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10 Years of CHA Plan for Transformation

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The hottest ticket in town for policy wonks (like me) concludes today. The Chicago Housing Authority is sponsoring a symposium to reflect on its massive $1-plus billion plan that tore down high-rise buildings and replaced them with mixed-income developments. Hosted at UIC, the event is invite only. And while CHA CEO Lewis Jordan said this was not the time for popping champagne corks, day one of the symposium on Thursday had a celebratory tone. At times it felt like a love fest. There have been heaps of congratulations bestowed upon the housing agency. The big plenary sessions reinforce that notion. Many of the speakers have been the architects and funders of the Plan for Transformation. In the audience, there were some skeptics who questioned residential displacement and whether a majority of leaseholders were better off a decade later. In breakout sessions, the conversations were a bit richer. Resident leader Myra King didn’t mince words in one of the plenaries - the only critical voice I heard on stage. She said that people needed to listen to residents before forming new plans. She said “believe in what they’re saying.” King criticized housing plans being made without residential input. As I’ve reported ad nauseam, no place else in the country has undertaken a public housing venture like Chicago. HUD is town to listen as are academics from around the U.S. I scanned the audience get a sense of who was attendance. From my perch, it appears that CHA is looking for new partners and new employers to help residents with employment. I truly believe CHA believes that life is better for its residents. But I’m reminded of what Nicki Bazer, of the Legal Assistance Foundation, said in one of my stories. Yes, the high rises are gone and there’s patting on the back. But has that made the problems that CHA renters face invisible? Today, CHA residents will be showing a video that they produced about housing. Can’t wait. Ready to shake things up.

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