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The Poorhouse

Subsidized Housing in Chicago

Devereux Bowly Jr.

Publication Year: 2012

Chicago seems an ideal environment for public housing because of the city’s relatively young age among major cities and well-deserved reputation for technology, innovation, and architecture. Yet The Poorhouse: Subsidized Housing in Chicago shows that the city’s experience on the whole has been a negative one, raising serious questions about the nature of subsidized housing and whether we should have it and, if so, in what form.

Bowly, a native of the city, provides a detailed examination of subsidized housing in the nation’s third-largest city. Now in its second edition, The Poorhouse looks at the history of public housing and subsidized  housing in Chicago from 1895 to the present day. Five new chapters that cover the decline and federal takeover of the Chicago Housing Authority, and its more recent “transformation,” which involved the  demolition of the CHA family high-rise buildings and in some cases their replacement with low-risemixed income housing on the same sites. Fifty new photos supplement this edition.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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pp. c-ii

Book Title

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p. iii-iii


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p. iv-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. vii-viii

I wrote the original edition of The Poorhouse more than thirty years ago, covering the period 1895 to 1976, during which philanthropists and governmental agencies became involved in providing housing for poor families by constructing public housing and providing various...

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Preface to the First Edition

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pp. ix-xii

Although untold billions of dollars have been spent in this country over the last half century on subsidized housing, it is a subject that has received too little attention. The various programs have come and gone with inadequate evaluation of their social and economic impact. In the...

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1. Philanthropic Housing Projects

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pp. 1-14

Subsidized housing was originally the work of individual philanthropists. Between 1895 and 1930, four projects, all of imagination and high quality, were built in Chicago: Francisco Terrace, Garden Homes, Marshall Field Garden Apartments, and Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments....

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2. Early Public Housing

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pp. 15-29

The end of the decade of the 1920s brought the United States into its most severe economic depression. Apartment construction in Chicago virtually came to a standstill. In the worst year, 1933, only 21 apartment units were built.1 Due to the lack of construction and the large migration to Chicago before, during, and after World War I, there was...

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3. Chicago Housing Authority: The War Years

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pp. 30-48

World War II brought major new responsibilities to the Chicago Housing Authority: providing housing for war workers and later providing housing for returning veterans. The census of 1940 showed that 55,157 residential units in Chicago were overcrowded, using the standard of having more than 1.5 persons per room, and that 206,103 units either had...

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4. Chicago Housing Authority: The Middle Years

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pp. 49-66

During the period after World War II, the Chicago Housing Authority was given new opportunities to fulfill the mandate of providing housing for the poor and at the same time faced new challenges. For the first time it was free of the constraints of operating under emergency federal programs created to deal with the special problems caused by...

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5. Chicago Housing Authority: Years of Turmoil

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pp. 67-82

The major construction of public housing in Chicago after World War II was not the city-state financial relocation projects but federally financed ones. Although planning started for these projects in the late 1940s, the first one was not completed and occupied until 1953. The federal Housing Act of 1949 provided for the most comprehensive federal aid...

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6. Chicago Dwellings Association

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pp. 83-97

The Chicago Dwellings Association (CDA) was chartered in 1948 as a not-for- profit corporation. It was set up at the suggestion of the mayor’s Committee for Housing Action to develop moderate-income housing for those families with incomes too high to meet public housing eligibility standards but too low to obtain adequate housing in the private market. Its board of...

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7. Chicago Housing Authority: The High-Rise Years

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pp. 98-119

The overall housing supply in Chicago improved during the 1950s. The seven-year period from the beginning of 1950 to the end of 1956, for example, saw a 5.3 percent increase in the total number of housing units in the city, from about 1,106,000 to 1,165,000. The increase of 59,000 units was accounted for by the addition of 145,000 units and the loss...

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8. The Community Renewal Foundation and the Kate Maremont Foundation

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pp. 120-136

There was little activity in the field of subsidized moderate-income housing in Chicago during the 1940s and 1950s other than that of the Chicago Dwellings Association. Two interesting low-budget projects were built on the South Side by private developers, but they were not subsidized. Both of them, however, anticipated in many respects...

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9. Federally Subsidized, Privately Sponsored Housing

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pp. 137-161

The housing sponsored by the Community Renewal Foundation and the Kate Maremont Foundation constituted only a small fraction of federally subsidized, but privately owned, multi-family housing in Chicago. Such housing was developed basically during the decade from 1963 to 1973, under Section 221 (d) (3) and Section 236 programs. The...

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10. Chicago Housing Authority: The Fourth Decade

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pp. 162-180

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11. The Illinois Housing Development Authority

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pp. 181-193

In 1965, the Illinois Legislative Commission on Low Income Housing was appointed. Under the chairmanship of State Representative Robert E. Mann, the commission issued its report in 1967 recommending legislation giving the State Housing Board the power to issue bonds for the purpose of providing mortgages and “seed money” to nonprofit and...

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12. Chicago Housing Authority: Years of Decline

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pp. 194-201

In 1976, the year of the U.S. Bicentennial, the Chicago Housing Authority stood uncertainly between its problem-plagued past, where it had relied heavily on high-rise buildings for family housing, and a future containing many landmines along the way. The CHA failed, however, to make the best of the situation, as was done in such cities as New York, St. Paul,...

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13. Subsidized Housing on Other Fronts

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pp. 202-214

From the 1970s on, although the Chicago Housing Authority continued to be a major source of subsidized housing for poor families in Chicago, there were also equally important developments regarding subsidized housing in the city on other fronts. They included the...

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14. Buildup to the Transformation

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pp. 215-220

Two major local events in Chicago laid the groundwork for the radical transformation of the Chicago Housing Authority during the last decade of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first: the development of Lake Parc Place led by Vince Lane and the suit against the CHA by residents of the Henry Horner Homes....

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15. The Transformation of the Chicago Housing Authority

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pp. 221-244

The transformation of Chicago Housing Authority public housing has involved demolition of almost all of its high-rise family buildings and their replacement with walk-up buildings, constructed by private developers, that now include residents of different income levels living side-by-side. All of this was made possible because of changes in federal...

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pp. 245-256

The period covered by the revised edition of this book is 115 years, from 1895 to 2010. The major focus has been on the Chicago Housing Authority, as well as on federal housing policy and state and local initiatives. The CHA has become a changed institution during just the prior ten years because of its “transformation” program. Most of...


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pp. 257-264


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pp. 265-275

Author Biography

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p. 276-276

Back Cover

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p. bc-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9780809390687
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809330522

Publication Year: 2012