BPI has been deeply committed to housing and community development for over fifty years. Our legal and policy advocacy focuses on removing barriers and promoting housing choice across the Chicago region, including families living in or seeking subsidized or other affordable housing. We work to expand options, increase access to public and affordable housing, and promote investment in neighborhoods that already have those resources.
Our housing work includes a focus on public housing in Chicago, a county-wide economic mobility program in Chicago and Cook County, and efforts to expand affordable housing in the Chicago metropolitan region.
BPI focuses on public housing through our groundbreaking Gautreaux lawsuit, in which a federal court ruled in 1969 that the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) had unconstitutionally segregated African American public housing residents and ordered an expansive remedy. As counsel for public housing residents and applicants in the case, BPI lawyers have worked to eliminate racial segregation in Chicago public housing and promote authentic choice for families participating in federally subsidized housing programs. The remedies in the Gautreaux litigation have included: New, “scattered site” public housing developed in areas across Chicago that had not historically included significant public housing resources; Utilization of federal Housing Choice Vouchers to enable families to move anywhere in the Chicago region, including in areas with high opportunities for economic mobility; Development of new mixed-income communities providing public and affordable housing together with market-rate housing as part of a single development. BPI’s ongoing role is to ensure that CHA fulfills its commitments to produce housing under a 2019 Gautreaux Settlement Agreement, including completing several thousand more CHA units. Through Gautreaux, BPI also promotes the investment of resources and development of vibrant communities – including commercial and economic development, parks, quality schools, and community resources – in historically disinvested communities with a higher number of public housing residents.
Click hereto view the digital archive of the Gautreaux litigation, which is now housed at the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse of the University of Michigan Law School.
The Chicago/Cook County Two-Generation Economic Mobility Demonstration
Many families living in historically disinvested neighborhoods in the Chicago region, particularly families of color, face high barriers to attaining the prerequisites for economic mobility, including wealth accumulation, meaningful employment, quality education, and adequate health care. In mid-2021, BPI and partners launched an effort to determine whether a package of family-centered coaching, employment, and other services would help low-income families receiving federal Housing Choice Vouchers surmount those barriers. If so, the effort has the potential to catalyze national policy reforms that would extend similar opportunities to tens of thousands of low-income families nationwide. To learn more about the “2Gen Demonstration,” see the description in the resources section.
BPI works to expand the supply of affordable housing and to expand housing choices. Through this work, we have joined with partners to create the Illinois Housing Roundtable, advocated for state and local laws that require the development of affordable housing, made local programs to respond to the foreclosure crisis of the mid-2000s, led the effort to create the Cook County Land Bank, and piloted a program to improve access to housing for residents returning from incarceration.
Ida B Wells National Monument
As a founding member of the Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee and fiscal sponsor of the project since 2012, BPI worked to support the creation of the Ida B Wells National Monument in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The Monument was completed in June 2021. Created by world-renowned sculptor Richard Hunt, the monument honoring the legendary journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells stands in the center of Oakwood Shores, the new mixed-income community on the former site of the Ida B. Wells public housing development.