In the 1950s, several high-rise complexes were constructed in Chicago with the seemingly noble aim of creating affordable housing for the city’s poor. But these “projects,” it soon became clear, were more like warehouses than homes, and continued the long tradition of segregating and isolating poor, black Chicagoans in the worst parts of town. By the 1990s, bad design, neglect, and mismanagement had made some of these buildings unlivable. In the Robert Taylor Homes on the South Side, for example, pipes burst in 1999, causing flooding and shutting down the heat in several buildings. In the 1990s, these structural issues (and lawsuits challenging this housing strategy as racist) forced then-Mayor Richard M. Daley to tear down many of the structures that had gone up under the watch of his father and predecessor, Mayor Richard J. Daley.
Being kicked out of their homes, imperfect as they were, undoubtedly shook up the lives of these families. But the households that moved to slightly better neighborhoods with the help of Section 8 housing vouchers saw striking longterm economic benefits for their children.