Cabrini-Green Homes are one of the best examples of the complicated nature of social housing. This housing structure is also called Public Housing in the U.S. Cabrini-Green homes are located near the North Side of Chicago in Illinois.
In the movie Candyman, recently remade, this housing project was shined light upon. Cabrini-Green Homes came about in the 1950s when African Americans migrated northwards from the South. This was when new public housing was needed. Chicago's answer was to clear existing slums in African American neighborhoods to provide space for new higher-capacity buildings.
Needless to say that things didn't go as the Chicago council planned. During years of neglect and problems surrounding racism, Cabrini-Green Homes once again turned into a slum from which they rose.
The Building Of The Cabrini-Green Homes
The Cabrini-Green Homes complex is currently located on Chicago's North Side, though it is under a different name. It began as the Frances Cabrini Homes, a public housing project led by the Chicago Housing Authority in 1942.
These homes targeted veterans of the Second World War and included fifty-five structures. It was an ambitious project, which was never well maintained. With the American Housing Act of 1949, slum clearance and redevelopment were aided. This is how they had received the funding for the construction of additional housing units.
The demand for housing led the Chicago Housing Authority to add to the Cabrini properties. The Chicago Housing added the William Green Homes in 1962 and finished construction of the Cabrini-Green Homes the same year.
When they were completed, these buildings were huge. Many of the towers were 15-16 stories tall. The newly constructed Cabrini-Green Homes consisted of 23 high-rise towers. There were also rowhouses which targeted low-income residents in need of public housing.
Sadly, even at the construction, the Cabrini-Green and other public housing projects in Chicago were subject to racial segregation. The Chicago Housing had been assigning tenants to house based upon their race, even if this wasn't something they should have done. This had resulted in the concentration of Black residents in isolated, segregated areas.
Initially, the Frances Cabrini Homes had a certain quota of African American residents that they had to fill. That quota was soon abandoned. During this time, in the 40s and 50s, the African American population in Chicago nearly doubled in size. Since the white population of Chicago did not want to live in joint housing, this had led to separation.
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In 1942, when the Cabrini-Green Homes was first opened, they were considered to be affordable housing. They were a solution for a growing problem of low-income households that had nowhere to go.
In the following years, the Cabrini Homes Extension and the William Green Homes were added onto the complex. They were supposed to provide safe housing for low-income earners.
Cabrini-Green Homes were built with the mind of being different from the other similar complexes. They were designed to become an integrated, utopian community. Along with affordable rent prices and in the heart of the city, they were a perfect solution. As they were not far from Chicago's Magnificent Mile, they also had an excellent location.
In 1942, when the complex was being made, Mayor Edward J. Kelly proclaimed that the apartments should symbolize the Chicago that is to be. Sadly, this big dream never came true.
The Downfall Of The Cabrini-Green Homes
As they declined further and further, the high-rises by the name of Cabrini-Green Homes had become known for bad things only. Teeming with violent crime, worsening conditions, and gang activity, their reputation started deteriorating.
The path to their demise started with a lawsuit in 1966. This was when Dorothy Gautreaux filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority. In the lawsuit, she had claimed that the actions of the CHA violated the U.S. Constitution. After deliberation, the Supreme Court ruled in Gautreaux's favor.
Following this, a significant change was prompted within Chicago's public housing program. This change included the elimination of high-rise public housing construction. Along with this, the CHA had decided to implement programs that would ensure new public housing development. This development will be scattered across the city.
In the coming decades, the public housing through the city of Chicago was primarily African American. With high crime and unemployment, Cabrini-Green Homes started its decline. From a great project, it had turned into a symbol of government failure in Chicago. It seemed that the government was adding to the problem instead of focusing on resolving the situation of the isolated African American population.
In the oncoming years, Chicago Housing Authority was not able to make repairs and upkeep the properties. They had too much on their plate with so many housing projects. The CHA continued to neglect the property for years. This had caused the buildings to deteriorate. The tenants were, in turn, subjected to poor living conditions. Poverty and crime rose.
In the 1980s, Chicago political leaders and, with them, the downtown businesses focused on the redevelopment of Cabrini-Green Homes. This redevelopment would involve the surrounding neighborhood. They thought that Cabrini-Green was an area that could be gentrified.
Due to this, they created the North Town Redevelopment Advisory Council, which proposed building mixed-income housing to replace Cabrini-Green. On top of dealing with the housing, they also planned to improve the area's public transportation.
In 1996, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development took control over the CHA, they revealed its plan for the transformation. This was supposed to turn over the Cabrini-Green Homes completely. The high-rises would be demolished.
The first tower in the Cabrini Green Homes complex was demolished in 2000. The last of them was destroyed in 2011. In the year 2021, new mixed-income housing now stands instead of the Cabrini-Green complex. All that remains of the original Cabrini Green Houses are rowhouses, which have 137 units. However, no one lives there anymore. The plan was to demolish them as well and create new housing.
Cabrini-Green Homes Residents
By the year 2009, most of the Cabrini-Green Homes had been taken down. In their place, condominiums and townhomes in the new North Town Village were raised.
The government always wanted to change and uplift this area, and so they have succeeded. Now it is filled with new offices and condos and upscale restaurants. Chicago's Mayor Daley said that the latest developments would include plenty of affordable housing for residents to return to the neighborhood.
However, the 15,000 family units that were promised to be built are not enough. They are just a small step toward the actual numbers that the city needs. The houses were opened for application in 2010, and over 150 thousand families applied.
The Chicago Housing Authority reported that in September 2020, 48 families were still waiting to move back into their former Cabrini-Green Houses. Another 293 families fell out of contact with the agency.
More than 1,700 families were moved out of the development when it was supposed to be torn down. This was done to make way for the plan for transformation. Unfortunately, only a few were able to move back into the mixed-income housing raised in the place of their old habitat.