October 4, 2004


Chicago raises the bar for living in public housing: As part of the largest US attempt at a public-housing makeover, some residents are now being required to work. (Amanda Paulson, 10/05/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

Driving down Halsted Street in Chicago's Near North neighborhood, the contrasts are stark. The collection of new red-brick three- and four-story apartment buildings that make up the mixed-income North Town Village - all with tailored landscaping and individual balconies - eventually gives way to old Cabrini Green high-rises, ugly concrete behemoths that sometimes have more plywood than glass in their windows.

The move toward mixed-income communities - an integration of public, affordable, and market-rate housing - has already made Chicago the nation's premier laboratory for making over its public housing stock. And it's had some success: Portions of the once infamous Cabrini neighborhood, a symbol for the nation's public-housing errors of the 1970s and '80s, are coming to resemble the high-priced areas that surround it.

Now the city is launching another experiment in its mixed-income communities that, although controversial, could end up being replicated across the country.

Recently, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), as part of its plan to select who can live in the mixed-income neighborhoods, decided to mandate a self- sufficiency ethic. Among other things, heads of household will have to work 30 hours a week. All other adults over 18 must either work or attend self-sufficiency, education, or basic-skills programs for 30 hours a week. It's the first city to carry the responsibility ethic this far in public housing.

Proponents hope the requirements will be a tough-love incentive to get public-housing residents off the government dole and on the road to independence, similar in some ways to the welfare reforms of recent years.

Combined with his schools initiative it makes Mayor Daley one of the few known New Democrats remaining in captivity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 4, 2004 6:54 PM

WORK?!? We don't need your @#%*&#* work!!!

Posted by: Oswald Booth Czolgosz at October 4, 2004 8:35 PM

That's because the Chicago Democrats may be the only ones with a machine still. Chicago officials are probably the only Democrats whose votes are based on fulfilling the needs of the common people rather than some elite leftist interest group.

The difference I think, is that non-Chicago Democrats don't have the example of Bilandic before them.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at October 5, 2004 12:04 PM

"The difference I think, is that non-Chicago Democrats don't have the example of Bilandic before them."

Would you care to explain that statement?

Dailey may be one of the few left to pick up the pieces.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 5, 2004 6:11 PM