A Residents’ Journal investigation has found that renovation of three public housing buildings for senior citizens is years overdue, despite previous proclamations from the Chicago Housing Authority that all of its senior buildings have been rehabbed.
Elderly public housing residents who were relocated from the CHA senior buildings are eagerly waiting to return to their former homes.
Since the CHA’s $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation officially began in January 2000, CHA’s agreements with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stated that approximately 9,480 senior units in 58 buildings throughout Chicago would be rehabbed. All residents relocated during the Plan would have “a right to return.”
But currently, two of the 58 senior buildings remain closed with no renovation work ongoing or planned.
One is currently undergoing renovation as of July 2008, after being closed for over three years. The closed buildings are the Kenmore Apartments located at 5040 N. Kenmore and the Pomeroy Apartments located at 1039 W. Hollywood Blvd. The Britton Budd Apartments, 501 W. Surf St., is being rehabbed as of July 2008.
59 residents occupied the 136-unit Kenmore Apartments at the time of the building’s closure in the first quarter of 2005, and 61 residents occupied the 120-unit Pomeroy senior building at time of that building’s closure in the first quarter of 2006, according to the CHA’s written response to Residents’ Journal’s questions in September 2008.
In 2003, the CHA spent $1,179,300 for facade repairs at the Pomeroy Apartment which was to be completed “365 calendar days from the date of the Notice to Proceed,” according to their Board of Commissioners “Authorization to execute a contract with Fine Line BT Corporation” IFB No. 01187,” on June 17, 2003. The senior building closed two years later.
For a number of years, CHA has been reporting to having only 55 senior buildings, apparently leaving the three closed buildings off its official lists. CHA’s web site currently states: “The CHA’s Plan for Transformation provides the backdrop for the work we are striving to accomplish in our senior properties. It is our 10-year, $1.56 billion commitment to rehab or rebuild 25,000 units, of which more than 9,400 apartments are in 55 senior buildings throughout Chicago.”
Some senior advocates say the CHA has been giving the public the false impression that the rehabilitation process for their entire senior housing portfolio is complete.
“I think that sometimes when they are talking about senior properties, they sort of imply that all the senior buildings are renovated and that’s not true,” said Lori Clark, executive director of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, a grassroots senior-citizen advocacy organization, during an interview at her North Side office on September 11.
Budd Britton Senior Relocatees Eagerness to Return Home
CHA’s senior resident population is far more diverse than its family housing. The 173-unit Britton Budd Apartments included Russians, African Americans and Latinos. Many of the former residents are eager to return their former homes.
Several former residents of the Budd Apartments attended a Sept. 18 groundbreaking ceremony for the rehab of the Budd Apartments, which was designated a Chicago landmark by the City Council last year.
Josif Plagov, a former resident of the Budd Apartments and a member of the Jane Adams Senior Caucus, said at the assembly that there was a need for rehabilitation at the building but it was hard for some of the senior tenants to move out.
“It was not easy for the most elderly and disabled people to move out and find a good place, in our opinion, to move to. We were told that maybe in one or two years, we will be back. But it has already been three years and we haven’t been back to our homes,” he said.
Plagov added that he was happy that the people involved worked together and came up with a consensus to get renovations started on the building. He added that he was also pleased that the building would continue to be reserved as affordable housing so that the former senior residents could return.
“I think that is democracy in action. This is a safe neighborhood. It has many hospitals, many places to relax like the lake shore and Lincoln Park. There are also six or seven bus routes close to this building. So we wait for the renovation to be completed in 2009, and we want to return to our homes,” he said.
Judy Backstrom and Wanda Marshall lived at Britton Budd and were both relocated to another senior building at 2720 N. Sheffield Ave.
Interviewed after the groundbreaking, both women said that weren’t happy with the relocation because the same property management company manages their new building and because they feel they have not been well received by their new neighbors.
Backstrom, 68, lived at the Budd Apartments for 8 years. “Number one, it’s the same management company [Legum and Norman] and once they took over, it took about five years of not doing the work, not doing the repairs. Leaving everything go because it was supposed to get rehabbed.
Then we had to get put out because it wasn’t happening. And the other building now has the same management company and they’re not any better. That building is going the same way now. In five years, that will be uninhabitable if they continue at the rate they’re going,” she declared.
Backstrom also said that CHA agreed in writing that all the residents would return back to the Budd building.
“We made sure that it was in writing before we left. We made sure that all the residents got it in writing before we left,” she said.
Marshall, 75, who lived at the Budd Apartment for 7 years, said she couldn’t wait to come back to the building because when she arrived at the Sheffield location,
“One of the women got up and said, ‘Why did you have to bring those people over here?’
“They already have our transfers to come back. If they said that I could move in the corner in there, I’d come in there today,” she declared.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, CHA CEO Lewis A. Jordan said that “Britton Budd is an example of how we continue to deliver on the promise of the Plan, and how our seniors are an integral part of it.”
The 11-story Budd senior building, originally constructed in 1917, had been designated for “proposed disposition,” according to the CHA Draft FY2009 Moving to Work Annual Plan for year 10.
HUD allowed CHA to convert some of its senior housing units into project-based voucher units, according to its recent amendment of the CHA Moving to Work Agreement.
The amendment “includes waivers for HUD regulation rules for conversion with respect to the CHA’s conversion of public housing units in the Britton-Budd Apartments, Kenmore Apartments, and Ralph Pomeroy Apartments to project-based voucher units pursuant to 24 CFR 972 Subpart B (Voluntary Conversion of Public Housing Developments),” which will “count toward the CHA’s commitment to build, develop or rehabilitate 25,000 units under the Plan for Transformation.”
Lewis told RJ during the groundbreaking that the units at the Budd Apartments would remain public housing units.
“All public housing units,” Jordan said.
CHA documents state that the building was closed for so long because “They needed rehabilitation and were therefore vacated.”
In 2006, the CHA reported that funding for Budd Apartments rehab would come from “a combination of public housing subsidies, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and project-based voucher subsidies.”
CHA’s project partners in the rehab include Red Stone, Bank of America, the Federal Home Loan Bank and Harris Bank, according to a press release.
U.S. Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-5) and Ald. Thomas M. Tunney (44), the Jane Adams Senior Caucus and the Center on Poverty Law worked together with the CHA to get the building renovated, and get the agency to agree in writing that the residents would be allowed to return to the building.
Bill Little, CHA’s executive vice president of development, told RJ following the Sept. 18 groundbreaking, “We ground leased it to a partnership that includes CHA and the investor who’s providing capital for the rehabilitation of this building for 99 years.”
There were 173 units initially at the Budd Apartments. But only 172 new studios and one-bedroom public housing units will be available when the rehab is complete.
One unit will be reserved for an on-site janitor, according to Little.
Renovation of the Budd Apartments is expected to be complete in late summer of 2009.
There are no plans currently to renovate the other two senior buildings.
Tags: CHA, CHA Plan for Transformation, fall 2008 issue, HUD, public housing, relocation, renovation, senior citizens