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Altgeld residents oppose demolition plans

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Residents of Altgeld Gardens say they were blind-sided by a new CHA plan to demolish a third of their Far South Side public housing development, and they are organizing to oppose it.

Led by People for Community Recovery [2], they’ll call for reconsideration of the plan – and a community-led redevelopment plan – at a hearing on CHA’s annual redevelopment report [3], Tuesday, September 11, 6 p.m., at the Charles A. Hayes Center, 4859 S. Wabash.

In the agency’s 2000 Plan For Transformation, CHA committed to redeveloping all of Altgeld Garden’s 1,998 units as public housing.  But in an annual update [4] just issued, CHA said it has budgeted $7.3 million to demolish 648 units at Altgeld that have yet to be rehabbed.

“At a time when there is a housing crisis in the city of Chicago, what are they thinking?” said Cheryl Johnson of PCR.  “This is not right.  They are not going to get away with this without a fight.”

According to the new CHA report, the agency is “exploring options” for Altgeld, including the possibility of “integrating other housing types.”  In the meantime, “CHA has determined that it will undertake planning for the demolition” of all vacant, non-rehabbed units there.

Deemed ‘viable,’ left vacant

The Plan For Transformation committed CHA to complete rehab of 5,000 public housing units in developments determined by building assessments to be “viable,” including Altgeld, Lathrop Homes, and Cabrini Row Houses.

But in subsequent years, even while some rehab was carried out, the agency stopped leasing out vacant units.  Now just 18 percent of Lathrop’s units are occupied, and 21 percent of the Cabrini Rowhouses, according to the Chicago Reporter [5].  Altgeld is nearly one-third vacant.

As revealed by the Chicago Housing Initiative [6], CHA exploits a legal loophole to get federal operating subsidies for unoccupied units [7].

In 2010, over residents’ objections, CHA hired a development team for Lathrop [8] that included a major for-profit, luxury housing developer, and last year CHA put the Cabrini redevelopment on hold [9], citing outside groups opposing its renovation as 100-percent public housing.

The Reporter [10] recently talked with homeless families who are among 40,000 families on CHA’s waiting list, noting that they have little hope “of ever hearing from CHA or getting an apartment.”

Johnson said she knows displaced Altgeld residents now residing in homeless shelters.