Integrating the Inner CityThe Promise and Perils of Mixed-Income Public Housing Transformation

Integrating the Inner CityThe Promise and Perils of Mixed-Income Public Housing Transformation

Robert J. Chaskin and Mark L. Joseph

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226164397

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book examines the intent, implementation, and emerging outcomes of Chicago’s Plan for Transformation, the largest and most extensive effort in the country to deconcentrate poverty by redeveloping public housing. We explore one particular component of the broader Transformation—the development of new, mixed-income communities on the footprint of former public housing complexes. We focus on public housing reform as a mechanism of community revitalization and integration—an intentional effort, driven by public policy but relying to a large extent on market processes and operating through public-private partnerships, to reclaim and rebuild neighborhoods. Drawing on seven years of research focused on three of the new mixed-income developments, we examine the motivating assumptions, arguments, and interests that drive these efforts, the nature of the new communities being built, the strategies, mechanisms, and social processes that shape community dynamics in them, and the apparent benefits and costs to public housing residents and to the city. We find that while some of the concrete goals of the Transformation are being met—including significant improvements to the housing units and neighborhood environments in which public housing residents and their new neighbors live—the broader integrationist goals of the policy have failed to take hold. Rather than effectively integrating public housing residents into these new mixed-income contexts, the community dynamics emerging and mechanisms of control put in place are leading to what we describe as incorporated exclusion, in which physical integration reproduces marginalization and leads more to withdrawal and alienation than engagement and inclusion.