Reporting Derrick Blakley
CHICAGO (CBS) – Foreclosures and homelessness are big issues in Chicago, but the Chicago Housing Authority has approved plans to tear down hundreds of units at its Altgeld Gardens housing complex on the Far South Side.
In this Original Report, some residents told CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley the demolition plans don’t make any sense.
At Altgeld Gardens, residents said the CHA promised to fix the place up, and rehab almost 2,000 units. But, two months ago, residents discovered the CHA changed its mind and plans to bulldoze 648 vacant, dilapidated units.
“That was a very much surprise to us, to everybody out here; and nobody wants these units torn down, because we got people who need housing,” said Cheryl Johnson, who grew up at Altgeld Gardens.
The CHA has rehabbed more than 1,300 units at Altgeld Gardens; adding air conditioning, new kitchens, and new baths. But the CHA said the vacant units targeted for demolition are probably too far gone to fix.
CHA spokeswoman Wendy Parks said, “Does it make sense to rehab an old unit that is uninhabitable, versus looking at the entire land, and making sure that it’s a robust community?
Altgeld Gardens exists almost on an island. There are no convenience stores, no hair salons or dry cleaners, and no grocery stores anywhere near the complex. The CHA wants to add some of those amenities.
“We want to make sure we have residents that will be able to have economic independence, and we can move them into the fabric of Chicago,” Parks said.
But former Altgeld Gardens resident Yolanda Thomas, who moved out for renovation, fears if demolition goes forward, she might never be able to move back.
“I think these units, people can use them — people like me, and other people that have needy families, too,” she said.
The CHA said no final decisions have been made on demolition yet. Discussions with Altgeld Gardens residents will begin at a November town hall meeting.
But the question CHA residents have been asking is: with 40,000 families on the CHA waiting list, should the agency be tearing down any housing at all?