Chicago Public Housing Residents Want Input on Lathrop Homes Plan | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Chicago Public Housing Residents Want Input on Lathrop Homes Plan

There's an enclave of public housing right off the Chicago River on the city's North Side. Lathrop Homes is unique because it is racially mixed. Residents say the Chicago Housing Authority should keep that atmosphere. But the agency wants to redevelop the property into mixed income. So far the two sides have been working on a Lathrop plan. But many residents are accusing CHA of not sticking to transparency.

When Chicago Housing Authority officials decided to redevelop Lathrop, it formed a working group so residents could help define what the new community looks like.

Mildred Pagan is one of two residents on the working group.

PAGAN: I love it here. I've lived here since I was 18. I was raised here if you can say that. And I raised my kids here. Everybody knows me.

ambi of her greeting friends

Pagan likes that there's a daycare on the property - she's worked there.

Pagan and others who live at Lathrop are loyal to their community. They say it's a far cry from typical public housing with its stigma of concentrated poverty and crime.

Resident Miguel Suarez:

SUAREZ: Projects are the poverty scene. That is not what Lathrop is. Lathrop is a very diverse community composed Latinos, whites and blacks and for the most part the working class.

Residents say they've been working long before CHA instituted its work requirement this year. So residents here like Pagan and Suarez argue that CHA should keep Lathrop as is and expand affordable housing.

But CHA has other plans. William Little is executive vice president of development at CHA.

LITTLE: We don't intend to create another community or another pocket within the broader community of poverty.

Ten years ago CHA started implementing its vast Plan for Transformation. The idea was to dismantle public housing developments by de-concentrating poverty and removing racial isolation, and in their place create mixed-income communities.

LITTLE: That's the whole point of the Plan for Transformation is to end the isolation.

Lathrop residents say their neighborhood isn't isolated. Clybourn Avenue is bustling and new condos are part of the neighborhood. Residents have dwindling trust in CHA. They say CHA released a document requesting environmental services without their knowledge. That's not a bad thing, they just didn't know about it.

John McDermott is with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. As a community member, he's part of the working group.

MCDERMOTT: One thing that concerned us in this document is that is says there will be approximately 1200 units at Lathrop and that's a point the working group hasn't had to discuss at all.

Currently, there are 900-plus units at Lathrop. The 1200 number suggests to residents that CHA is going for a third public housing, a third affordable and a third market rate. Lathrop residents would rather have all public and affordable housing.

CHA's Little counters that the working group did know about the document. But he says the final plan for Lathrop isn't set in stone.

LITTLE: There is flexibility in what the program looks like, which is why we invite people to working group meetings in the community to participate in the process. Again this is not something that just comes down from on high from CHA.

Across the street from the apartments is the Church of Good News. That's where Miguel Suarez and other Lathrop residents come to strategize.

Suarez says he's wary of how CHA is proceeding.

SUAREZ: But the idea they went ahead and did it without our input, without us realizing that this was going on, I think that's somewhat insulting.

But it will be some years before any plan is officially inked. The housing authority's transformation plan is already years behind and other projects will be finished before Lathrop is started.

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