Chicago Looks To Integrate with Suburbs

The city, long divided into black and white neighborhoods, is asking affluent counties to pitch in

By Alana Semuels


GLENVIEW, Ill.—This town boasts stellar schools, two golf courses, a children’s museum, and the corporate offices of a handful of big companies, including Kraft Foods. Many wealthy, white communities like this one would not welcome an affordable housing development. Perhaps residents wouldn’t say so outright, but instead they might pass laws prohibiting apartment buildings or deny permits to units targeted at low-income people.

But that’s not the case here. A 20-unit development called Greenleaf Manor, with most of the units set aside for low-income people, was completed early last year. Some of the units can only be rented to people who hold Section 8 vouchers, a class of people that landlords in the suburbs often avoid. And the building, which looks like new condo construction, was completed without a peep of objection from the wealthy town where it is located.

How did this happen? Why is an affluent suburb like Glenview open to the sort of development other similar places have shut down?

The answer is a novel collaboration among Cook County and a group of other counties in the Chicago region, including suburban DuPage, McHenry, Lake, and Waukegan. These counties have created a mechanism for pooling their resources so that low-income people who would normally live in the urban core of Chicago can move to more rural and suburban areas. As housing advocates criticize the Housing Choice Voucher program, colloquially known as Section 8, for segregating poor residents in high-poverty neighborhoods, the Chicago collaboration could provide a model for how to make Section 8 work.

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