The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) promised that their voucher-relocation program did not increase crime rates in neighborhoods where former CHA residents moved. But new data suggests they were wrong.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, violent crime was 21% higher in communities where there was a large number of former CHA residents who had relocated using vouchers. This study measured crime and it’s relation to relocated CHA residents from 2000 to 2008.
When the city tore down notorious housing projects like Cabrini Green, they gave many residents vouchers that would allow them to move into other communities, dispersing the poverty that plagued these high-crime housing complexes.
Over the entire city, violent crime dropped about 26%, with 1% of the drop being attributed to the relocation planning, according to the Urban Institute. Their recent study found, however, that crime didn’t drop as dramatically where the relocated residents moved to.
Up until now there had been no concrete data on how the relocations affected crime rates in the new communities. CHA spokesperson Kellie O’Connell-Miller said of the study, “It reiterates the importance to us to remain committed to responsible relocation strategies.”
Other cities are looking to Chicago as a model for relocation programs, as many hope to dissipate the high crime that has plagued giant public housing complexes.
Susan Popkin, the author of the Urban Institute study says that CHA’s relocation program has improved over the years and that the support given to voucher-holding “relocatees” now is much better than it was when the program began.
Now, CHA gives former residents access to mental health services and counseling on choosing a new neighborhood. It seems the city understands that growing up in the crime-ridden projects and living in them for many years can be a difficult thing to simply come out of. Help with the adjustment is crucial.
Some neighborhoods aren’t happy with their new residents.
“Never did we see individuals sitting on their cars drinking 40-ounce bottles of beer,” said the president of Chatham-Avalon Park Community Association Keith Tate, calling the program “disastrous for Chatham.”
It isn’t clear whether the long-time community members are reaching out to their new neighbors or shuttering their windows and doors. What is clear is that the city-mouse and suburban-mouse will need to learn to live in harmony and that may mean adjusting some community norms on both sides.
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