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Neighborhoods of CHA relocations experienced higher crime rates


Concentration of former CHA residents with private housing vouchers

Updated: May 6, 2012 8:22AM

Crime was worse in neighborhoods where former Chicago Housing Authority residents used vouchers to move into private apartments, a new study found.

From 2000 to 2008, violent crime was 21 percent higher in neighborhoods with high concentrations of voucher-holding former CHA residents — when compared to similar neighborhoods without them, the Washington-based Urban Institute found. Property crime also would have been lower without relocated residents in those neighborhoods, the study said.

Violent crime dropped about 26 percent across the city over the same time period, according to the Chicago Police Department. The Urban Institute attributed about 1 percent of the decrease to CHA’s 1999 plan to knock down Cabrini-Green and other notorious housing complexes.

“We are estimating crime went down less in neighborhoods where the ‘relocatees’ moved,” said Susan Popkin, an author of the study released Thursday.

In the past, CHA said there was no evidence of a link between crime and the relocation of public housing residents. “Until this study, really, there hasn’t been any data that addresses this question,” CHA spokeswoman Kellie O’Connell-Miller said.

“It reiterates the importance to us to remain committed to responsible relocation strategies,” she said.

Popkin said CHA’s support for voucher holders has improved over the years and is a model for other cities planning to tear down public housing.

CHA steers them to mental-health services and provides counseling on what certain neighborhoods have to offer. The agency also provides financial incentives to landlords and voucher-holders so they can move to neighborhoods where rents are above the government’s ceiling for vouchers.

CHA has encouraged former public housing residents to move to “opportunity areas” with better schools and services. But many have chosen to stay in “vulnerable” areas on the city’s South and West sides, which are more familiar to them, the study found.

By the end of 2011, about 4,000 voucher-holding former CHA residents lived in the city and about 70 were in the suburbs, according to CHA.

Some communities are not very happy to have them. Chatham, where generations of African-American teachers, lawyers and other professionals have called home, has seen an influx of former CHA residents with vouchers — about 120 of them.

“It has been disastrous for Chatham,” said Keith Tate, president of Chatham-Avalon Park Community Association.

“Never did we see individuals sitting on their cars drinking 40-ounce bottles of beer.”

Tate said the community is experiencing a clash between longtime residents with a strong work ethic and former CHA residents on the dole.

“We have opened our arms to accept anyone into our community,” Tate said. “But it has caused a tremendous problem. We have had more burglaries than normal, more shootings. . . . We’re fighting on all fronts now to satisfy the needs of the long-term residents and the new residents who just moved here.”

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