HUD – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.14 ‘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.

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Lathrop Homes highlight CHA vacancy boondoggle http://www.newstips.org/2012/07/lathrop-homes-highlight-cha-vacancy-boondoggle/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/07/lathrop-homes-highlight-cha-vacancy-boondoggle/#comments Sat, 14 Jul 2012 01:10:14 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6443 With controversy growing over CHA’s huge stock of unleased apartments – and the federal operating subsidies the agency receives for vacant units – residents will rally Saturday at Lathrop Homes, the development with the highest vacancy rate in the system.

They’ll be barbecuing and celebrating Lathrop Home’s recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places – a “stunning reversal of fortune” for a development that was slated for demolition a few years ago, according to Lee Bey – on Saturday, July 14 at noon on Hoyne south of Diversy.

And they’ll be demanding the residents be allowed to stay at Lathrop during renovations under a plan that is still to be determined.  CHA has long promised that residents could stay, organizers say, but at a June 27 meeting, an agency official said they may instead be forced to leave ahead of construction.

CHA chief Charles Woodyard hasn’t responded to a letter from the Lathrop Leadership Team and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association seeking clarification, said John McDermott of LSNA.

He said some residents moved to the southern portion of Lathrop when the northern section was closed last year based on the promise.  And he worries that it’s a ploy to weaken residents’ voices at a crucial point.

Help from HUD?

Lathrop residents went to Washington recently as part of a delegation from the Chicago Housing Initiative that met with Sandra Henriquez, HUD assistant secretary for public housing.  Leah Levinger of CHI reports that Henriquez was “very interested” in the group’s research on vacancies in CHA – including significantly higher costs for housing families in under-leased developments.

One result: HUD staff members are expected in Chicago this week to tour vacant properties and meet with residents at Lathrop and elsewhere.  CHI is hoping to work with HUD and congressional staff members to find ways to increase CHA’s accountability for the federal funds it receives.

Earlier CHI had revealed that while the agency boasts of nearly full occupancy, in fact almost 20 percent of CHA units are unoccupied, including nearly a third of family units.  And an agreement with HUD under its Moving To Work program allows CHA (unlike most housing authorities) to collect operating subsidies for housing units whether they are occupied or not.

Not only is CHA collecting federal funding for housing it isn’t providing, but because overhead remains basically the same in underleased developments, the agency is now spending $11,000 more per family in Lathrop than it did six years ago, Levinger said.

“They could house three families for the funding they’re using to house one” in Lathrop, she said, calling it “a waste of taxpayer money” that denies housing to families that need it.

Breaking the rules

A new Chicago Reporter investigation shows that CHA has failed to produce the documentation required by HUD regulations to take units offline.  Levinger says the HUD-CHA agreement contains no significant consequences for violating its terms.

According to the Reporter, offline units include apartments at Lathrop and Cabrini Green Rowhouses that passed federal inspections last year.  As Newstips noted last year, an earlier CHI report showed that hundreds of CHA units have remained offline years after rehab was completed on them.

Lathrop is “an exact case study of the type of problem we’re talking about with vacancies at CHA overall,” Levinger said.  “They started vacating [Lathrop] in 2000 and they still don’t have a plan.”  (With 925 units, Lathrop is currently 82 percent vacant, and residents have long called for leasing vacant apartments.  Some 40,000 families are on CHA’s waiting list.)

Instead of maintaining occupancy levels and maintaining properties, “they vacate first and figure out what they’re going to do later.”  Then they use subsequent deterioration as an excuse to reduce the amount of public housing.

“We’re saying keep the units occupied until you’ve figured out what you’re doing with them,” she said.  “They’re getting federal money to provide housing – they should be providing housing with it.”

More delays

Meanwhile the planning process for Lathrop’s “revitalization” continues its long history of delays.  A supposedly open planning process consisted of three workshops in December – where, as the Reporter points out, planners refused to discuss resident’s number-one concern, the income mix of the redevelopment – and since then a series of postponements, McDermott said.  A planning team is now expected to present a set of scenarios sometime later this year.

Residents want the historic riverside development preserved and redeveloped as a mix of public and affordable housing.  What they don’t want is market-rate housing, which would require demolition and new construction.

Residents and their supporters have emphasized the glut of market-rate housing in the area – and the long-growing shortage of affordable housing throughout the city.

They got some hope for flexibility recently when Woodyard said the rigid formula guiding the CHA’s Plan For Transformation – one-third market-rate, one-third affordable, one-third public housing – needs to be reexamined in light of the crash of the housing market.  CHA is currently undertaking a “recalibration” of the transformation plan.

But talking with the Reporter, an executive of Related Midwest, the lead for-profit developer on the Lathrop planning team, insisted that market-rate housing must be part of the mix in the new Lathrop.  He gave two reasons: to attract retail development, and to qualify for TIF financing, if it’s needed to make the deal work.

But would TIF financing be necessary if market-rate housing wasn’t included?  And is more market-rate housing really what we should be subsidizing with TIF funds right now?

Meanwhile, Related Midwest has asked CHA to change the income mix at Roosevelt Square, the redevelopment of the Near West Side ABLA homes (which is also far behind schedule), to 80 percent market-rate and 20 percent public housing.  That is, a third less public housing than previously agreed to, and no affordable housing at all.

Over the past decade, CHA’s plans for Lathrop have been a series of constantly changing schemes; Related Midwest has had delays, financial difficulties, and shifting targets. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the vision of Lathrop residents and their supporters.

On Saturday, Lathrop residents will launch a letter-writing campaign urging CHA to adjust the income goals for Lathrop as part of the recalibration effort.  McDermott notes that on the CHA’s website for public input, preserving and rehabbing Lathrop with no market-rate housing is the most popular proposal.

 

Note: Sandra Henriquez’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.

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Tenants to meet with HUD http://www.newstips.org/2008/02/tenants-to-meet-with-hud/ Tue, 12 Feb 2008 06:00:00 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=2947 Tenants from HUD-subsidized buildings across the city will demand greater accountability from property managers in a town hall meeting with HUD officials sponsored by the Chicago Community Congress of Tenants tomorrow.

The meeting grows out of efforts by residents of eight subsidized senior buildings, who have been meeting with HUD officials and property managers since late last year. They’ve succeeded in getting quicker responses to requests for repairs and action on broken elevators and other unsafe building conditions, said Kathy Cheney of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, sponsor of the CCCT.

They also asked for a public meeting with subsidized tenants in general, who have many of the same concerns. Chicago HUD director Ed Hinsberger and senior project manager George Gilmore will participate.

CCCT is asking for an ombudsperson for HUD-subsidized buildings, inclusion of renters in decision making and quarterly meetings with HUD, as well as more timely action on repairs and better accountability on rent adjustments.

“Repairs can take weeks or months, or never get done at all,” said MTO organizer Malik Wornum. Rent is pegged to 30 percent of income and is adjusted when income changes. “If someone gets laid off it takes at lot longer to adjust their rent than when income increases,” Wornum said. “If someone gets a raise they’re all over it.”

The town hall takes place Wednesday, February 13, 1 to 3 p.m. at Access Living, 115 W. Chicago.

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