Cabrini Green Homes

"The towers came down, and with them the promise of public housing." - Ben Austen, for The New York Times

Located on Chicago’s North Side, Cabrini-Green complex began as the Frances Cabrini Homes, a public housing project led by the Chicago Housing Authority in 1942. The homes targeted veterans of WWII and included fifty-five structures. The American Housing Act of 1949 aided with slum clearance and redevelopment, as well as funded the construction of additional housing units.This led the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) to add onto the Cabrini properties. The CHA added the William Green Homes in 1962, and finished construction of the Cabrini-Green complex the same year. Many of the towers were 15-16 stories tall.The newly constructed Cabrini-Green complex consisted of 23 high rise towers, as well as rowhouses, and targeted low-income residents in need of public housing. Hal Baron references public housing in Chapter 7.

During this time, Cabrini-Green and other public housing projects in Chicago were subject to racial segregation. The CHA had been assigning tenants to housing based upon their race, resulting in the concentration of black residents in isolated, segregated areas. In 1966, Dorothy Gautreaux, an Altgeld Gardens Resident, filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority. The Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority suit claimed that the actions of the CHA violated the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled in Gautreaux’s favor. This case prompted major change within Chicago's public housing program, including the elimination of high-rise public housing construction and the implementation of programs that ensure new public housing development is scattered across the city.

Overwhelmed by the abundance of properties and little resources, the Chicago Housing Authority failed to make repairs and upkeep the properties. The CHA continued to neglect the property for years, causing the buildings to deteriorate and subjected tenants to poor living conditions, increased crime, and poverty. In 1996, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development retained control over the CHA, in attempt to recover the program. In 1999, the Chicago Housing Authority revealed its “Plan for Transformation” that proposed the demolition of high-rise public housing, prompting Chicago government to take back control of the CHA. The first tower in the Cabrini-Green complex was demolished in 2000 and the last in 2011. Today, new mixed income housing sits in their place. All that remains of the original Cabrini-Green complex are rowhouses, consisting of 137 units. However, the structures have been boarded up and uninhabited for years. In 2019, the CHA announced plans to demolished the buildings and redevelop the area, though it is still unclear what new development will take its place.

The legacy of Cabrini-Green lives on in popular culture. The 1970s sitcom Good Times depicted a family living in the Cabrini Green complex. The 1990s horror film Candyman was set and filmed at Cabrini-Green. In 2019, producers announced a sequel to the film that is being filmed in the abandoned, and soon to be demolished, Cabrini-Green rowhouses.

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  1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (June 2014). Major legislation on housing and urban development enacted since 1932. Available Online.
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica. (2020). Cabrini-Green. Available Online.
  3. BPI Chicago. (n.d.) The Gautreaux lawsuit. Available Online.
  4. Austen, B. (6 Feb 2018). "The towers came down, and with them the promise of public housing." The New York Times. Available Online.
  5. Austen, "The Towers," 2018.
  6. CHA. (2020). About overview of CHA. Available Online.
  7. Encyclopedia, "Cabrini-Green," 2020.
  8. DNAinfo. (17 February 2016). Dy-no-mite! ‘Good Times,’ set in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green, aims for movie. Available Online.
  9. Moore, N. (7 October 2019). Candyman returns to a transformed Cabrini-Green. NPR. Available Online.