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State Passes Support for Renters

by Michael Ibrahem 

In Chicago, even everyday citizens have definite ideas about affordable housing or the lack of it. Throughout Illinois, activists and legislators alike are pleased with the results of the State House vote on May 4 for S.B.75, better known as the Rental Housing Support Program. “We are very excited about the passing of this bill…it is estimated that this bill could help 5,500 homeless applicants per year,” exclaimed Mimi Alschuler from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

The Rental Housing Support Program plans to assist families earning 30 percent or below an area’s median income. In most places in Illinois, supporters say that’s about $19,000 for a family of four. More than 150 organizations statewide supported this bill. The program would be funded with a $10 state surcharge on real estate documents recorded with county recorders. All total, counties statewide could build a fund amounting to between $25 million to $30 million, though estimates vary. Those funds are expected to be sufficient annually to assist over 5,500 applicants. Each county would be allowed to keep $1 of the $10 surcharge paid for the documents recorded in the county recorder’s office, with the remainder going for the Rental Housing Support Program.
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Update: Questions Linger, Contributions Dwindle

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

Well over one-half of the contributions to a political fund closely linked to Chicago Housing Authority CEO Terry Peterson came from CHA contractors, affiliated companies or their employees and officers, according to an analysis by Residents’ Journal and the Better Government Association.

Over 60 percent of the itemized individual contributions to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization in 2005 came from CHA contractors and related sources, according to a comparison of records filed with the Illinois Board of Election Commissioners with lists of CHA contractors. The overall total of contributions to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization dropped dramatically in 2005 as compared with previous years after three straight years of increasing totals. The 17th Ward Democratic Organization saw its donations drop to their lowest level since 2001.

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Publisher’s Box

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

We’re back. Our regular readers will notice that Residents’ Journal has not published in a few months. I apologize for this delay. As a not-for-profit organization, we are dependent on foundation support, and the grants did not come in the way we hoped for in 2005.

I will admit that there were times the Residents’ Journal staff wondered if we would ever publish again. But we kept at it, broadcasting over our Web site, www.wethepeoplemedia.org, and on “Residents’ Journal TV,” our television program on the CAN-TV network. We also reached out for help and got great support both from our fellow journalists and from the broader community. In the spring, the Chicago Headline Club announced that Editor-in-Chief Mary C. Johns and Assistant Editor Beauty Turner – as well as our partners at the Chicago Reporter, Alden Loury and Brian Rogal – won first place in the Media Collaboration category for our report, “Deadly Moves.” In the summer, the Society of Professional Journalists announced that “Deadly Moves” won the First Place Award in the first-ever New America category. I got to accompany Mary and Beauty when they went to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to pick up their award. I even got to take the photo of Mary posing with legendary CBS anchorman Dan Rather. The “Deadly Moves” team was asked to train other journalists on the techniques of successful collaborations at the SPJ convention in Las Vegas later that year.
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There’s H.O.P.E. for Gary Residents

by Beauty Turner Assistant Editor

RJ recently learned about a $19 million H.O.P.E. VI grant our neighbors to the south at the Gary Indiana Housing Authority received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1999. The housing authority is using the grant to replace the Duneland Village public housing development with a new mixed income community.

So one day in late January, we drove over the slushy, potholed streets of Chicago to Gary, in hot pursuit of a story about housing being built that might be beneficial to the poor.
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Clock Ticking for HOPE VI Projects

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Public housing agencies nationwide risk losing their federal funding for redevelopment projects if their projects are not on schedule, according to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department recently.

Will the CHA lose their HOPE VI money, too?

HUD Takes Back HOPE VI Funds
In August 2003, HUD took back a $6.4 million Homeownership and Opportunity for People Everywhere (HOPE VI) grant for demolition from the Housing Authority of Portland, Oregon for not meeting the deadline for its public housing redevelopment plans.
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Myths and Urban Legends

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

There are a lot of urban legends out there about the redevelopment of Chicago’s public housing communities. Urban legends and other myths – like the movie ‘Candyman’ or stories about alligators living in the sewer system. – are useful for frightening children or for a scary night in front of the television. Watching a scary movie will keep kids out of the basement, even when it is time to get the laundry.

But the myths I’m writing about are those that are keeping Chicago Housing Authority officials, advocates and activists from crafting a public housing redevelopment plan that will really work for tenants. These are myths that doom any redevelopment plan because they stop those responsible for developing and implementing any redevelopment plan from going where they should – intellectually, that is. Read more »

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The Terror Within

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

Like all Americans, the residents of Chicago’s public housing have been absorbed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks and their aftermath. There are certainly those among the more than 100,000 residents who had loved ones who were in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

On behalf of the Residents’ Journal staff and the board of We The People Media, all the victims of the attacks have our compassion and our sympathy.

Residents also certainly will be involved in the “War on Terrorism” that was declared by President George W. Bush. With our military preparing itself for armed conflict in remote parts of the globe, my thoughts turn to Residents’ Journal Editor-in-Chief Mary C. Johns, whose son and nephew are enlisted men in the U.S. Army.
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SPECIAL FEATURE: City Gets CHA Funds Update

by Mary C. Piemonte 

With the clock ticking for many Chicago Housing Authority residents receiving government assistance, CHA officials failed to implement a much-needed welfare to work program for over one year, a continuing Residents’ Journal investigation has found.

In 1999, CHA won a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to service residents receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), a federal assistance program.

But in recent interviews, CHA officials admitted the program had been held up for one year after city officials took over the agency in spring 1999.
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SPECIAL FEATURE: City Gets CHA Funds

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Top Chicago Housing Authority officials have said they want to get out of the business of providing residents with programs. However, a Residents’ Journal investigation has found that CHA is transferring millions of dollars from its budget to other city departments to administer its former social service programs.

Only a few of those city departments can demonstrate that they are serving residents with those federal funds. And other city departments have yet to begin their efforts to serve residents.
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Transforming CHA: Bush Team Keeps CHA Waiting

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Some 2,000 families of the Chicago Housing Authoritys Stateway Gardens, Rockwell Gardens and Robert Taylor Homes may have to wait for the funds for new housing at their developments, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials.

HUD officials confirmed in early February that the Notices for Funding Availability (NOFA) for approximately $105 million in HOPE VI funds for redevelopment of the Stateway Gardens, Robert Taylor Homes and Rockwell Gardens communities had been withdrawn by the administration of President George W. Bush. Read more »
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