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A profound change is sweeping through the Ida B. Wells community. Once one of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) largest properties, with 3,200 units in four adjacent developments, Wells is being demolished to make way for a new, mixed-income community. As the old buildings come down, it remains unclear whether the remaining residents will fit into this new community. A real concern for policymakers and administrators is that the residents who were easy to relocate have already moved, while many of those who remain may be at risk of losing their housing. However, other than anecdotal evidence, little information is available to help CHA administrators assess the true number of residents who may need special housing options or are at risk of losing their housing assistance. The purpose of this study is to help inform the city, the CHA, community groups, and private agencies involved in planning and implementing relocation plans for Wells and CHA’s other public housing developments by systematically documenting the characteristics and needs of remaining Wells residents.

Meeting the challenge of housing these residents—families with special needs, lease violators, illegal residents, and the truly homeless—will require a coordinated response on the part of the housing authority, city agencies, private service providers, and the philanthropic community in Chicago. Only such a focused effort can meet the urgent need to both develop creative options for families with special housing needs and dramatically increase the supply of supportive and transitional housing, substance abuse programs, single-room occupancy hotels (SROs), and shelters in the city of Chicago. Currently, the housing market and the emergency shelter system are ill equipped to handle the needs of these at-risk residents. If the problems are ignored, the city risks enormous increases in the homeless population as Wells and other CHA developments are demolished. (Authors)
The Urban Institute
Washington, D.C.
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