Altgeld Gardens – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 At Altgeld, CHA scales back demolition plans http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/at-altgeld-cha-scales-back-demolition-plans/ Thu, 05 Sep 2013 22:09:55 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7667 With a federal historic preservation review of plans for Altgeld Gardens under way, CHA has dramatically scaled back the number of units it is considering demolishing there, according to a residents group.

People for Community Recovery discovered last year that the CHA development had been found to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, said board president Christian Strachan.

After the group contacted federal agencies for more information — and with demands for a community-led planning process — HUD initiated a Section 106 review aimed at minimizing the impact of federally-funded redevelopment on historic properties, he said.

Meanwhile a consultant hired by CHA in May to coordinate planning has discussed two possible scenarios, one involving demolition of about 120 units and one with even less demolition, according to Cheryl Johnson, executive director of PCR.

That’s a huge change from CHA’s proposal last year, when its annual budget included $7.3 million to cover “planning for demolition” for 648 units at Altgeld, or one-third of the units there.

“That’s a victory for us,” Strachan said.

CHA is expected to unveil a final draft of its plan at the end of September.

Community planning process

Meanwhile PCR and supporting groups in the Save Altgeld Coalition are conducting their own community planning process, with help by a volunteer group of architects and with far more robust resident participation, Strachan said.  It’s necessary because CHA’s approach to redevelopment has put residents’ interests last, he said.

“We’re putting together our own community development plan” that’s oriented to “empowering and protecting the community,” he said.

They’re holding a final town hall to gather input this Saturday, September 7, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Altgeld’s Community Building at 951 E. 132nd.

Citing the affordable housing crisis, the Save Altgeld Coalition wants to see 100 percent of Altgeld’s units rehabbed, Johnson said.

The community plan will also propose guarantees that Atgeld residents get employment in any redevelopment work, as well as commercial development including a grocery store.  Johnson said current CHA plans include no commercial development beyond a community garden.

“That’s something I think will change,” Strachan commented.

Consisting mainly of brick row houses located around 113rd and Ellis, Altgeld Gardens was built in 1945 to house African-American veterans and their families.  Current plans for an extension of the Red Line would put the transit line within walking distance, Johnson said.

A CHA spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment.

]]>
A third date for Altgeld Gardens meeting http://www.newstips.org/2012/12/a-third-date-for-altgeld-gardens-meeting/ Tue, 04 Dec 2012 20:39:16 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6816 A promised CHA town hall meeting with residents of Altgeld Gardens – scheduled twice last month, and twice cancelled at the last minute – is now slated for Wednesday.

CHA budgeted $7.3 million for “planning for demolition” of one third of Altgeld’s units in its annual plan, but after scores of Altgeld residents turned out to object, CHA promised no decisions would be made without a “community planning process” to commence with a town hall meeting in November.

A meeting scheduled for November 14 was cancelled the day before, and a rescheduled meeting on November 29 was cancelled by CHA chief executive Charles Woodyard just hours before it was to take place.

Resident leaders were told the November 29 meeting was cancelled because Woodyard had an “emergency meeting” with the mayor, said Cheryl Johnson of People for Community Recovery.

“A lot of people showed up, and the doors were just closed,” she said.  There wasn’t even a sign announcing the cancellation, she added.  “People were angry.”

“Residents really want  to be engaged,” Johnson said.  “People really want to know what’s going to happen to the future to the future of housing at Altgeld.”

The meeting is now scheduled for Wednesday, December 5 at 6 p.m. at the CYC Community Building, 951 E. 132nd Place.

]]>
‘Planning for demolition’ at Altgeld Gardens http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/planning-for-demolition-at-altgeld-gardens/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/planning-for-demolition-at-altgeld-gardens/#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 01:05:51 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6698 Over objections from residents – and despite assurances that residents will be consulted – CHA is submitting an annual plan to HUD that includes $7.3 million for “planning for demolition” of one-third of the public housing units at Altgeld Gardens.

The move comes as the citywide CHA resident leaders’ organization has called for a moratorium on demolition and for rehabbing unoccupied units at Altgeld and at other remaining traditional developments.

It comes as the need for low-income housing continues to grow, while CHA public housing production has slowed dramatically, and the city produces a handful of low-income units annually under its affordable housing plan.

And it comes as housing activists who’ve exposed CHA’s receipt of HUD operating funds for unoccupied housing units are revealing a new no-strings funding stream from HUD – capital subsidies which continue for years for units that have been demolished.

Plan first, talk later

On Tuesday, the CHA board approved the annual plan under HUD’s Moving To Work program.  According to the plan: “After reassessing future developments needs at [Altgeld Gardens and Murray Homes], CHA has determined that it will undertake planning for the demolition of the remaining 648 non-rehabilitated unoccupied units.”

CHA has budgeted $7.3 million for “planning for demolition” at Altgeld, according to the document.  Rehab of 1,300 units at the Far South Side development was completed in 2010.

Last week People for Community Recovery, an organization of Altgeld residents, received assurance from CHA chief Charles Woodyard that no demolition would occur prior to a community planning process, scheduled to kick off with a town hall meeting next month.  Woodyard responded after the group handed Mayor Emanuel a letter asking him to intervene to save Altgeld’s housing, said Cheryl Johnson, executive director of PCR.

“It would be more reassuring for us if they took [funding for demolition] out of the plan,” she said.

“It’s backwards,” said Leah Levinger of the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of community organizations working with tenants in federally-backed housing.  “Why not have the conversation first, before you submit a plan to HUD?”

“There’s no evidence these buildings are not structurally sound or that it’s not cost effective to rehab,” she added.  “Until there is, demolition seems senseless and wasteful.”

Moratorium

The CHA’s Central Advisory Council, comprising elected representatives of public housing developments, calls for a moratorium on demolition in a recent report outlining recommendations for the current “recalibration” of CHA’s Plan for Transformation.

Citing decreases in federal funding and a growing shortage of low-income housing, CAC calls on CHA to prioritize preservation of public housing, “specifically rehabilitation and reconfiguration of existing CHA units.”  Rehab is significantly more cost-effective and involves far fewer development hurdles, CAC notes.

CAC president Myra King was the only CHA commissioner to vote against the MTW plan Tuesday.

Among many other recommendations, CAC calls for completing rehabilitation of Altgeld Gardens, along with the Cabrini Rowhouses and Lathrop Homes.  Given the housing market crash, it calls for developing mixed-income communities consisting of affordable and public housing.

The report notes the growing need for affordable and low-income housing.  In 2009, 54 percent of Chicago tenants were rent-burdened, 19 percent more than in 1999, when CHA launched its Plan for Transformation.  With current trends, the proportion of rent-burdened households could be as high as 63 percent by 2020.

The majority of rent-burdened households, at risk of homelessness, are extremely low-income, making less than $20,000 a year, CAC notes.  These are the families CHA should be serving.

Huge housing shortage

Meanwhile, the shortage of affordable housing is growing. In 2009 it was estimated at 130,000 units, up 10 percent in just four years.  One new factor: between 2009 and 2011, 17,000 apartment buildings with 52,000 units went into foreclosed.

Of course, there’s the 60,000 on CHA waiting lists — and the many more who applied to the limited waiting list slots.

On top of that, as Steve Bogira has reported in the Chicago Reader, poverty rates continue to grow in Chicago.  Child poverty is up to 35.8 percent this year, and more than one in ten Chicagoans living in extreme poverty, with incomes less than half the federal poverty level.

The Tribune reports that low-wage sectors are growing while high-paying industries continue to shed jobs, and a recent report from the Action Now Institute and Women Employed found that nearly a third of Chicagoans work low-wage jobs, not paid enough to cover basic necessities.

Given all that, it’s not surprising that 97,000 Chicagoans, including some 15,000 CPS students, were homeless at some point last year, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.  And as the Chicago Reporter recently documented, Chicago’s homeless include people who are on CHA’s waiting list.

Still, Chicago can afford to sacrifice 648 units of low-income housing at Altgeld, and possibly hundreds more at Cabrini and Lathrop.  How do those numbers stack up against affordable housing production here – and against the shortfall of 130,000 affordable units?

Housing production has slowed to a trickle at CHA – in part because the agency has stopped rehabbing traditional developments.  Next year CHA projects adding 345 units to its portfolio; last year it planned for 200 new units.

(That doesn’t include project-based vouchers, which HUD has allowed CHA to count toward its housing production since 2010.  Advocates point out that public housing units guarantee decades of low-income housing, while vouchers involve shorter-term contracts with private landlords.)

Net loss

In 2011, the last year for which final numbers are available, CHA produced 432 new public housing units and demolished 909 units.

How about the city’s affordable housing plan?  Last year the city reported producing 2,054 new multifamily affordable housing units, separate from ongoing state rental subsidies.  But according to the Chicago Rehab Network’s analysis, very few of these were for low-income families.

Only 14 of those units were affordable for families with incomes below 30 percent of the area median income.  An additional 43 were affordable for families with incomes between 31 and 50 percent of AMI.

Under its plan to end homelessness, meanwhile, the city averaged about 325 units of permament supportive housing a year over the past decade.

With numbers like these, you’d need a compelling reason to tear down 648 potentially habitable units – especially when community members oppose the demolition, as scores of Altgeld residents made very clear at the CHA’s hearing on its annual plan last month.

CHI has charged that CHA has a deliberate policy of limiting and reducing public housing populations in order to reduce its legal obligation to provide replacement housing in communities slated for redevelopment.  Previously CHI revealed that thousands of habitable units are kept vacant by CHA — and under a special arrangement dating to the start of the Plan for Transformation, HUD operating subsidies continue to flow to units whether they’re occupied or not.

Now CHI has uncovered evidence that HUD continues to provide tens of millions of dollars in capital subsidies for units that have been demolished.  The money is supposed to fund replacement housing, but there are no reporting requirements and no requirements for specific numbers of units delivered in specific time periods, Levinger said.

“It’s yet another ill-defined funding stream,” she said.  “It’s a lot of dollars with no strings.”

According to CHI, in 2011 CHA received $39 million in capital funding for units that had been demolished, some years earlier.

“CHA could demolish 648 units at Altgeld and get [capital] dollars for the next ten years, at the same level they got while [the properties] were standing, and never spend that money – and nobody at HUD would bat an eye,” Levinger said.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/planning-for-demolition-at-altgeld-gardens/feed/ 1
Altgeld residents oppose demolition plans http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/altgeld-residents-oppose-demolition-plans/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/altgeld-residents-oppose-demolition-plans/#comments Tue, 11 Sep 2012 00:54:05 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6624 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, they’ll call for reconsideration of the plan – and a community-led redevelopment plan – at a hearing on CHA’s annual redevelopment report, 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 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.  Altgeld is nearly one-third vacant.

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

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

The Reporter 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.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/altgeld-residents-oppose-demolition-plans/feed/ 3
Thousands of rehabbed units vacant in CHA http://www.newstips.org/2011/09/thousands-of-rehabbed-units-vacant-in-cha/ http://www.newstips.org/2011/09/thousands-of-rehabbed-units-vacant-in-cha/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2011 23:10:25 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4750 The Chicago Housing Authority has thousands of vacant units of housing, much of it rehabbed but left unoccupied, according to a citywide housing coalition.

The Chicago Housing Initiative will release data showing “a growing epidemic of vacant public housing units” outside the CHA board meeting, 2915 N Leavitt, at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, September 20.

Calling it “a senseless waste of desperately needed housing,” the coalition is calling on CHA to immediately begin leasing all rehabbed and habitable public housing units.  The group is seeking a meeting with CHA interim chief Carlos Ponce.

According to the Housing Initiative, the CHA has over 6,000 vacant units in family and senior housing, including more than 3,300 rehabbed units. The group’s figures show that only 68 percent of CHA’s family housing is occupied.

Meanwhile there are over 47,000 families on CHA’s waiting list, in addition to thousands of seniors.

The vacancies raises questions about CHA’s claims of progress on its Plan For Transformation.  Thousands of units reported as “delivered” by the agency have apparently sat unoccupied for years.

The group points to developments like Lake Parc Place on the southeast lakefront, with 280 units fully rehabbed in 2004, half of which are now vacant; and Altgeld Gardens on the far South Side, where 268 rehabbed units are vacant.

They’ve found scattered-site developments on the South and West Sides that were rehabbed several years ago but remain vacant, and they continue to hear of such cases, said Leah Levinger of the Housing Initiative.  CHA “seems to have just forgotten about them,” she said.

In West Garfield Park, 181 units of senior housing in the Parkview Apartments have been vacant since the building was closed for repairs in 2007, despite $725,000 in federal stimulus funds spent on plumbing and boiler repairs since then.

Part of the problem is that “CHA ends leasing and vacates developments before they have a plan for what to do with it,” Levinger said.

In cases like Lathrop Homes and Cabrini Rowhouses, CHA stopped leasing units in 2000 and 2001, promising that rehab was imminent.  But a spurt of rehab at Cabrini stopped in 2009 after 146 units were completed, and a decade later, nothing’s been done at Lathrop.

Lathrop residents called on CHA to lease vacant apartments three years ago, and in 2005 resident groups at Cabrini and Lathrop called on CHA to open vacant rehabbed units for  Hurrican Katrina survivors.

Once a development is below 50 percent occupancy, CHA can move to have it declared obsolete and get approval to demolish it, Levinger said.  By not leasing, CHA “can create situations where developments that are structurally sound meet the criteria for that designation.”  HUD generally rubber-stamps such applications, she said.

While federal funding for mixed-income redevelopment is increasingly competitive – and private financing for such projects is hard to come by – HUD’s public housing capital fund provides money for rehab and major repairs.  CHA has gets over $100 million of such funds yearly, but much of it is diverted to a mixed-income redevelopment program that has stalled, Levinger said.

The Chicago Housing Initiative is a coalition of community organizations working to preserve low-income rental housing.  Its member groups work with residents in 58 federally-subsidized developments in the city.

Residents from Cabrini, Lathrop, Lake Parc and several scattered site developments will speak Tuesday.

]]>
http://www.newstips.org/2011/09/thousands-of-rehabbed-units-vacant-in-cha/feed/ 3