Time to learn facts, Democrats: Myths and misperceptions about public housing … and lessons from Chicago’s reform effort.


It doesn’t come as any great surprise that Jeff Gahan would like to replace affordable housing in New Albany with various manifestations of “luxury.”

Gahan’s Grab: Yes, principled Democratic positions on public housing actually DO exist, and here’s one of them. But first, some Kool Aid!

It’s no more surprising that City Hall’s forthcoming public housing putsch, as abetted by a Democratic Party gone entirely off the rails, is based on myth. I’ve given precious little “tease” to this article, because if you’re genuinely interested in learning the facts, you’ll click through and then follow up by expressing your outrage to the elected officials who are tolerating this classic instance of Gahanian and Dickeysian depravity.

Myths and misperceptions surrounding public housing and the people who live in it, by Pete Rodrigue (Greater Greater Washington)

A lot of Americans believe things about federally subsidized housing that simply aren’t true. You’ll sometimes hear things like, “most federal housing assistance just means people living in government-owned high rises,” or “people who get housing assistance don’t work.” Thankfully, we have data to investigate these beliefs. Let’s look at four of the biggest myths.

  1. Myth: Most public housing means big projects
  2. Myth: Most housing assistance recipients don’t have jobs, and they’re all black
  3. Myth: Subsidized housing generally lowers surrounding property values and increases crime
  4. Myth: Housing subsidies worsen recipients’ lives

Chicago and New Albany exist on vastly different scales, but certain of the lessons are transferable. The verdict: “We can accomplish only so much with better housing and slightly better circumstances. It was naïve to think that relocation was going to address all the problems families were having.”

And Gahan is addressing these problems … how?

Didn’t think so. Those crickets never lie.

Hard Lessons From Chicago’s Public Housing Reform, by Susan Popkin (CityLab)

Two decades ago, the city embarked on an ambitious—and controversial—plan to transform its troubled public housing system, uprooting thousands of low-income residents. Today, researcher Susan Popkin reflects on what worked—and what failed.

 … It was the era of Clinton-style welfare reform and the beginning of efforts to shrink the federal role; that meant that private developers—both for-profit and nonprofit—would own and manage these new properties. Today, the effect on Chicago’s West and South Sides is evident: The forbidding high-rises are gone. Though the pace of new construction has been frustratingly slow, the area now has seven new safe and attractive communities (with three more in the works), as well as parks, stores, and other signs of economic renewal.

As many critics have noted, the Plan for Transformation meant involuntary displacement for many thousands of African-American residents, a process that was painful and stressful for most of them. Only a portion of the units in the new developments were meant for public-housing families, and relatively few original residents moved back. Most either took vouchers and rented private-market housing or moved to another refurbished public-housing community. Still, when contacted years later, nearly all the relocated CHA residents I studied said they were living in better housing in safer neighborhoods. The fact that no child is growing up in a place as bad as Robert Taylor Homes was when I first walked into it is a real and important victory.

But it is only a partial one. The majority of the families who moved still live in places that are poorer, more racially segregated, and more violent than the rest of the city. Such places will not fundamentally change children’s life trajectories.