The ties to social equity and environmental security are not as well understood by the public, but Chicago Housing Authority CEO Charles Woodyard understands that healthy communities breed healthy environments. Chicago is currently undergoing a plan that involves removing high rises and building new public housing that will also create diverse commercial areas. In the age of food desserts and lack of transportation access for the poor, the commercial space will increase a neighborhood’s walkability, provide jobs, and give people access to food and public transit.
Woodyard says previous strategies that involved building large neighborhoods that only included housing did not provide means for families to move beyond poverty. The neighborhoods experienced high crime rates and less community involvement. The new plan for the CHA is hoping to address those problems. He has had success with mixed income housing strategies at his previous position as the Charlotte Housing Authority CEO. Mixed income communities and more retail space gives people the opportunity to spend time outdoors, use cars less frequently and provides stability for low income families.
The CHA CEO also approved a partnership with the community colleges of Chicago to allow Section 8 voucher recipients to attend certificate programs at low or no cost. The CHA insists on supporting younger residents of subsidized housing to progress in society and get into good paying careers and decrease the reliance on government assistance.
Chicago Housing Authority also supports environmentally friendly housing developments, including the Kenmore Center for low income residents aged 55 or older. The property features a green roof, low VOC paint, high performance windows and built with locally sourced and recycled materials. Seniors also have easy access to a local college and hospital, several outdoor courtyards and native plant landscaping. It is also highly walkable and uses rain gardens to trap storm water runoff.