The Tenants Revolt

in Blueprint for Disaster

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780226360850
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226360874 | DOI:
The Tenants Revolt

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The market failure ideology that shaped the worldview of public housing advocates in the 1930s encompassed not only the production of rental housing but also its ongoing management. Enlightened managers would ensure order and careful upkeep, while tenants would participate as dutiful partners in policing social space, creating social activities, and building community in general. But by 1970 this vision lay in shambles, and tenants were up in arms. At housing authorities across America, residents revolted in protest against poor maintenance, inadequate security, and the general indifference of aloof housing authority board members, most of them white power brokers with little understanding of poverty. In Chicago, frustration was directed at Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) chairman Charles Swibel. Yet protest and activism produced scant gains in the 1970s. Despite intense effort, Chicago tenants won little leverage over resources, and most policy continued to be effected without their input. The CHA remained immune to reform, and its residents were left to struggle in increasingly dangerous and dispiriting conditions.

Keywords: Chicago Housing Authority; public housing; Chicago; tenants; Charles Swibel; protest; activism

Chapter.  10407 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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