Habitat gets the boot? Major change in the discrimination lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority
Holy crap. Ho-ly crap.
That was my reaction this morning when I heard the news that CHA may no longer have a court appointed receiver in the Gautreaux case.
If you’re not a housing nerd like me, that sentence means nothing to you. But this is like a major upheaval in Chicago’s public housing world – a huge shift in the way public housing is built in Chicago.
Here’s the backstory: In 1966, in the midst of the civil rights movement, a Chicago public housing resident named Dorothy Gautreaux and her gutsy lawyer, Alex Polikoff, sued the Chicago Housing Authority, saying that the government funded agency was breaking the law by continuing to segregate based on race. They said public housing was only being built in poor black neighborhoods, and that housing assignments were made based on race too.
It was a landmark case, and they won. CHA and HUD were found guilty of using discriminatory housing practices. From then on, the court would govern where CHA would build housing. The scattered site program was born – a new housing project that would scatter low-density public housing units in better neighborhoods. The Gautreaux decision also started the country’s first Section 8 program.
Except CHA dragged their feet on making these changes, and in 1987, the court appointed a “receiver” – the Habitat Company under Daniel Levin – to oversee all of CHA’s building to make sure they complied with the court orders.
Since then, Habitat and CHA have been like peanut butter and jelly – sticking together whether they like it or not. Habitat sits on every working group and is consulted in every decision to demolish, rebuild or rehab Chicago’s public housing.
But now, CHA is going to be set loose from the tether of Habitat, or so it seems. Crain’s said today that Judge Aspen, who presides over the Gautreaux case, thinks CHA no longer needs Habitat, and Habitat may be relieved of its receivership duties.
What does that mean?
Well, it means the judge thinks CHA can do this on it’s own, without any direct oversight, other than the litigation. It means CHA has undergone enough of an overhaul to comply with the anti-discrimination and segregation orders on their own. They’ll still be governed by the Gautreaux decision, but not scrutinized up close by Habitat.
And it means one major player in Chicago’s housing decisions won’t be in charge any more.
What do you think?
Do you think we’ve come far enough in society and in city government that we can trust our agencies to make equitable, fair decisions?
Can CHA and city officials be trusted not to discriminate on the basis of race?