A social justice nonprofit long involved in desegregating Chicago public housing wants redevelopment on the far South Side to slow down.
Five hundred units are slated for rehab at Altgeld Gardens, a de-industrialized area with a population that’s black and low income. Business and Professional People for Public Interest wants the Chicago Housing Authority to first put in more amenities, such as a community center and an upgraded library.
“Improve the quality of life for the community, for the families that live there now. When you’ve done that, make a determination whether it’s the right thing or not to bring back 500 units. But CHA’s doing it in the reverse order,” said Julie Brown, a lawyer with BPI. Motions have been filed in federal court.
Brown said BPI hasn’t asked Judge Marvin Aspen to rule on anything except for the parties to mediate. Aspen is the same judge from the Gautreaux case, a class-action lawsuit BPI filed against CHA to end the segregation of black families in public housing.
But CHA officials and current Altgeld residents are actually on the same page. Both parties say upgrades to facilities are in the works, and they want more families to move back to a rehabbed Altgeld.
Resident Cheryl Johnson said BPI is out of touch, and fixing up facilities shouldn’t stop CHA from also fixing up apartments.
“As a legal tenant holder I have the right to consultation of what’s going to have an impact on my quality of my life. These folks have never lived in public housing,” Johnson said.
CHA officials said work is being done to improve school, transportation and recreational facilities at Altgeld. The housing complex was originally built in 1945. Currently, more than 1,200 units are occupied and CHA is expected to present an implementation strategy to residents in the coming months.
“While CHA cannot speak specifically about the motion, it has worked closely with residents and the larger Altgeld community with respect to the revitalization plan. The preferred design concept was the culmination of more than 25 meetings with residents, community members, sister agencies and organizations, including BPI,” a statement read.