CHICAGO—A federal judge reinstated the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA’s) power to manage the development of public housing. The move ends more than two decades of court-ordered receivership for the authority.
U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen ruled last week that substantial progress had been made and that powers should be restored to the CHA from the receiver Daniel Levin and The Habitat Co.
City officials praised the move.
“This is a historic day for the city and for CHA,” said Mayor Richard Daley in a press release. “… We have worked diligently to increase accountability and transparency, to ensure housing opportunities for low-income residents throughout the city, and to improve the communities that had long existed in the shadows of the towering high-rises. Judge Aspen’s order is a testament to all that has been accomplished.”
Aspen originally gave Levin and The Habitat Co. the authority to develop and administer CHA’s scatted-site and redevelopment program in 1987. The action was done to enforce compliance by CHA of the 1969 Gautreaux order, which mandated that all new housing built by CHA be done outside of predominantly low-income African-American neighborhoods. A group of residents had charged that the CHA engaged in racial discrimination by building public housing solely in areas with high concentrations of poor minorities.
In 1987, it was determined that the housing authority needed help with the order and appointed Habitat as the receiver. Since then, the receiver has directly developed or overseen the development of more than 4,000 units of public housing.
Much of the recent progress has been the result of the massive Plan for Transformation, which calls for 25,000 units of housing to be developed or renovated. Launched in 2000, the plan is considered “the largest, most ambitious redevelopment of public housing in the United States.”
So far, hundreds of blighted buildings have been demolished, and nearly 18,000 units have been rehabilitated or redeveloped, according to CHA.
The handover of power will not happen overnight. CHA and Habitat will begin a three-year transition during which Habitat will serve in the role of Gautreaux development manager.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, was president and CEO of Habitat.
Alexander Polikoff, the attorney who filed the original lawsuit, wasn’t surprised by the court move, saying it reflects the recent progress made by the housing authority.
“It’s a victory for the Gautreaux case,” said Polikoff, who is with the advocacy group Business and Professional People for the Public Interest.
He pointed out that while the receivership may be winding down, the case is not ending. In addition to the three-year transition period, CHA’s work under the Plan for Transformation continues. As a result, advocates will continue to be vigilant.
“We want mixed-income communities to work well,” he said. “Having a seat at the table enables us to play a role in the planning and the development of these communities.”