Friday, March 26, 2010

The Robert Taylor Homes

The Robert Taylor Homes housing project was completed in 1962 and named for Robert Taylor, an African American activist and Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) board member[1] who in 1950 resigned when the city council refused to endorse potential building locations throughout the city of Chicago that would induce racially integrated housing.[citation needed]

At one time, it was the largest housing project in the country, and it was intended to offer decent affordable housing. It was composed of 28 high-rise buildings with 16 stories each, with a total of 4,321 apartments, mostly arranged in U-shaped clusters of three, stretching for two miles (three kilometers).[2] The Robert Taylor Homes were also home at one time to such celebrities as Mr. T, Kirby Puckett, and current Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.

Robert Taylor Homes faced many of the same problems that doomed other high-rise housing projects in Chicago such as Cabrini-Green. These problems include narcotics, violence, and the perpetuation of poverty.

Planned for 11,000 inhabitants, the Robert Taylor Homes housed up to a peak of 27,000 people. [3] Six of the poorest US census areas with populations above 2,500 were found there. Including children who are not of working age, at one point 95 percent of the housing development's 27,000 residents were unemployed and listed public assistance as their only income source,[4] and 40 percent of the households were single-parent, female-headed households earning less than $5,000 per year. About 96 percent were African-American. The 28 drab, 16-story concrete high-rises, many blackened with the scars of arson fire, sat in a narrow two-block by 2.5-mile[5] (300 m by 3 km) stretch of slum. The city's neglect was evident in littered streets, poorly enforced building codes, and scant commercial or civic amenities.

Police intelligence sources say that elevated number of homicides was the result of gang "turf wars," as gang members and drug dealers fought over control of given Chicago neighborhoods. Its landlord, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), has estimated that $45,000 in drug deals took place daily. Former residents of the Robert Taylor Homes have said that the drug dealers fought for control of the buildings. In one weekend, more than 300 separate shooting incidents were reported in the vicinity of the Robert Taylor Homes.[dubious – discuss] Twenty-eight people were killed during the same weekend, with 26 of the 28 incidents believed to be gang-related.[dubious – discuss]

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