Wade Tillett on 5 Mar 2001 21:20:47 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] A colossal exercise in moral deception


This was my submission for a design competition,  March 5, 2001. My proposal
was not really a 'design'  proposal, but a critical narrative - a proposal
for  re-examining the program of public housing.

The competition was for a new mixed-income housing  development within the
ABLA neighborhood on the  city's Near West Side....ABLA is adjacent to
University of Illinois at Chicago, Little Italy, and  the Illinois Medical

Submission requirements: 'One essay of 200 words or  less describing the
individual architect or firm's  philosophy regarding the essence of house.
Five  black-and-white or color images of built or unbuilt  work. The images
can be of residential,  institutional, commercial, etc., but must represent
the designer's design philosophy and applicable  experience.'

Program: 'The housing development to be designed in  this competition shall
accommodate three income  levels for a fully integrated mixed-income
community  that involves public housing units, affordable  housing units and
market rate housing. Regardless of  income type, all units must be designed
to high  standards and physically indistinguishable. The  housing
development must be constructed for a  specified number of units within a
specified budget  and should be easily maintained.'


A colossal exercise in moral deception


 1. Make the poor invisible.
 2. Steal their land.
 3. Exit public welfare and institutions

 The interconnectivity of the programmatic stratagem
 Resident (Non)Participation
 'Dispersal' - A Trojan Horse
 Dispersal - Resegregation
 Gautreaux program - a mass exodus to the suburbs and  beyond
 Dispersed and unequal
 'Low-Income' Hat Trick
 'Affordable' Housing
 'Model' families
 'A physically indistiguishable facade'
 'Public' Housing, Private Profit
 De-facto Demolition

Counter Strategy: Accountability

 Please Excuse the Inconvenience, Another Park  Improvement Project is
 A physically indistinguishable facade

List of Works Cited

A colossal exercise in moral deception
by Wade Tillett

Once again, in the self-righteous polemic of social  engineering, architects
team with city officials and  developers to propose their stratagems of
moral  deception for yet another subversion of interests.  Magazine articles
will tout the 'new' ideas of  dispersal and diversity and drop names of the
people  who 'came up' with them. Awards will be given and  developments
touted as model communities of the  future. As were the very high-rises
these  developments are to replace when they were built.  (plan to voucher
51) Once again, a program has been  carved which panders to architects,
developers,  contractors, and pretty much everyone other than the  people it
is supposed to help. Once again, the only  people invited to review the
program are those who  will benefit from the interests it will create. Once
again, the program has already been written in the  wake of a crisis which
was caused by the very people  who are once again writing the program. Once
again a  'colossal exercise in moral deception' is being  undertaken
(Grossman summarizing Hirsch's explanation  of Chicago's postwar housing
projects). Once again,  we ask, 'which pretty pictures and plans will
subvert  attention away from the fact that this is little more  than another
round of land-grabbing and the  displacement of those who now occupy it. 

"The charges so often leveled at the federal effort -  that it neglected the
poor; that it was actually  anti-poor because of its demolition of low-rent
housing and inadequate relocation procedures; that it  simply subsidized
those who needed aid least; and  that it was transformed into a program of
"Negro  clearance" - were hardly evidence of a plan gone  awry. These were
not 'perversions' of the enabling  legislation, they were the direct
consequences of it.  Indeed, the indictment made of the national program  in
the mid-1960's was virtually unchanged from that  heard a decade or more
earlier on the near South Side  and in Hyde Park. Thus, as Scott Greer
notes, nearly  70% of the dwelling units condemned for urban renewal
projects were occupied by blacks. This was primarily  due, Greer felt, to
their 'central locations and  deteriorated conditions, but the effects
[were] the  same as they would be if dehousing Negroes were the  goal.' Yet,
in some instances at least, that was  precisely the goal. Indeed, in a
recent study,  Michael J. White found that for two of the four  cities he
examined in detail (Chicago and Cleveland)  race was still a factor in
selecting renewal areas  even after controlling all other variables. This
does  not mean, of course, that the laws had to be used in  this fashion;
but it should be no surprise that they  were. If the University of Chicago
could use state  and federal assistance for such purposes under  legislation
and plans of its own devising, it was  perhaps inevitable that those same
tools could be  similarly employed elsewhere." (Making the second  ghetto

Do we really need to continue the charade? Does  anyone believe it anyway?
Does not everyone already  know what the true program is? Is there really
anyone  who is going to buy their $500,000.00 townhouse and  simultaneously
feel that they are actually fulfilling  some sort of moral and social
obligation of  diversity?

Is not the charade what adds insult to injury?  Everyone winks and plays
their role as martyrs even  though they are tearing down the projects and
putting  up half-million dollar townhomes right before our  eyes. Are we so
duped by the self-righteous political  rhetoric of privatization and
'mixed-income' that we  can not see what is directly in front of us; that we
do not realize that once again the poor are being  reshuffled in a
gratuitous government funded land  grab, ironically, of what is currently
government  land? Not only is the land being given away, but  funding has
been specifically designed to pay  ('encourage') developer and contractor
buddies to  take it from us. And all this occurs in broad  daylight, under
our noses, in this, the 'age of  information', the beginning of the
twenty-first  century. I can only hope that as these developments  opens,
Mayor Richard M. Daley will again say with a  wry smile on his face, like
his father said at the  1962 opening of the Robert Taylor Home, that this
development 'represents what all of us feel America  should be.' (Raising
hopes by razing high-rises) That  is: power, privilege, profit - and all
under the  guise of self-righteousness and helping the poor.

Most importantly is the programmatic requirement that  the design and
implementation make the structure of  exploitation of the poor invisible,
despite the fact  that it is obvious.

"I think they wanna give it to the, well, the more  fortunate peoples; they
say the middle class and some  low-income. I think they wanna give it to all
these  people that already got a good life, but complaining  about they live
too far. And they tired of cathing  the Metra (commuter train), so they just
want one  transportation, they want a place where they don't  have to drive
their own car to park, 'cause they  spend too much money parking, they wanna
be able to  save all that money parking and just catch one ride  to their
job and that's what they gonna get." (Horner  resident quoted in Hidden War

Is this self-righteous product moralizing not just  the same old political
line, re-implemented in this  the 'new economy?' Products purport to have
social  implications in order to hide their social  implications. BP Amoco
purports to be good for the  environment. Nike purports to be good for
battling  sweatshops. New housing developments purporting to  help the poor
as it steals the land out from under  them and scatters them into the wind.
AIDS-Walks  purport to be for a cause, while actually selling an  experience
and giving very little return to their  'cause'. The AIDS-Walk and similar
schemes make  massive use of the 'cause' as a selling and marketing  tool
which provides a self-righteous justification  for a gratuitous and
self-indulgent product of the  experience economy.

Politics has always been ahead of advertising in this  arena. After all,
that is how the second ghetto, the  one consisting of the public housing
high-rises, was  made and legitimized. In the post-World War II era,  this
is how developers stole their land, made their  money, how neighborhoods,
universities and city  council members kept their neighborhoods white. In
the same way it is being done again. Surely as much  money, as much
corruption, as much insult can be made  by the dismantling of the high-rises
as was made by  their construction. After all, finally, in the end,  the
original programmatic desires to contain the  black population, steal their
land and profit from  exploitative development might now be fully realized
on the land which was originally taken from them. In  fact, the land-grab
areas can even be expanded.

1. Make the poor invisible.
"Do you think that middle-class America cares where  poor people live? As
long as it is not next to them.  Now, that is the crux of the problem. But
nobody  seems to care." (Cheryl Lovell, executive director of  the St. Louis
Housing Authority, St. Louis  Post-Dispatch)

This was the main point of previous public housing  programs - tear down the
slums and put up brick boxes  that conceal (and contain) poverty. But this
time  there is a different approach - this time poverty  will not be made
invisible by sectioning it off into  brick boxes and un-traversable areas of
the city.  Instead a strategy of invisibility through dispersal  is
employed. No longer will poverty be swept under  the rug, this time poverty
will be 'dispersed' like  dust.

Thus, most of the poor will be banished to other  low-income neighborhoods
away from visibility and  high-land value. The extremely few poor that will
remain within the developments in order to legitimize  the land takeover
will be hidden behind slick  unalterable facades. Perhaps another proposal
of  forced housekeeping training could be implemented, or  neighborhood
covenants and associations which can  give them (the poor) the boot for any
attempt to show  themselves.

2. Steal their land.
"A resident asks the important question: 'Which is  the greater danger?
Being mugged by a streetwise thug  or by the system?'"(Reclaiming the inner
city 66)

Basically, the first blow takes 2/3 of the land by  assigning only 1/3
'back' to low income housing while  not replacing the lost land anywhere
else in the  city. It takes even more than 2/3 when you consider  that the
requirements for 'low income' are not so low  and the average public housing
resident will not be  able to afford even the 1/3 of the housing. Amazing
that the public, as owners of the land, are literally  paying people to
steal the land out from under us.

Is this an Urban Manifest Destiny? The basic premise  has been used quite
often. Set up small dispersed  'reservations' (despite the fact the land was
theirs  to begin with) under the guise of goodness or God.  (Preferably land
which is of little or no value.)  Make false and empty assurances of a
'better' and  'more equal' (read: unequal) public infrastructure  (Indian
Normalization Schools then, public schools  now). Take the land.

3. Exit public welfare and institutions.
Once the poor are dispersed and 'invisible' it won't  be too hard to quietly
take the final blow and exit  public housing and all public institutions
altogether. They are currently tearing down the  high-rises in broad
day-light, replacing them with  what amounts to nothing, and no one seems to
care.  The infrastructure for the exiting of public housing  is already
being set up in the contracts with the  developers, the banks, the
contractors (everyone  involved gets a piece of the pie)... all get major
tax cuts on the front end and/or for whatever limited  number of years after
building. After these limited  years of tax breaks, they are no longer
required to  provide low-income housing. Recent changes in federal  law have
eased restrictions on landlords.

Under this and other ownership schemes, the  low-income housing units are
aided only temporarily.  After which condo fees, mortgage fees, and house
upkeep costs will most likely force out the  low-income units. And if these
measures do not force  them out, you can be assured that they will be
raised, or new measures invented, until they do.

The inter-connectivity of the programmatic stratagem
The programmatic stratagem thus reinforces each  aspect of the program with
the other. Vouchers serve  the triple purpose of hiding the governmental
structure by eliminating the visibility of public  housing, they free up the
land for redevelopment, and  they set the stage for increased reductions in
government housing spending through their  invisibility. Demolition
obviously automatically  makes the poor invisible, steals their land, and
exits public welfare. By moving the poor and the  governmental support
structure into less visibility,  the land is grabbed and the stage is set
for exiting  public welfare. These aspects are inter-related and  can not be
fully separated. The exiting of public  welfare legitimizes the land-grab
and provides an  invisible structure of exploitation through the  exiting
strategy of development. The land-grab is  legitimized by the failure of
public housing and its  high visibility. The land-grab legitimizes
invisibility and exiting public welfare through the  'mixed-income' schema,
in which it would be bad to  have too many poor people in one land area.
Where the  people go is largely ignored.

What should be examined when looking at specific  urban designs and
architectural plans, is the  specific mechanisms by which these stratagem
can be  accomplished. Of most interest are the specific  physical devices to
make invisible the structure  which causes, ensures, and exploits the poor.

This is finally and always the point of architecture:  to hide the
exploitation it facilitates.

"There is no denying the burden of the past, but  Chicago's neighborhoods
and leadership sustained the  actions of past generations with a passion
that went  beyond the grudging consent given to 'inevitable'  developments.
Entering a period of massive growth in  the post-World War II era, the
ghetto, in effect, was  re-created and reshaped by new pressures, not old
ones. Chicago's second ghetto is a dynamic  institution, not a dead
inheritance from the  past."(Second ghetto 254)

Statagem: Resident (Non)Participation
Very few of the original residents will remain, so  why include them? (The
plan for Cabrini approved by  the Local Advisory Council was discarded, and
a new  plan was drawn up which excluded residents from the  process and
proposed more demolition, less  replacement units, and more higher income
units. The  residents were thus excluded from the process and the  plan.
They had to bring a lawsuit against the CHA.  (Plan to voucher iii))

It is important to note that Mayor Daley has  proclaimed that residents will
be heard throughout  the entire process precisely after announcing the  $1.5
billion program.

The important aspect of resident participation is to  make them feel
included without giving them any  actual power.

Stratagem: 'Dispersal' - A Trojan Horse
The "voucher plan is 'a trojan horse'- an attractive  package masking
dangerous long-term consequences. For  federal policy is not simply about
the best way to  procure shelter for the poor at inexpensive prices.  It is
intimately connected with federal social  policy." (Trojan horse)) 

Vouchers set the stage for easy and invisible  reduction and exiting of
public housing welfare.

Stratagem: Dispersal - Resegregation
Vouchers afford the opportunity for displacement of  the poor into less
desirable neighborhoods without  the perception of direct government
involvement in  forcing or 'steering' residents into particular  areas.
Subsequent groupings of the public housing  residents can thus be blamed on
'natural' housing  market factors.

"Those families presently using the Section 8  certificates and vouchers are
clustered in  communities with Black populations over 90% and where  there
are also large concentrations of poverty. If  families were to move outside
of areas of  concentrated poverty, the housing gap increases to  three
people for every unit." In addition, the loss  of housing units, mass
discrimination against CHA  residents, poor relocation process and changes
in  federal law giving greater latitude to landlords  which can result in
lease terminations, caps on  section tenants in particular buildings,
unaffordable  security deposit requirements, and tenant  difficulties
meeting utility costs. (Plan to voucher  ii)

"[A 1995 Report to Congress] stated that ' racial  segregation and economic
isolation is not simply the  result of recipients preferring to live with
others  of similar race and income: a combination of social,  market, and
policy factors constrains the choices  open to them [Sectionholders]." (Plan
to voucher 16)

"As the bitter displacement experience of racial  minority groups have led
them to fear, too many city  officials are disposed to employ slum clearance
and  urban redevelopment projects to preserve and extend,  rather than to
loosen up, the city's racial pattern  in housing." (Robert Weaver quoted in
Second ghetto  254)

Despite the fact that city council members repeatedly  vetoed sites
selected, Judge Austin found the CHA  guilty of racial segregation and
'steering' Blacks to  developments in Black neighborhoods. "Consequently,
public housing was deeply embedded and implicated in  the city's segregated
residential patterns. The CHA's  site selection practices reflected the
private market  patterns, while reinforcing and perpetuating them as  well."
(Crossing 24)

Stratagem: Gautreaux program - A mass exodus to the  suburbs and beyond
"'Voucherizing' all of HUD provides a vehicle for  vastly expanding the
vision of moving the subsidized  poor to the suburbs." (Trojan)

The reports on the Gautreaux program have been  completely misused and
misconstrued to legitimize the  mass exodus forced by the city of Chicago.
The  differences between current resident re-location and  the re-location
which occurred within the Gautreaux  program are immense.

Mayor Nickolas Graves of the suburb Harvey says the  CHA and the Housing
Authority of Cook County have  issued an estimated 6,000 vouchers to the 34
southern  suburbs, of which 1500 are in Harvey. According to  Harvey, only 6
percent of CHA voucher families moved  outside Chicago, but 85% of these
moved to south  suburban communities. Harvey issues over 1000  building code
violation citations per month and  landlords typically choose to abandon the
structure  rather than make repairs, becoming 'a source of  squatters and
crime.' (Chicago Tribune, Harvey  moratorium)

"It would be a terrible irony if former CHA residents  end up concentrated
in overcrowded private-market  slums, much like the housing that CHA's
high-rise  developments replaced." (Hidden war 189) 

"We believe that these policies are both unwise and  unfair. The policies
are unwise because they will  further deepen the affordable housing crisis
in  Chicago. They are unfair because the redevelopment  plans for public
housing will benefit private  developers at the expense of very low income
families." (Plan to voucher ii)

Statagem: Dispersed and unequal
"It is not at all certain that the new mixed-income  and dispersal
strategies can either reverse these  effects or prove any more beneficial to
current CHA  residents than all the anticrime efforts that  preceded them
throughout the 1990's.... Although  social structure and organization seem
crucial, it  does not necessarily follow logically that  constructing a
better designed mixed-income  development will lead to the creation of the
kind of  community where different kinds of people interact  and provide
each other with help and support."  (Hidden war 184)

Will a true dispersal be employed? Even if such a  dispersal was
accomplished in the area of housing,  would this solve anything? Does anyone
really think  that just because someone got some sort of a 'deal'  for
living next to 'those' people, that then some  sort of equality or equal
opportunity will exist? Do  we really think that somehow money will rub off?
Isn't this the same flawed logic that caused white  flight originally, that
poverty rubs off, inverted?

Are the children who are being shuffled around into  'hidden' low-cost units
going to be going to the same  school as their neighbors? Are they going to
have the  same access to information as their neighbors? Are  they going to
be able to pay the same condo-fees as  their neighbors? Are they going to
feel welcomed by  their neighbors? Are they going to get drug
rehabilitation instead of prison? Are they going to  get equal
representation? Are they going to get  protected instead of harassed by the
police? Are they  going to get the same lawyer representation? Are they
going to get the same doctors, the same medicines,  the same care as their
neighbors? Are they going to  have the same job offers? Are they going to
have the  opportunity, no matter what job they have, to make a  living from

Are we talking about true diversity here, or are we  talking about hiding
the poor, hiding the negative  side of a system, within and amongst the
positive  receivers? Make no mistake. Dispersion is in no way  the
destruction of the separation dividing the  positive and negative receivers
of American  capitalist democracy. Dispersion remains a  separation. No
longer separate but equal (which as we  all know was separate and unequal) -
but invisibly  separate, dispersed and unequal. Dispersed and  unequal
simply means a more sophisticated, subtle,  complex and less visible means
of preserving  privilege through very real channels and structures.

"Regardless of whether any version of these plans  succeeds in creating much
better housing or, with the  city's involvement, revitalizing neighborhoods,
the  conclusion is inescapable: a much smaller supply of  public housing
will be available for the neediest  tenants. With a limited supply of
housing, it may not  be possible for the CHA to effectively serve both
higher-income tenants and its current, extremely  needy population. Without
careful management, these  residents may indeed become the 'tenants that
nobody  wants'. (Hidden war 187)

Why has public welfare died? Insurance companies have  trillions of dollars
in profit. From providing what  government could have, should have done, but
by  providing it in a way which the government could not  justify. (And by
welfare I mean all public  institutions, spaces, causes). Because what
insurance  provides 'legitimately', and what the government  cannot provide
'legitimately' (although it does so  anyway) is an unequal distribution.
That is,  insurance companies preserve the status quo and the  idea that you
get what you deserve. Insurance  companies preserve the basis of capitalist
structure  (so some believe): the 'ladder.' Insurance companies  can insure
that you get a better doctor because you  have more money and you paid more
and you are in  general a better person and deserve a better doctor.  After
all, riches is directly equivalent to smarts  and hard work - thats the
whole beautiful economy  that public education was set up to legitimize in
the  first place right?

On another front, the destruction of public  institutions is accomplished
through privatization.  Vouchers: for housing, for school, for medical care,
for whatever. Legitimize the end of public  institutions under the guise of
free choice. While  what really occurs is the transfer of all public
structures to privatized for-profit companies which  operate everything from
schools to prisons. This  privatization allows the continuation of a
separated  unequal dispersal. (Look at the numerous lawsuits and
work-arounds after Vermont passed Act 60, the Vermont  Equal Educational
Opportunity Act in which all the  money is put into one state pot and
re-distributed  equally among schools.)

Stratagem: 'Mixed-Income'
"The concept and policy of mixed income community  needs to be better

'Mixed income' has become a fashionable notion which  is hollow and abstract
until it takes a concrete form  in the politics of development. From the
perspective  of low income people, mixed income is good if it  means they
can stay in their community. But to  private developers, the mix of income
is only okay as  long as the number of low income people does not  exceed
some perceived 'tipping point.' Bringing  middle and upper income people
into a community that  is predominantly poor can and has meant that the
mixed income composition disappears as the poor are  driven out by higher
taxes and higher rents. In this  case, the 'tipping point' works the other
way. How  many upper class people will it take to drive up land  values and
drive the poor out? The real point is that  the notion of mixed income
provides a convenient  political screen for other agendas. As one historian
[Arnold Hirsch] accounts, the creation of  concentrated public housing
developments in the past  was used to free inner city land Black families
occupied for private development. The Cabrini Green  [and other] public
housing is on land deemed too  valuable for poor people's housing. As the
government  offers subsidies, like the tax increment financing  district in
the Near North, for upscale development,  public housing is left to
deteriorate and few of the  new replacement units will be affordable to the
present residents of Cabrini Green. Ultimately, the  important question is,
where are the poor people to  live? There is little or nothing in the
proposed  plans for the Near North to guarantee the continued  presence of
low income housing. It can be argued that  the banner of mixed income is the
anti-poor people,  urban renewal program of the 1990's."(Plan to voucher

"Further, because of their very low incomes and  personal problems, many CHA
residents may not qualify  for housing in mixed-income developments or for
Section 8 assistance. Our assessment of the early  phases of the
revitalization of Henry Horner Homes  suggests that the ultimate outcome of
that effort may  be a much-improved development with few original  tenants
living there." (Hidden war 185)

Indeed a 'much-improved development' because few  original tenants live

Stratagem: 'Low-Income' Hat Trick
Governments and developers have taken full advantage  of the dubious terms
such as 'low-income' and  'affordable housing.' While the average CHA
resident  has a measly annual income of around 10% of the  median ($6540).
[New low-income housing schemes often  range from 0%-120% of median income
to qualify.] Not  to say that those in these income brackets cannot  benefit
from government assistance. But the fact is  that redevelopment projects are
replacing one  category of income with another, while continuing to  use the
same term. This is an intentionally  misleading substitution of the very
poor for the  moderately poor. A 'trading up' of the constituency  of public

Stratagem: 'affordable' housing
Within the 'mixed-income' community, the various  levels include "Market
Rate" housing, i.e. luxury  townhomes which have made up 50% of the housing
stock  in some recently implemented developements.  "Affordable" housing
(80-120% Median Income),  "Working Family" Public Housing (50-80% Median
Income) and Very Low Income Public Housing (0-50%  Median Income). Less than
1% of CHA residents in  Chicago make over $26,000.00. Thus the public
housing  money and TIF money are being used to displace CHA  residents under
the auspices of 'affordable housing'  which do not serve the CHA residents.
In some  developments, the very-low income category has been a  measly 15%
of the new housing stock. (Plan to voucher  36)

Stratagem: 'Model' families
"Now the new law will create 50,000 housing vouchers  aimed at assisting
welfare families' transition to  work. That's still a small commitment,
given the 12.5  million whose housing the U.S. government views as
unacceptable. The smallness does clarify, however,  that the real question
is not how to make federal  housing policy work for everyone; rather, its
how to  make life tolerable for the lottery winners who  manage to get
federally subsidized housing in the  first place." (Paradox)

At one point, when the CHA was attempting to  integrate black families and
public housing into  white neighborhoods. (An attempt which caused the
Illinois legislature to hand veto power of site  selection to the Chicago
city council.) Certain  'model' black families were selected for the
projects. This was meant to cause the least  disturbance and make the most
visible public housing  the most visibly pleasing (most visible to the white
community). (Crossing 21)

This is the reverse situation, small numbers of  'model' black families are
being selected to remain  on the land as a political representation as the
land  is turned over to whites. That is, the small number  of public housing
residents that will remain on the  land are supposed cover-up the intrusion
and  take-over of the land. The land is taken, while small  dispersed areas
are spread throughout as a political  representation. An attempt is made to
make as many  inhabitants as possible move on, while those that  remain are
dispersed into smaller more manageable  easily surveilled reservations.
Through the reversal  of the majority population, the original inhabitants
of the land are re-cast as minority intruders which  will only be
'tolerated,' and which 'must' be  carefully screened and highly surveilled.

The Bulls owner donated $1 million for mandatory  housekeeping training. Not
surprisingly, the Horner  Resident Committee considered the training
demeaning.  For at the base of this mandatory housekeeping  training lies
the belief that old CHA turned new  townhome residents were 'bringing their
problems with  them' (emphasis added, Hidden war 132)

Stratagem: 'A physically indistinguishable facade'
"Its too quiet for me. Thats how people get killed.  Its so quiet, nobody
even knows." (Tammy Brown qtd in  Falls)

Thus, while the majority of public housing residents  will be displaced to
other neighborhoods less  desirable to developers, those who remain in order
to  legitimize the destruction of public housing will be  carefully
selected, in order that they remain unseen  and unheard. The very program
calls for houses which  look exactly like the ones next door - why? Has the
city government suddenly become communistic? Does not  this destroy the idea
that you get what you deserve?  After all, "Neighborhoods are segmented
along  economic line: families work to climb what can be  thought of as a
housing ladder and are rewarded for  their effort." (Trojan)

The reasons for the requirement of a physically  indistinguishable facade
parallel the programmatic  requirements I have outlined:

To hide the structure of exploitation: a high-income  residence situated
immediately next to a very  low-income residence would juxtapose the vastly
unequal distribution of wealth, but more importantly,  would expose ever
more clearly the real reason that  the land was taken - not to improve
conditions for  the poor, but to exploit these conditions in order to
improve conditions for the rich. 
The preservation of the poor on the land is necessary  in order to
legitimize the land-grab, however, the  visibility of the poor is not. In
order to ensure  status and home values of the land grabbed, the  physically
indistinguishable facades operate in  making the poor invisible.. 
Physically indistinguishable facades form a  camouflage for the exiting of
public welfare. With  all the facades the same, it is hoped that no one
will notice when every last public housing resident  has been ousted. 
Thus, the equality is not the result of some utopic  vision, but a strategy
for the minimization of the  undesirables which must remain within the
neighborhood in order to legitimize the development.  Notice that no such
regulations exist for the  voucherized housing. 
Stratagem: 'Public' Housing, Private Profit
"Public housing, however, won its greatest support as  relocation housing,
as the vital link permitting  private business to begin the postwar
reconstruction  of Chicago, not as a social reform providing  subsidies to
the poor. One principle of the business  creed, in other words, was
sacrificed so that another  - reform at a profit - could be salvaged."
(Second  ghetto, 264)

New panders to developers, often giving them upfront  money which is to keep
the end cost down. The problem  (or opportunity depending on which side you
are on)  is that there really is no way to keep close track of  the costs
incurred during construction. Why, in a  city with so many buildings already
built, is the  focus always on the creation of new housing?

Preliminary estimates of profit for a similar  development of 2300 units at
Cabrini were around  $100,000,000.00. This does not include developer's
fees and general contractor's profits. Total revenue  estimates for Cabrini
were at $435,000,000.00. These  estimates were conservative however, given
that the  sales price of market rate houses was estimated at  $250,000.00.
(Plan to voucher 46) Due to the increase  in housing costs over the span of
the Cabrini  redevelopment project, there have been reports of  houses
within the development going for around  $500,000.00. (However, ABLA Homes
is in an area which  will not receive as high a return.)

"The Chicago experience shows that it was the  champions of private
enterprise who first demanded  and then controlled government
'interference'. It was  private enterprise, in fact, that insisted that the
government be made 'bigger' so that it might be used  more profitably."
(Second ghetto 269) 

"First, for many years the American political system  has supported
something best described as 'commodity  egalitarianism.' By that term I mean
the tendency of  Congress to provide earmarked income-tested benefits  that
enable recipients to buy larger amounts of  certain commodities than they
would voluntarily  purchase with the levels of unrestricted  income-tested
cash assistance Congress is prepared to  offer.... Second, subsidizing
commodities permits  political alliances to develop between advocates of
assistance to the poor and producers of the  commodities." (Aaron 95)

Housing allowance is much cheaper per household  served than
construction-related subsidies, and both  are inferior to unconstrained cash
assistance  (welfare reform). (Aaron 94) The legitimization of  constraints
is that 'they dont know how to manage  money', or will 'spend it on drugs'
i.e. got where  they were because of a deficiency - deserved it. But  the
operation of constraints forces a windfall to  certain industries under the
auspices of moral  righteousness.

"The ultimate question in all urban development  proposals is who benefits
and who pays. The costs of  the redevelopment are most directly born by
Cabrini  Green public housing residents and indirectly by all  citizens in
need of affordable housing. ...the most  immediate and direct benefits will
go to private  developers who are lined up to implement the Near  North
Redevelopment Plan." (Plan to voucher iv)

Stratagem: De-facto Demolition
An intentional disaster - if such a thing exists?  (Tribune editorial)

"Furthermore, there are no plans or adequate  financing available to rehab
or maintain the  remaining public housing units... setting the stage  for
further demolition in the future."(Plan to  voucher, iii)

"They exist like refugees, a step ahead of the  demolition crews." (Falls)

Counter-strategy: Accountability
As urban historian Alexander vonHoffman comments,

'...history suggests that the best guide to the  future of public housing
and related programs rests  in simply concentrating on providing decent
housing  to as many low-income people as possible. Although  not as lofty a
goal as modern housing for everyone,  creating a high-rise civilization, or
enforced social  heterogeneity, it is just as worthy, perhaps even  more
so.'" (Plan to voucher 51-2)

What are the likely outcomes of this newest 'effort'?

For sure, to those on the negative end of this scheme  the program is
already transparent and always the  same. The continuance of an attempt to
make  discrimination invisible. But then, this was never  about the people
who are living in the housing... who  has ever seriously asked them what
they want? To ask  them would be to acknowledge their existence on some
level. What economically diverse housing is really  about is allowing the
positive receivers to quiet  that nagging voice in their head by making the
negative 'go away'.

Why is it that we have not attempted to correct the  source of problems
instead of their manifestations?

Don't misunderstand, diversity is a great thing, and  it is only through
diversity that equal opportunity  will ever be afforded. But to blatantly
exploit the  poor through the public institutions which are meant  to aid
them in the name of diversity is a crime. A  real diversity must be
employed, one which includes  everyone in success and failure. The kind of
'diversity' being employed here is specifically  designed not to provide
actual diversity.

So lets drop the charade. Lets talk about the real  problems of public

Public housing is not some sort of political anomaly,  as we all know.
Public housing is not some sort of  social oddity. The very reason for its
failure has  stemmed from a politics of segregation and  protectionism. It
was not for lack of funding that  scattered-site housing has not been
implemented en  masse, but due to local (aldermanic, city-council)
opposition. The defining moment for public housing  was when its power to
locate housing sites was  subordinated to Chicago city-council approval.
This  continues to remain the case. (See chicago tribune  articles on
dispersal of scattered site housing).

"Chicago still ranks highest among the fifty largest  U.S. metropolitan
areas in being racially  segregated." (Plan to voucher 14)

Public housing is a societal issue. It is not some  local failure of the CHA
as a separate and removed  entity, but another tool of exploitation.
Politics,  regional politics, wages, education, and the whole
socio-political spectrum are all part of it. These  areas fall outside the
realm of the housing program  because by piece-mealing politics, each
individual  area conceals its real program as if it were  underneath and
beyond its boundaries. Neighborhoods  are segregated because of poor public
education;  public education is segregated because of  neighborhoods.

Public housing was engineered to be the way it is. It  is not a failed plan.
The very program of public  housing has always been one of a colossal
exercise in  moral deception, of exploitation in the name of  charity.
Public housing is a manifestation of the  political and social forces at
work. It is not a  separate issue. Public housing can no longer be
separated from all of the other social and political  forces as if it were
somehow surprising. No longer  can we exploit the poor under the auspices of
a  'culture of poverty' or the 'evil of high-rises'.  What we need to
examine is the actual forces which  exploited and continue to exploit.

We can no longer self-righteously propose diverse and  dispersed without
seeing what that really means. We  can no longer pretend like alderman and
neighborhood  associations are not blocking low-income residents  from
entering into 'their' neighborhoods. We can no  longer pretend that the
constant re-shuffling of  low-income residents is not a means of
exploitation,  of self-fulfilling failure, of de-facto demolition,  the
creation of an economic wasteland (Hidden war, p.  85-94)) and subsequent
land-grabbing. We can no  longer pretend that there is any semblance of
equal  opportunity which legitimizes the failure of the  members of the
'culture of poverty'. We can no longer  pretend that diverse does not
explicitly and only  mean eliminating as many low-income units as
politically feasible, and dispersal does not  explicitly mean eliminating as
many low-income units  from your particular constituent neighborhood/city as
possible. We can no longer pretend that section 8  vouchers give residents
the chance to 'sell  themselves' and puts 'the burden of proof' on them.  We
can no longer pretend that these children ever got  a fair chance, or ever

And more than that, we can no longer pretend that it  was EVER in the
program to provide them with one. In  fact, the program is specifically
designed not to  provide equal opportunity.

We must directly address the issues, the mentalities,  the racism and
inequalities which are to this day  rampant within this society, and which
continue to  manifest and exploit under the auspices of  self-righteousness.
We must look beyond the CHA to  the city council, to the zoning laws, to
neighborhood  organizations, to the media, to the public perception  of
legitimacy, equal opportunity, and what someone  'deserves'. Public housing
is not meant to be fixed  with this new aesthetic; this is only the newest
round of legitimizing exploitation and containment.

Each and everyone of us must evaluate the positions  of privilege offered
and not only refuse and expose  it, but offer to help destroy the structure
which  continues privilege. These structures of exploitation  continue
because of the aggregate of individuals and  individual choices to accept
the positions of  privilege offered through the structure of  exploitation.

We must realize our own role in segregationist and  protectionist politics.
Are we willing to share?  Where do we live? Where do we go to school? Where
do  we eat? Where do we shop? What models are we  perpetuating in and
through our consumption? Could we  fix public housing, public education,
etc. Of course  we could. But only if everyone is included in the  problem
and solution. It is interesting to note that  unequal distribution is
regarded as the basis and  fruit of capitalism, while public institutions,
such  as education, have existed in order force everyone  into the
capitalistic mode of 'deserved'  distribution.

We must refuse the program of self-righteous  exploitation. We must refuse
the illegitimate  positions offered in the continual expansion of an
invisible structure of exploitation under the guise  of diversity. We all
must be in this together. We all  must shoulder the successes and failures.

No more winking martyrs.

"We need to get the people out of the way so we can  rebuild without them."
(Mr. Levi, summarizing the  government motive, Falls)
The picture which says "HOME" over the picture of a  facade of a public
housing high-rise being torn-down  is a spoof of a pamphlet used to promote
an  architectural design contest for the re-development  of ABLA Homes. The
original pamphlet has a picture of  a dilapidated facade of a public housing
high-rise  with a rusted slide in front of it and the word  "HOME"
superimposed over the top. These pictures of  the terrible conditions of
public housing are being  used to legitimize the destruction of not only the
public housing high-rises, but public housing in  general. The irony is that
these same sort of  pictures of horrible living conditions were used to
legitimize the original construction of the projects.  Now they are being
used to tear them down. The  strategy remains the same, the structure
remains. It  is the visibility which is being adjusted. The  high-rise
public housing projects were a visible  symbol of the government-subsidized
structure. As  before, the visibility of the poor living conditions  is
being exploited in order to mask the visibility of  the structure of
societal exploitation. That is, the  visibility of the poor is exploited in
order that the  structure of exploitation can be made invisible. The
visibility of the terrible conditions is increased to  cover the visibility
of the structure. An aesthetic  solution is requested, but the solution is
not that  of public housing, but of the strategy for making the  structure
of exploitation invisible. It is the  visibility of housing conditions which
are discussed,  but it is the visibility of the structure of
government-subsidized housing which is being  adjusted. The visibility of
the poor is to be  exploited, the developers will profit, and another
visual solution is proposed.

Please Excuse the Inconvenience, Another Park  Improvement Project is
A sign reading, "Chicago Park District, Please Excuse  the Inconvenience,
Another Park Improvement Project  is Underway, Richard M. Daley, Mayor"
(complete with  a Chicago Park District emblem and a Neighborhoods  Alive!
emblem) is superimposed over the crumbled  concrete and rebar of a
half-demolished Cabrini  building. This sign was posted outside the new
accessible entrance at the newly re-habbed Seward  Park, located in the
heart of Cabrini Green. (The  portion of the sign not pictured also said,
"Seward  Park Accessibility Improvement" and had a list of all  the people
involved. More accessible to whom? one  might ask..) A new Dominick's
mini-mall is across the  street. The entire park was recently redone,
landscaped, grass planted and a clock tower added.  Other improvements to
the Cabrini neighborhood have  included a new Jenner elementary school and
new  Police station. Of course, none of these improvements  would have
happened had it not been clear that the  real improvement was to take place:
the destruction  of the high-rises and the removal of the public  housing

A physically indistinguishable facade
A surreal picture of a red brick single family  townhome recently
constructed on what used to be  Cabrini Green. This house has the classic
developer  elements - bright red brick, wrought iron fences  surrounding the
front lawn, a 'double' gable roof.  The entire block is filled with
variations of these -  varied in their facade and roof forms, but similar
enough in materials and other treatments that it is  ensured that everyone
knows it is part of the same  development.

These have definitely succeeeded, thus far, in hiding  the poor - by the
simultaneous strategy of dispersal  and false facades. We have to question
however,  whether there are any low-income units at all. It is  doubtful
that a 3000 square foot single family house  has been given to a 'model'
public housing family.  More likely, other strategies of concealment have
been employed - locating entries in the back or on  the side, providing
basement or attic units. These  are the strategies which will be interesting
to see  when the developments are implemented. This is the  area to be
further studied. How is the massive  discrepancy of income and status
concealed within the  architectural development?

***List of Works Cited***
Aaron: Bradbuy, Katharine and Downs, Anthony, ed. Do  Housing Allowances
Work? "Policy implications: A  Progress report" Henry J. Aaron, The
Brookings  Institute, Washington D.C. 1981.

Crossing: Rubinowitz, Leonard S. and Rosenbaum, James  E. Crossing the Class
and Color Lines: From Public  Housing to White Suburbia. University of
Chicago  Press 2000. A study of the Gautreau program

Falls: Eig, Jonathan. "A housing project falls, but  the poor resist orders
to move out." WSJ Dec. 10  2000. P A1(W).

Hidden War: Popkin, Susan J., The Hidden War, Crime  and Tragedy in Public
Housing, 2000.

Noah, Timothy. "The Paradox of Public Housing"  Fortune, Jan. 11, 1999

Plan to voucher: Wright, Patricia et. al. Natalie P.  Voorhees Center for
Neighborhood and Community  Improvement, "The Plan to Voucher out Public
Housing"  Municipal Collection, Chicago Public Library.

Raising hopes: Whitman, David and McCoy, Frank.  "Raising hopes by razing
high-rises." US News and  World Report, Feb. 21, 2000 p. 28)

Reclaiming the inner city: Marciniak, Ed. Reclaiming  the Inner City.
National Center for Urban-Ethnic  Affairs, Washington, D.C. 1986.

Second Ghetto: Hirsch, Arnold. Making the Second  Ghetto: Race and Housing
in Chicago. 1940-60,  University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998. An
excellent book detailing the political forces and  exploitation of the
public housing mechanism.

St. Louis: Parish, Norm "Providing Decent Housing  fora all the people of
this region" St. Louis  Post-Dispatch, April 30,2000.

Tribune editorial: Chicago tribune editorial April  26, 1999

Tribune, Harvey: Smallwood, Lola "Setting a Limit:  Harvey Mayor Calls for
Moratorium on Rent Subsidies  in His Suburb, Chicago Tribune, August 19,
2000 p.  10.

Trojan: Husock, Howard.'Voucher plan for housing: a  Trojan horse. WSJ, dec.
21 1994, p. A14(E))

Nettime-bold mailing list