The Public Good is an initiative uniting museums, universities, policymakers, professional practitioners and most importantly the citizen public to examine the value of public institutions. We will revisit the history of the public good and contest persistent narratives about the “failure” of public investments, with a special emphasis on the role of housing.

Launched by the National Public Housing Museum (NPHM) in collaboration with the University of Illinois Chicago Great Cities Program and national program partners including the Institute for Public Architecture and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University in New York the series was piloted in 2015 with funds from the Reva and David Logan Foundation. 

It is visioned to continue into 2016 using a variety of formats to engage the general public and subject-matter experts in an expanded and in-depth dialogue around the meaning and value, and the government’s responsibility to support, the public good.

Defining the Public Good

This argument about what is the public good takes many forms as it relates to our public institutions and the role of the public sector versus the private sector. It is seen in battles across the country between governors and state legislatures and in the national dialogue around race relations and the nation’s growing inequality and its potential impact on our democratic institutions.

The Public Good: Programs (2015 - Winter 2016)

After the Plan: What Happened to Public Housing Families?  January 27, 2016. This conversation looks at cultural, social and policy implications of delivering increasing amounts of public housing within the private housing market through vouchers and mixed-income developments, focused onthe distinctive challenges residents often face. With Amy Khare (University of Chicago), Mary Patillo (Northwestern University), Crystal Palmer (CHA) and Chris Klepper (Housing Choice Partners).

Integrating the Inner City: December 3, 2015. Co-sponsored with the University of Chicago Urban Network, NPHM joined Robert J. Chaskin and Mark L. Joseph in a conversation drawing upon their research around the challenges of realizing integrated communities via "mixed-income" housing developments. With NPHM's Youth Advisory Council's We, Next Door exhibit as a touchstone, the discussion addressed the social, cultural and political dimensions of the policy transformations of public housing in Chicago. Moderated by WBEZ's Natalie Moore.

The Future of Public Housing Roundtable: November 6, 2015. This program at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum was moderated by the Institute of Public Architecture of NYC and featured opening presentations from the Buell Center, UIC's Great Cities Institute and the New York City Housing Authority that set the table for an in-depth discussion of the future of public housing as a public good.  The 3-hour dialogue session included practitioners from a wide-range of disciplines and concerns (from history to real estate development to policy-making to art and design) and was informed by public housing residents' own experiences. The conversation revealed a fundamental challenge: galvanizing political will to prompt concerted government action to address housing outside of market contexts as a truly "public good".

The Public Good In Your Hands: An Affordable Housing Workshop: November 6, 2015.  This Chicago Architecture Biennial partner session facilitated by the Center for Urban Pedagogy applied their innovative hands-on activities (including their new Chicago Edition) to housing conditions in the Near West Side. The workshop invited non-specialists into the complex policy discourse around public and affordable housing -- recognizing the need to engage new allies from the non-specialist public to advance a critical question that underscores the limitations of current policies that produce affordable housing. Affordable -- but for whom?

Pomonok Dreams: April 18, 2015 . Showcasing a new documentary that tells stories of inclusion and cohesion within public housing in Queens, New York during the post-war era. The film was crafted by producers and former NYCHA residents Terry Katz and Alan Stark and features historian Nicholas Bloom. NPHM hosted a "world premiere" event that included a post-screening discussion linking historical public housing "success" to a broader conception of shared community and public good, chief among them educational, cultural and social amenities. With CHA residents/ advocates Betty Thompson and Charlie Barlow, Fritz Umbach of John Jay College (NY) and moderated by MIT scholar Lawrence Vale.