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CHA Chiefs Come and Go as Plan Stalls

by Mary C. Piemonte 

 

New CHA CEO Michael Merchant at a Nov. 19 CHA Board meeting in the ABLA Homes public housing development. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

Michael Merchant, previously the city’s buildings commissioner, recently became the fifth CHA CEO since the inception of the Plan for Transformation, a multi-billion dollar effort to overhaul and redevelop family and senior public housing stock into mixed-income communities that began in 2000 and is now projected to conclude in 2015.

Merchant told RJ after the Nov. 19 CHA Board meeting at the Fosco Park Field house in the ABLA public housing complex that he was confident he would complete the Plan during his tenure.

“I have every intention of being here to finish out the Plan,” Merchant said. “With respect to the fact that there has been turnover in this position, there’s still consistency within the staff, consistency with what the mission is, and what the goal is. Our goal is to make sure that we have vibrant communities and safe and affordable housing. So, I’m here to push full forward.”

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Another CHA Chief Bows Out

by Mary C. Piemonte 

CHA CEO Charles Woodyard listening to residents’ comments at a CHA Tenant Services meeting on August 8, 2012. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

For the second time in two years, a Chicago Housing Authority chief announced his resignation even as the agency’s multi-billion dollar plan to redevelop its family and senior public housing remains incomplete.

In June 2011, a month after Mayor Rahm Emanuel was inaugurated into office, Lewis Jordan resigned from his 4-year tenure as CHA chief while city officials investigated his and others’ alleged misuse of CHA credit cards to purchase dinners at expensive restaurants and pay for red light tickets, among other items. 

Now Charles Woodyard, former CEO of the Charlotte Housing Authority in North Carolina, who was appointed CHA chief by Emanuel in September 2011 to replace Jordan, is calling it quits as relocated residents continue to wait to return to replacement housing in mixed-income communities.

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CAC Releases Vision for the Future

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

September 12, 2012 -Elected leaders of Chicago’s public housing families today issued the 2012 Strategies and Recommendations Report, a comprehensive vision for the future that would see the city provide quality housing to many more low-income families who need it in these tough economic times.

Twelve years after the Plan for Transformation for the Chicago Housing Authority was launched by Mayor Richard M. Daley, much work remains to be done. All of the city’s public housing high-rises for families have been demolished and a small number of mixed-finance communities have been built, but large tracts of land across the South and West sides remain vacant, awaiting a new vision that will deal with the realities of the current housing market. CHA remains the landlord, meanwhile, for more than 130,000 people in low-rise family developments, senior citizen high-rises and private apartments rented through the Housing Choice Voucher program.

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A Message from the Resident President

by Myra King 

Myra King, President of the Central Advisory Council

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest commentary written by Myra King, President of the Central Advisory Council, the elected leadership for all public housing families in the city. You can find out more about the CAC by checking their web site, tellingourstory.org, or calling their office at 773 913 7828.

Hello Everyone,
My name is Myra King. I am the Local Advisory Council (LAC) President of Trumbull Park and Lowden Homes. I am also the Chairperson of the Central Advisory Council (CAC), as well as a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Resident Commissioner.
I send you this message to ensue that you are aware of the following:
People who live in Scattered Sites, public housing, mixed income and those in the Section 8 Program or Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program all have our rents subsidized or with payments by the federal government. We are all tenants receiving help with our rent by the government.
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New Calendar For Public Housing Tenants

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

There are more than 51,000 families in Chicago’s public housing system, including households in the traditional family style developments like Altgeld Gardens, Lowden Homes and Bridgeport Homes, as well as senior buildings and tens of thousands of families who rent in the private market using Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly known as Section 8 vouchers). All of these residents are represented by the Central Advisory Council, an elected body of tenant leaders who negotiate on tenants’ behalf with the Chicago Housing Authority, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other government agencies. Recently, the CAC put out its annual calendar, which contains a huge quantity of useful information for tenants, and we are providing the 2012 Tenant Calendar in PDF format, free of charge, for either download or on-line viewing.

The calendar will be essential reading for current tenants as well as for the nearly 100,000 more families who are on waiting lists for CHA units and the Housing Choice Vouchers programs, and the tens of thousands of low-income families who need housing subsidies. The calendar contains answers to questions such as:

How is my Rent Calculated?

How do I save money on Electricity and Gas?

Can I have a Pet?

In a sign of the times, the calendar also has a special section for Housing Choice Voucher holders whose building is in foreclosure, and the names and addresses of every alderman in Chicago.

You can click above or on the following link to get the 2012 Tenant Calendar.

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Charlotte Housing Authority Chief takes CHA Position

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's choice to head the Chicago Housing Authority, outgoing Charlotte, North Carolina, Housing Authority CEO Charles Woodyard. Photo from Charlotte Housing Authority website.

Carlos Ponce, interim chief of the Chicago Housing Authority is out, and Charles Woodyard, the CEO of the Charlotte Housing Authority since 2002, is in. Woodyard will govern CHA’s family and senior housing stock, and oversee the Plan for Transformation, which calls for 25,000 units of fully rehabilitated or renovated housing by 2015.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today that Woodyard’s new position begins on October 24, and he added that Ponce will remain as a senior advisor “to help ensure a smooth transition.”

Ponce was put in place after former chief Lewis Jordan resigned after it was discovered that he and other CHA staff members were frivolously using credit cards for things not pertaining to the general operation of the public housing stock.

Emanuel said that Woodyard “has proven management ability and a history of innovation in public housing, and is the right man to lead the CHA to the successful completion of its Plan for Transformation and beyond,” stated Emanuel in a press release. “Throughout his career, Charles has focused on sound financial management and has dedicated himself to providing residents with affordable, sanitary and safe housing. In Charlotte, Charles was able to successfully integrate public housing into communities, a crucial element of Chicago’s Plan for Transformation. He has built strong partnerships with community groups and encouraged private sector investment in public housing, and we look forward to his leadership here in Chicago.”

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Cabrini Row House Tenants Prepare to Fight CHA

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Residents and their supporters protest in the Cabrini-Green Row Houses in June 2010. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

Tenants of the Cabrini Green Row-Houses are preparing to battle the Chicago Housing Authority for “reneging” on their promise to rehab all remaining units at the North Side public housing complex.

The final high-rise in Cabrini-Green was demolished this past spring, but 534 low-rise units remain in the complex. In 2008, CHA received approval from the federal government to rehab the row houses. However, only 146 units were rehabbed in 2009, leaving 438 units in disrepair, with a great majority left vacant. Only 33 of those are currently occupied, “creating a 92% vacancy rate,” according to the CHA, which announced late last week that it will not continue rehabilitation and will instead boot out the remaining public housing tenants in the non-rehabbed section of the row houses. CHA claimed that “persistent criminal activity” in the area “forces” them to make the tenants relocate elsewhere.

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Residents’ Journal’s Newly Accessible Online Archives

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Click on the image to view the eighth episode of this season’s “RJ TV,” on August 29, 2011.

Watch Residents’ Journal’s reporter Quintana Woodridge discussing We the People Media’s newly accessible online archives of the news publication for low-income people, with intern Hilary Sharp.

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After The Dust

by Marsha Muhammad 

Young people at the recent reunion for tenants of 5135 S. Federal St., one of the buildings in the now-demolished Robert Taylor Homes development. The reunion was held August 7 in the Dan Ryan Woods. Photo by Marsha Muhammad.

Five years after the last building in the Robert Taylor Homes was demolished, it’s a miracle to locate former residents not only from that development but from anywhere in the Chicago Housing Authority. After years of being displaced by gentrification, we were united on a social network site named Facebook. The best of my former neighbors at Robert Taylor are doing just fine. It may surprise many to see that we are functional people, since we were deemed dysfunctional and self-destructive. But we are alive and still standing! Still standing literally and figuratively.

In the summer of 1998, the first building in the Robert Taylor Homes located at 3901 S. Federal St. was torn down, followed by the cluster buildings on 53rd Street infamously known as the “Hole.” The name derived from the term, “If you come in, you can’t come out.”

Moving out of public housing became a challenge to the majority of former residents. Many families were disenfranchised by a welfare system that cut off their resources if they found employment that increased their income a penny over the poverty level. Residents learned how to survive by manipulating the system. Do just enough to not go homeless and live comfortable, but not enough to move out into the private sector and pay market rent. These residents outnumbered the working-class residents that paid market rent. This system bred generations of families who were taught the same cycle of survival. People rarely moved out. Perhaps the “Hole” should have been the nickname for the entire development.

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Housing Activists Take Action: An Update

by Michael Ibrahem 

This update will provide useful information together with insights into issues that draw the attention of housing activists citywide. I recently took another look at the Chicago Landlords and Tenants Ordinance to see what it was meant to do, exactly.

Really, it is not often possible for those of us lacking specific training to penetrate the sometimes obscure pathways of professional jargon, or language that seems to make more of an effort to conceal information than to reveal it.

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