Ben Austen: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing
Russell Van Nest Black Lecture
Ben Austen is the author of High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing (Harper, 2018). A former editor at Harper's Magazine, he has written for Harper's as well as many other publications, including the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Wired, Elle, and the Atlantic. He is a Chicagoan.
The rise and fall of high-rise public housing is the story of America's ever-changing inner cities — and the story of the country's always uneasy relationship to poverty and race. Cabrini-Green, located just blocks from Chicago's ritzy Gold Coast, was the most "infamous" of these housing projects. Depicted constantly in the news, in TV shows, in horror films, Cabrini-Green became synonymous with crime, squalor, and government failure. For the thousands of people who lived there, it was also a much-needed home. What was myth and what was reality there? What went wrong in our nation's effort to provide affordable housing to the poor? What can we do now?