteeing community participation.” Currently,
community-based organizations offer services to public housing residents before,
during, and after their relocation process from their former housing complexes
to their new homes. A key piece of this process is the Service Connector , a program implemented
by the Chicago Dept. of Human Services.
Said Harte, the CHA believes a successful property management plus service
delivery strategy must approach community building by “knocking at people’s
doors not to tell them what they did wrong, but to let them know what
opportunities exist out there to improve their situations.” It is also
important, she continued, to establish systems of conflict resolution and give
people choices. She ended by acknowledging that “In the five years that the Plan
for Transformation has been in place, CHA has learned from the bumps on the road
and is willing to apply every lesson learned to create successful mixed-income
A "Questions and Answers" section closed the forum. Among the inquiries from
attendants, one common question was “How to prepare residents to meet the
site-specific requirements in place in mixed-income communities?” In this
regard, Toby Herr recommended to use “small steps” when defining the goals that
residents must meet in order be admitted and/or continue occupancy in
mixed-income communities. Gayle Epp stated that “the sooner the preparation
starts, the better” and recommended holding a “welcome session” for future
residents 9 months or so in advance of the first units coming online, in order
to remind them about the site-specific requirements.