The War on the Poor in Public Housing

CounterMedia Briefing

"They kicking us out, they telling us, `This is no longer your neighborhood. Forget the times, and the friends, and the years you spent here. We changing this. You gotta go.'" - grandson of a woman moved out of Horner Homes

It's been more than a year since HUD took over a scandal-ridden Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), promising a great many improvements. So, it's likely that during the four day orgy of self-congratulations known as the Democratic National Convention, Clinton will boast of public housing successes or maybe sneak a photo-op in the nearby Horner Homes projects. However, what is certain is that neither he nor any other politico will admit the true nature of their housing agenda - shared by Democrat and Republic an alike: that government efforts to "end public housing as we know it" constitute nothing less than a war against the poorest of the poor.

The basics:
Large scale budget cuts while making public housing more "cost efficient"; demolishing thousands of units of public housing while bringing in families with higher incomes to replace the very poor; increasing control over those residents who remain - from new rules and regulations to police and guards. What follows is a brief look at how this agenda plays out in Chicago.

Here comes the wrecking ball:
With three down so far, up to half of the buildings at Horner Homes are to be leveled via a 6 year court-ordered "revitalization program." At Cabrini Green, the CHA and the Mayor have proposed the demolition of 1,300 units - nearly 40% of the entire project. Four buildings have already fallen. Additional demolitions are both planned and in progress at other CHA developments.

An increased opportunity to be homeless:
Promises for replacement housing are often inadequate and full of loopholes. "One-for-one" replacement requirement is now repealed and demolitions will result in a net loss of very low income housing. The plan for Cabrini Green calls for 2,000 units of new housing, but the vast majority of these homes will be "market rate" and geared for the upper income families who live in neighboring areas. Further, under the "mixed income strategy," only half of the roughly 600 "public housing" replacement units will be set aside for families surviving on a welfare check or a minimum wage income.

What we say ain't what you get:
Twice last fall at Henry Horner, the Chicago Housing Authority violated their own court ordered agreements by using deception, threats and outright force to relocate public housing residents from their apartments. For resisting these tactics, one older woman and her family were targeted, with two dozen police brought out to ensure she moved.

Few carrots but lots of sticks:
In the name of "security," CHA residents have been subjected to arbitrary and vicious acts of brutality by police and guards. In June, gun wielding guards terrorized residents of one Horner building, beating one man bloody in full view of an outraged crowd. During the recent massive mobilization for the Bulls basketball victory, city cops locked down a Robert Taylor Homes high rise, clubbing and macing people. For hours, no resident was allowed in or out.

Again and again, residents have expressed their opposition to this treatment. There have been vocal objections raised to officials at packed meetings and individual determination not to be treated like cattle. They have picketed demolition sites and marched to city hall. While officials have attempted to slight and downplay this sentiment, it can't be ignored.

"I mean all they got to do next is bring the ball and chain along and we'd be back in slavery. And that ain't gonna happen, cuz they'd have to kill me first." - woman from Horner Homes

Additional information: V.X., c/o RCP Publications, 312/ 227-4066; or c/o CounterMedia, 312/670-9673,