Most people talk about public housing in Chicago like a relative that died years ago--only as a distant memory, something we shake our heads at but have moved on from.
But one group of residents is trying to show they're still here--and still fighting for their homes.
This morning, a large group of residents from all over Chicago will descend on the Chicago Housing Authority Board of Commissioners meeting at Seward Park, near Cabrini-Green. Residents of Lathrop Homes will demand CHA rescind recently issued notices that would close half the North Side development. And residents from all over Chicago will join the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign to demand a moratorium on all move-outs, consolidations and evictions until residents are meaningfully included in the decision-making process.
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What prompted this protest? The Logan Square Neighborhood Association says CHA recently issued 70 180-day notices to residents at Lathrop Homes, asking them to move south of Diversey Parkway to the other half of the development to consolidate residents for safety reasons. The association says it was told the development is unsafe because of a decline in the number of residents at Lathrop.
But the association, which helps organize Lathrop residents, says it isn't buying that story. Why? Because the decline in population at Lathrop wasn't an accident, it says. Less people are living there because during a 10-year period as residents moved out, CHA didn't allow the apartments to be re-leased. Instead, each one was boarded up.
Furthermore, it doesn't want all those units sitting vacant. For one, it says, it could lead to damage that would render the buildings unfixable in the future. Two, it doesn't want half of the development to seem like a "ghost town" and an "eye sore" in the midst of planning what happens next at Lathrop.
With the initial planning phase set to begin in April, it seems that residents don't want to give developers any more reasons to try and tear down their homes.
The CHA board meeting, along with the next few months until Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel takes office, will be the last in Mayor Richard M. Daley's reign over public housing in Chicago. Daley's push to demolish most of Chicago's public housing and build only a fraction of units in its place has been nothing if not controversial. Now that Daley's era is coming to an end, are the residents likely to get a more sympathetic ear from Emanuel?
We reached out to the Emanuel transition team and CHA for comment on this story, and we'll update this article when they respond.
After 11 years of the Plan for Transformation, many of the buildings that defined Chicago's public housing may be gone. Many of the residents may have moved away. But this morning shows that while much of public housing's history may have been demolished, the spirit that defines the residents there isn't gone yet.