Public Housing in Rockford

By: Rebekah Baum
By: Rebekah Baum

"The grass looks green, but it can fool you. Everything can be going fine, and 30 seconds later, there could be a drive-by shooting."

Nineteen-year-old Deonte Johnson lives in the Fairgrounds Valley Development on Rockford's west side. The bullet hole in the family's door tells the story more effectively than words ever could.

"We certainly have way too many aggravated discharges, which is shots fired, someone shooting off a weapon. And those are happening in one of our public housing developments. But we're addressing it, we're collaborating with the Rockford Housing Authority to eradicate those individuals who prey on people who live there," said Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson.

Epperson says the current pubic housing situation can't continue.

"You can't put in one area of town many, many individuals who are in poverty because it breeds violence and decay and we see that now," says Epperson.

"We have some obsolete stock; we think we can provide better quality of life offering alternatives to our residents, and that will be the goal of this process to develop better housing, more quality housing and give them a better quality of life," said Rockford Housing Authority interim executive director Steve Anderson.

Most of Rockford's public housing was built in the 60s and 70s. The Rockford Housing Authority says the goal is to transition public housing into something that will suit modern day society.

"The trend and the success stories are to de-densify public housing, not to build large developments like they did in the 60s. To disperse people into the community, integrate them into the community so they're part of the community," said Anderson.

"In the city of Chicago they've taken those residents and displaced them and put them throughout the whole city of Chicago, and torn down those developments and put some green space up. And certainly, I hope we do that here in the city of Rockford very soon," said Epperson.

The first issue the Housing Authority is tackling is the Jane Adams development. The authority is currently in the process of developing a demolition grant that it will submit to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in June.

RHA would like to start relocating residents in 2007. The Rockford Housing Authority currently manages 2,000 apartments within 13 public housing units throughout the city. Between 5,000 and 6,000 people live in public housing, nearly five percent of the city's population. RHA administers around 1,600 vouchers for Section Eight housing.


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