The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Making a Killing by “Redeveloping” Public Housing

Sep 2, 2013

The Los Angeles City Council recently approved a plan to replace the Jordan Downs public housing complex with 1,800 “stylish” new apartments and chain stores.

Jordan Downs, located in the Watts district of Los Angeles, consists of 700 old units that provide housing for low-income working class people. According to the plan, the current residents who are “in good standing” will be able to stay at their current units and move to their new homes when the construction is completed.

The reality will be something else. To get an idea, look at what one of the developers of the project, the Michaels Organization, did in Chicago.

Michaels was part of a real estate team that “redeveloped” Robert Taylor public housing in Chicago. Robert Taylor had 4,321 units that housed 27,000 people. By the end of 2005, all these low-income residents were removed and the buildings were demolished. Now there are only 281 units in their place, of which 137 are available for low-income families. The Chicago Housing Authority, which manages the new housing, says that when the project is finally done there will be 2,400 units in total – sometime far off in the future!

But when the dust cleared, only a tiny fraction of low income people who lived in Robert Taylor could keep their public housing. The majority were irreversibly dislodged from the area to pave way for construction of “stylish” homes which are sold at “market prices.”

So, from Los Angeles to Chicago to Detroit, all over the country, so-called developers are making tons of money by uprooting people, demolishing low-income units, constructing units that are offered at higher prices, and managing them after they are built. The most sumptuous feature for the developers is that it is funded by our tax money!

Yes, we need new, better modern homes. But developers whose aim is profit do not provide them for ordinary workers.