Blueprint for Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing

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Overview

Blueprint for Disaster traces public housing’s history in Chicago from its New Deal roots through current mayor Richard M. Daley’s Plan for Transformation. In the process, D. Bradford Hunt chronicles the Chicago Housing Authority’s own transformation from the city’s most progressive government agency to its largest slumlord.

            Challenging explanations that attribute the projects’ decline primarily to racial discrimination and real estate interests, Hunt argues that well-intentioned but misguided policy decisions—ranging from design choices to maintenance contracts—also paved the road to failure. Moreover, administrators who fully understood the potential drawbacks did not try to halt such deeply flawed projects as Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes. The resulting combination of fiscal crisis, managerial incompetence, and social unrest plunged the CHA into a quagmire from which it is still struggling to emerge. Blueprint for Disaster, then, is an urgent reminder of the havoc poorly conceived policy can wreak on our most vulnerable citizens.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
Historians and policymakers differ on their explanations of what happened to public housing, but they would be well-served to read the new book by D. Bradford Hunt. . . . This book is a necessary contribution to the consideration of public housing in Chicago. It adds a new dimension to the debate by pointing to missed opportunities for the CHA to heed warning signs and change course and that policy choices at the local and federal level led to the demise of public housing. . . . No emotional wallop in these pages, just the clear-headed attention to neglected details of a woefully misunderstood part of Chicago history.

— Elizabeth Taylor

Chicago Tribune - Elizabeth Taylor

"Historians and policymakers differ on their explanations of what happened to public housing, but they would be well-served to read the new book by D. Bradford Hunt. . . . This book is a necessary contribution to the consideration of public housing in Chicago. It adds a new dimension to the debate by pointing to missed opportunities for the CHA to heed warning signs and change course and that policy choices at the local and federal level led to the demise of public housing. . . . No emotional wallop in these pages, just the clear-headed attention to neglected details of a woefully misunderstood part of Chicago history."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226360867
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2010
  • Series: Historical Studies of Urban America Series
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 690,574
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

D. Bradford Hunt is associate dean and associate professor of social science at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Introduction: What Went Wrong with Public Housing in Chicago? 1

1 The 1937 Housing Act Revisited 15

2 Building the Chicago Housing Authority 35

3 Clearing Chicago's Slums 67

4 The End of Integration and the Taming of the CHA 99

5 Designing High-Rise Disasters 121

6 Planning a Social Disaster 145

7 The Loss of the Working Class 183

8 The Tenants Revolt 213

9 The Gautreaux Case and the Limits of Judicial Activism 239

10 The Long Road to Rebirth 259

Conclusion: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing 285

Acknowledgments 297

A Note on Sources 301

Notes 303

Index 355

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