UPDATED – While Cabrini Row House residents prepare to challenge CHA plans for mixed-income development, CHA resident leaders and housing advocates are questioning Mayor Emanuel’s update  to the agency’s Plan For Transformation.
The Cabrini-Green Local Advisory and supporters will hold a press conference Thursday morning (May 16 at 9:30 a.m., 530 W. Locust) to announce “a new initiative to protect the Carini Row Houses,” according to a release from the Legal Assistance Foundation .
Row House residents have called on CHA to fulfill the promise in the original PFT to rehabilitate the development as 100 percent public housing; that plan was put on hold in 2011 .
Meanwhile, resident leaders and community organizations called on the CHA board to reject the mayor’s plan and return to the drawing board — and to heed input from the public, including an emphasis on preservation and rehab of existing units rather than subsidizing private development as the most cost-effective way to meet CHA’s obligations.
The Central Advisory Council , comprised of elected leaders of CHA developments, criticized the mayor’s plan for lacking specifics on how CHA will complete construction of replacement housing and ensure families of their right to return to homes they were displaced from.
Few proposals from CAC’s detailed Strategies and Recommendations Report issued last year  were incorporated in the mayor’s plan, the group said.
They called for reforming security programs which “harass law-abiding residents” but fail to make developments safe, and for elected representation for public housing residents living in mixed-income developments.
The Chicago Housing Initiative , consisting of community organizations representing tenants of subsidized housing, challenged Emanuel’s claim that 85 percent of the PFT’s promised 25,000 replacement units have been provided. With thousands of rehabbed units remaining vacant, “the number [of occupied replacement units] is closer to 18,000,” said Leah Levinger of CHI.
Last year the group revealed  that CHA receives millions of dollars in operating funds from HUD for units it has failed to lease out.
Under pressure from HUD, CHA has begun leasing vacant units in scattered-site housing, but in some cases the agency is limiting it to residents making 50 to 80 percent of area median income, Levinger said. One speaker yesterday was a Wal-Mart worker turned away from public housing for not having a high enough income to live in public housing.
Levinger drew parallels between the Emanuel’s plan to step up investment in private developments and the parking meter privatization deal. The PFT’s mixed-income developments have been a “massive transfer of assets to private control,” at great benefit to private developers but with little advantage to taxpayers and the public.
Typical “public-private partnerships” involve 95 percent public financing, no developer equity, and millions of dollars in up-front development fees, she said. In return, private developers control the land with a 99-year lease, while affordability agreements only extend for 15 to 30 years.
And according to CHI, public-private mixed-income records have a poor record of meeting housing production goals. At seven development where over 5,000 units were promised by developers, less than half were ever provided.
The CAC and CHI are calling for preserving and renovating existing public housing stock, including Lathrop Homes, Cabrini Row Houses, Altgeld Gardens and West Haven Homes, and rebuilding housing for displaced families at Ickes Homes, LeClaire Courts, Cabrini-Green, and the State Street corridor.
UPDATE – CHA has issued the following statement:
“As part of Chicago Housing Authority’s new strategic initiative, ‘Plan Forward: Communities that Work,’ CHA is committed to building strong, vibrant communities throughout Chicago. Currently, the agency is working with a planner and the Near North Working Group to develop a plan for the future of Cabrini, including the row homes. However, CHA has not announced any decision on the future of the row homes. In the coming months, CHA will invite CHA residents and area neighbors to provide their input on our proposed plan for the revitalization of Cabrini. Our goal is to increase the quality of life and economic opportunities for CHA residents and the entire community.”
A previous version gave an incorrect time for Thursday’s press conference.