Monday, July 7, 2008

Alexander on Public Housing Reform in Chicago

Lisa A. Alexander (Wisconsin) has posted A Sociolegal History of Public Housing Reform in Chicago on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

This essay summarizes and compares Alexander Polikoff's Waiting for Gautreaux: A Story of Segregation, Housing, and the Black Ghetto and Mary Pattillo's Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City to convey the contributions and limitations of each book. Both works provide a rich sociolegal history of public housing reform in Chicago and illustrate the challenges Chicago has faced in implementing recent HOPE VI public housing reforms. I compare Polikoff's forty-year battle to desegregate public housing in Chicago with Pattillo's insightful observations of class dynamics between the new middle-class African-American power brokers of housing reform and public housing residents. Through this comparison, I seek to show that Polikoff's long-term prescriptions for public housing reform are based upon a conception of the inner city that may no longer be entirely accurate. This comparison also conveys the social complexity inherent in HOPE VI reform efforts, a complexity often overlooked in the prevailing policy and academic debates.

Ben Barros

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I hope to find time to read the material. In the meantime, I will note that at least one step in the process of overcoming the historical problems of public housing might be to take the approach of Baltimore over the past decade and a half...kind of a reverse "if you build it, they will come." More like a "if you blow it up, they will go."

Numerous (and notorious) high-rise public housing projects born in the 60s and early 70s, and infested with both decent/innocent victims of the gang/drug residents, as well as not so decent/innocent bums perfectly willing to live in squalor...have been blown up. All in an effort to eliminate some of the contributing sources of public housing malaise. They've been replaced by new, modern row-home type housing and some limited efforts at educating the occupants on home ownership. In the short run, the gangs/drug peddlers had to find new digs. In the long run?

Who knows?

Posted by: Sam Gompers | Jul 7, 2008 9:52:21 AM

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