Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have released a comprehensive overview of the research conducted on Chicago’s Plan for Transformation (Plan), an initiative to restructure the city’s public housing system. Because of the huge scope of the Plan, much research has been done on its implementation and its outcomes for both tenants and neighborhoods. The MIT report is a review of more than 80 pieces of literature that have been published over the 10 years since the Plan was initiated in 1999.
The Plan called for the new construction or rehabilitation of approximately 25,000 public housing units, 70% of which have already been completed. The Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Plan also calls for more scattered site housing, developing mixed income housing communities and moving more CHA residents to the private market with housing choice vouchers. Through the program, the CHA also hoped to provide support services to residents.
The report found that there is some consensus by researchers on certain aspects of the Plan but many factors are still under debate and require more research. Generally, the authors found that in the first years of the Plan’s implementation the resident counseling services were inadequate, but that these services have improved significantly since then and these improved services have increased the likelihood of residents moving to lower poverty neighborhoods.
The report also finds that residents who moved into the private housing market have seen improvements in their quality of life, but that those who have remained in the traditional public housing system have seen few changes.
When examining the effect the Plan has had on places, the research has shown little evidence that the schools serving children who have moved into mixed-income developments are an improvement over their previous schools. Finally, there is consensus that the crime rates have not increased in areas where CHA public housing residents relocated with Housing Choice Vouchers.
Along with the areas of general consensus among researchers discussed above, the report also contains many areas of ongoing debate and some suggestions for new research questions. Some of the many issues that are still being debated include questions about how many of the original CHA residents have been able to move into the new mixed-income developments, concerns that the Plan has actually caused more residents to lose their housing assistance sooner than they would have without the Plan, and questions around whether or not the people who left public housing due to the Plan have seen any employment gains.
The full report, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, can viewed at: http://web.mit.edu/dusp/dusp_extension_unsec/people/faculty/ljv/vale_macarthur_2010.pdf