HUD Head: CHA Off Troubled List


U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Andrew Cuomo came into Chicago Aug. 1 to announce that HUD has removed the Chicago Housing Authority from the list of Troubled Housing Authorities and will return control of the CHA to the City of Chicago within eight months.

The transition back to local control began in mid-August and a new Housing Authority Board of Commissioners will be appointed in seven to eight months, Cuomo said during a visit to Henry Horner Homes.

“For the first time since we began the current rating system for housing authorities in 1979, the Chicago Housing Authority is not on HUD’s list of trouble public housing authorities,” Cuomo said. “This major achievement shows that the partnership HUD formed with Mayor Daley and with CHA residents and staff to turn around the Authority has succeeded. Together, we’ve improved living conditions for residents and created new opportunities for them to get education, training and jobs that will help more become self-sufficient.

“This isn’t the end of the process, it’s the beginning,” Cuomo said. “The tenants, the new, hard-working management and the people of Chicago don’t think this is as good as it gets and neither do I. Now that the CHA is no longer on HUD’s list of trouble housing authorities, we can move forward to begin returning control of the CHA where it belongs – to the people of Chicago. This city has earned the right to run its own housing authority.”

The federal government took control of CHA in May 1995. Joseph Shuldiner, then the second in command at HUD, was charged with administering the day-to-day affairs at CHA while Edwin Eisendrath, then the HUD Secretary’s regional representative, took the role of a one-man board.

CHA scored 64.69 out of a possible 100 points on HUD’s new Public Housing Management Assessment Program. When HUD took control of CHA in 1995, CHA’s score was just 51.

Under the rating system, which measures performance by public housing authorities in eight areas, any authority scoring below 60 is classified as troubled. HUD classifies only 51 of the nation’s 3,400 public and Indian housing authorities as troubled. The Public Housing Management Assessment Program measures the performance of public housing authorities in the following areas: 1) Percentage of vacant apartments and the time it takes to fill vacant apartments. 2) Management of the modernization program to upgrade apartments. 3) The success of rent collection efforts. 4) Performance of repairs and general maintenance on apartments. 5) Adequacy of physical inspections of apartments performed by a housing authority. 6) Overall financial management. 7) Programs to help residents become self-sufficient by providing such things as education, job training and child care. 8) Anti-crime efforts, including use of HUD’s Drug Elimination Grants, working with local police and carrying out the One Strike program to keep criminals out of public housing and remove those already there. HUD is providing operating subsides of almost $184 million to the CHA this year.

Cuomo’s other major announcement Aug. 1 was that Rosanna Marquez has been appointed the Secretary’s Representative for the Midwest Region, replacing Edwin Eisendrath.

“Rosanna Marquez brings a wealth of experience and dynamic leadership skills to the position of Secretary’s Representative for the Midwest,” Cuomo said. “In this position, Rosanna will assure that HUD works as an active partner with local government, the private sector and non-profit groups to tackle the many challenges facing the region.”

Marquez is a native Chicagoan with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. She most recently worked as a Cabinet-level senior advisor to Mayor Richard M. Daley. Cuomo said Marquez spearheaded several initiatives, including efforts that lead to Chicago’s designation by the Clinton Administration as one of six federal Empowerment Zones. She also served for the last three years as Mayor Daley’s representative on CHA’s five-member Executive Committee.

“I am very grateful to Secretary Cuomo and President Clinton for giving me the opportunity to serve the people of this six state region,” Marquez said.

“These are very exciting times for our Department, with many challenges ahead. I will work to deliver on the Secretary’s efforts to make HUD a results-driven agency that works proactively with state and local governments, community groups and the real estate industry at large.”

Marquez lives in Chicago with her husband. She is a graduate with honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and of the Harvard Law School.

Cuomo became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in January 1997. During his tenure, Cuomo has cracked down on landlords who collect money improperly from HUD. As a result, the amount of HUD money recovered from landlords rose from $18 million in 1996 to $25 million in 1997. Cuomo produced a study in 1998 of “worst-case” housing needs that found about 12.5 million very low income people pay over half their incomes for rent or live in severely substandard housing. Cuomo has made it a priority to strengthen HUD’s partnerships.

These are some of the programs that have poured out HUD in the last year and a half. But as Cuomo said after visiting Robert Taylor Homes, there is still a lot more to clean up. As long as people are still living in filth and fear, our job is not even close to being complete.

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The Next CHA Chairman?


The Chicago Housing Authority has been without a chairman since Nov. 1, 1997, when then-Chairman Edwin Eisendrath stepped down from his post to take on a different venture.

Because CHA has been controlled by the federal government since 1995, President Bill Clinton will make the final decision on who will get the job. Andrew Cuomo, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will likely make a recommendation to the president.

But local politicians also will have a strong voice in who becomes the new chairman. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-7), U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1), U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2) and U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL) strongly endorsed former Mayor Eugene Sawyer. Sawyer now works for Crown Energy, an oil brokerage that had business dealings with CHA. Sawyer also is co-chairman of Rush’s voter registration drive in memory of Mayor Harold Washington, whom Sawyer succeeded as mayor. Sawyer reportedly was pleased with the endorsements but had to remove his name from the possible candidates. Read more »

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Andrew Cuomo: Front and Center


During a recent visit to the Operation PUSH headquarters in Chicago, new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Andrew Cuomo offered little concrete about his plans for public housing communities.

In a breakfast speech, radio broadcast and press conference on Sept. 6, Cuomo talked about his concerns for public housing issues but used words that the residents of CHA have been listening to since May 1995, when HUD took over the agency. That’s when residents first started being bombarded with words about what HUD’s plans for CHA were.

Like others before him, Cuomo said HUD now wishes to involve CHA residents in the redevelopment of CHA.

“It’s not for us to do. It’s for the people in the communities to do,” he said at the breakfast.

“It’s for you to build your community as you see fit. That’s what empowerment is all about.”

"Let's not say we're going to get out of the housing business. Let's say we have to get into the housing business and do it right. That's going to be the story of Cabrini, Horner, ABLA and other redevelopments." -HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo. Photo by John Brooks

Cuomo seemed to say that redevelopment in many communities was going well. But he apparently is not aware that many residents in these communities are very suspicious that redevelopment really means land grab. I wasn’t put at ease when he said,

“Let’s not say we’re going to get out of the housing business. Let’s say we have to get into the housing business and do it right. That’s going to be the story of Cabrini, Horner, ABLA and other redevelopments.”

Cuomo said 87 percent of new jobs are in the suburbs and 97 percent of new businesses are in the suburbs. Well, I don’t think that is any surprise to the vast majority of public housing residents that are unemployed. Plus, when residents do go out on a job interview, they often are not hired. Cuomo did not provide specifics about developing new training or job placement programs:

“We just reformed welfare. Amen. But it’s not making them work, it’s about letting them work.”

Cuomo made another statement that the way public housing was set up, it was doomed to fail because of poverty in public housing along with crime:

“A good idea gone bad – that’s what public housing is. You should have known it was bad before you put that first brick down,” Cuomo said at the Operation PUSH breakfast and radio address.

“The mentality was ‘Let’s pack them in there because the more you can get in there, the better. Let’s build public housing and let’s put it all in one place and put it far away and then let’s build a wall between us and them.’

“Of course it failed. It was doomed to fail.”

Later at a press conference at Operation PUSH, Cuomo said public housing was “a good idea implemented by amoral leadership.

“The housing was a good idea but the leadership was perverted.”

But is it the buildings that are causing the problems in public housing or is it the way the buildings are run? Almost all of the residents of public housing are low-income and once a resident of public housing achieves a steady income in the mid range, you can bet that within a year, that person will have moved out. There is no incentive for someone to stay in public housing once their income increases. Why live in an area where your neighbor’s rent is 90 percent lower than yours and some may be selling drugs out of their unit or violating lease regulations by having illegal tenants or participating in other criminal activities?

The problems that go on in CHA are often fueled by people who come from other areas of Chicago and the suburbs. These people would not allow the type of activity in their communities that they support in public housing. CHA raises rent when income increases but living conditions are still deplorable. During the press conference, I asked Cuomo how he could convince the people who have been chased away from public housing by these conditions to stay there. He told me:

“We’re going to improve the community and make it a community that they want to live in.”

We heard the same lines from former CHA Chairman Vince Lane, former HUD Secretaries Jack Kemp and Henry Cisneros as well as President Bill Clinton. But you can tear down the building and the community will still exist along with the problems that are there. You can preach about how putting someone to work will help the community but what good does it do when that someone of good moral standards moves out and another resident who may have an anti-social background moves in? Then we are back where we started.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of Operation PUSH, was more specific on how to create communities that house both low- and middle-income residents. The way to create these neighborhoods is keep middle-income families from leaving poor areas because they don’t want to be part of those communities.

"What we really want to do is end low0income areas. Isolation and poverty cause the anqiety." -the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Founder of Operation PUSH. Photo by John Brooks

“What we really want to do is end low-income areas. Isolation and poverty cause the anxiety,” Jackson said.

It can be tough living in the shadow of a famous father, especially when your father was well respected by most and held high marks among fellow politicians. When your father is former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, people will have high expectations of the offspring. Which puts Andrew Cuomo in an interesting situation: Does he become his father or break away and make a name for himself.

Though I am not going to compare him to his father or his predecessor, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, and I am also taking into consideration that he’s been on the job for less than a year, I found his statements to be predictable.

I would advise Cuomo to get down to some serious business. The people of public housing know what has to be done. So let’s do it.

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Safe Summer 97


Remember when summertime was a part of the year that all youngsters were looking forward to? That time of the year where Little League baseball, summer basketball and trips to the amusement park were commonplace throughout Chicagoland. But the last few years have seen long hot summers, especially in the Chicago Housing Authority. With residents living in developments that are being torn down and wondering what the future holds, gang crime and drug dealing getting completely out of hand, the youth of CHA are at a loss.

But it seems as though CHA, with the help of other corporations throughout Chicago, is trying to bring summer back to the people of public housing with a program called Safe Summer 97. The program was created to entertain and educate the people in public housing, according to Darlene Cocco, manager of Safe Summer 97, and Ron Carter, CHA’s director of Economic Development. Incorporating CHA’s usual array of summer programs with a number of new efforts, Safe Summer will help all residents ages 1 to 100. Nobody will be left out. Read more »

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LeClaire Courts


Once the crown jewel of the nation’s resident-managed public housing developments, LeClaire Courts was recently taken over by CHA. Agency officials accused employees of the resident managers of taking advantage of a new board. While the fall-out of that action continues, writer Andre Robinson recalls the LeClaire Courts of his youth.

The year is 1950. World War 11 is five years out of our system. The Korean War is building, Harry S. Truman is serving his first full term as President of the United States. Martin Kennelly is Mayor of Chicago and Chicago’s Midway Airport is the world’s busiest airport. One and one half miles north on Cicero Avenue from Midway Airport, between 42nd and 44th streets in a heavy-industrial area, is a patch of land that is causing controversy at City Hall between the mayor and aldermen of that district. The reason is the Chicago Housing Authority purchased that land to build low-income housing. Read more »

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Mr. Robinson Goes to Washington


When I first started working on this resident newspaper this summer, I was both excited and concerned. I was enthusiastic about writing articles about my community and other public housing developments. I questioned, however, how much freedom I would have in writing various articles. So I asked my editor what we could and couldn’t write about and if there were people within CHA we could not touch. He assured me the paper would not be censored and that I had carte blanche on who and what I could write about without interference from the brass at CHA. I nevertheless remained skeptical.

The true test of the paper came when my editor announced that I would be accompanying him on a trip to Washington, D.C. The trip would be to a conference organized by Dominium, a private management company that is managing a CHA development and is seeking to become a national leader in the privatization field. The conference would bring together residents from Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans and Chicago. But I was determined to get an interview with one of the Washington big shots. I had spoken to my friends, neighbors and relatives to collect their concerns of how changes at the nation’s capitol would affect them. Read more »

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