The Urban Institute released on August 11 an overview report that examines the current living conditions and well-being of nearly 200 households from Madden/Wells, one of Chicago’s largest public housing complexes that was redeveloped using HOPE VI funds as part of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Plan for Transformation. As part of the conversion, families from Madden/Wells received housing vouchers or newly developed public housing. The report finds that families are faring much better in their new circumstances, especially compared to 2005. However, poor health and employment outcomes remain major challenges for these residents and they continue to live in high poverty, racially segregated communities.
The CHA’s Plan for Transformation was a citywide effort to transform 25,000 distressed public housing units into mixed-income communities and to rehabilitate remaining properties. These new communities and units were to be healthier and provide more opportunities to improve the quality of life for residents. As part of a study called the Chicago Panel Study, the Urban Institute tracked families as they either stayed in public housing or used housing vouchers to relocate to the private rental market. The report analyzes data obtained during the 2009 follow-up surveys and interviews, and compares these findings to data collected in interviews in 2001, 2003, and 2005.
A key finding of the report is that whether residents are receiving voucher assistance or public housing, they are living in higher-quality housing; 84% rate their housing as better than when they were living in Madden/Wells. A closer look at the data shows that no public housing residents currently rate their housing as “poor;” instead, it is voucher holders in the private market who are more likely to report problems with their housing.
These data also indicate improvements in neighborhood safety, with residents’ perceptions of violence and disorder decreasing significantly. Fewer than 25% of respondents reported drug trafficking and sales, loitering, or gangs as major problems in their community. This is a substantial decrease from 2001, when more than 70% of residents reported these activities as major problems.
Improvements in behavior among young adults, those ages 18-22, were also reported in this study. Findings show that female youth are faring better than their male counterparts. However, the brief notes that many in this age group have aged out of behavioral problems that parents had previously reported in 2005. In a key finding, the study finds that are no longer any differences between youth in the private rental housing and those residing in traditional public housing units.
While such measures largely show an improved quality of life for these residents, most, however, continue to live in high poverty, predominantly African American communities. Additional challenges that remain after relocation include poor health and low levels of employment compared to that of the general population. Fifty-one percent of residents identified their health as “fair” to “poor,” an increase of 14 percentage points since 2001. When controlling for age, deterioration of health was found to be significant among the sample of residents. Despite these general health concerns, the study found an 11% decrease in those reporting suffering from anxiety episodes since 2001. The brief concludes this is likely due to significant improvements in quality of housing and neighborhood safety.
Despite additional case management and a work requirement for public housing residents that was intstituted in 2009, employment rates among residents remain persistently low compared to the general population. Not surprisingly, poor health is the most-cited barrier to employment. The report also shows that after paying rent, households are facing increasing economic hardships and having difficulty meeting monthly grocery and utility payments. The increase in late utility payments and food insecurity is disproportionately experienced by those relocating to the private rental market, who likely face new or increased housing expenses.
The Chicago Panel Study is part of Urban Institute’s five-site HOPE VI Panel Study, which assesses assessed?? how residents are affected by HOPE VI’s transformation and redevelopment of distressed public housing.
The report, The CHA's Plan for Transformation: How Have Residents Fared?, as well as links to additional briefs that provide detailed findings on topic areas outlined above is available at: http://www.urban.org/publications/412190.html