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.”
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.
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