Clock Ticking for HOPE VI Projects

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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.

HOPE VI grants are for the revitalization of public housing stock. The money is used for demolitions, support services for residents, renovations of old units and for the construction of new public housing units.

In November 2003, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that five public housing authorities were in danger of losing as much as $1,000 a day of their HOPE VI grants for missed redevelopment.

HUD put the five public housing agencies that had the most delays in their HOPE VI redevelopment projects on notice. They were in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Tulsa, Okla., Biloxi, Miss., and Wheeling, West VA.

The backlog of deadlines to construct replacement housing for public housing residents, and an additional $3 billion in HOPE VI funds from previous years that went unspent, threatened the existence of the program last year. However, Congress recently reauthorized the program through FY 2004.

To date, HUD has awarded $293 million in HOPE VI demolition-only grants to 90 of the approximately 3,160 housing authorities in the U.S.A., according to a HUD, April, 2003 report by HUD Assistant Secretary Michael Liu to Congress.

CHA’s Unspent HOPE VI

Public housing authorities across the country have been threatened with losing or have lost their HOPE VI funds because of delays in their projects. Yet, despite unspent HOPE VI funds dating as far back as 1998, CHA has yet to be threatened with takebacks, and officials say they are not worried about the future.

The planning and redevelopment process of many of the public housing agencies that received HOPE VI dollars is much slower than expected by HUD. And despite program deadlines, the vast majority of new or rehabilitated units are not complete, according to an April 2003 statement by HUD Assistant Secretary Michael Liu [see inset on this page].

The Chicago Housing Authority is currently undergoing a massive, $1.6 billion plan to transform its long-time dilapidated public housing properties into mixed-income communities.

To date, CHA has received a total of $257.8 million in HOPE VI federal dollars for eight of its public housing sites in which redevelopment has begun or is in the planning stages.

In the May/June 2003 issue of Residents’ Journal (“HOPE VI on the Chopping Block”), an investigation on the threat of the elimination of the federal funding program revealed that none of the HOPE VI funds for four CHA family housing sites had been spent for construction.

Nor had any of the HOPE VI funds for the same four public housing sites been spent on community support services for CHA residents. Each of the sites received a $35 million HOPE VI grant between 1998 and 2001.

HUD threatened to take back a HOPE VI grant from the District of Columbia Housing Authority because they failed to build replacement housing for 600 families they received money for in 1999. The public housing agency had only built two replacement housing units as of June 2003.

After five years, CHA is now moving on plans to build replacement housing for its ABLA Homes that it received $35 million in HOPE VI funding in 1998. To date, none of this money has been spent on construction. Yet, CHA had not been placed on notice, warning them of their funds being removed.

Even though other public housing authorities have been threatened with losing or have lost their HOPE VI funding, CHA is confident that they will not lose any money despite delays in their HOPE VI projects.

Kim Johnson, the assistant press secretary for CHA, said during a phone interview in mid-January that the public housing agency is not in danger of losing any of its HOPE VI funding for their redevelopment projects.

“Because HUD understands the lengthy process in which to get redevelopment projects finished, at this particular juncture we’re okay. We have been able to close 22 mixed-income deals.

“They’ve not taken any money away from us,” she said.

Johnson added that they are currently in line with HUD’s assessments of HOPE VI project deadlines.

“I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘on schedule’,” she said.

HUD’s Illinois spokesperson Anne Scherrieb confirmed Johnson’s statement.

“To the best of my knowledge, they are not in danger of losing any funds,” she said.

A Local Advisory Council President’s Concern
Recently, the CHA Board of Commissioners approved and confirmed for a second time the extension of a “Letter of Intent of the Development of the Madden Park/Ida B. Wells/Darrow Homes for Phase IA” that was first authorized in December, 2001.

The final extension will allow the developers, Madden Wells Phase 1A Associates, LLC, “To continue to meet the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s (IHDA) site control requirements” through August 2004. The developers received an allocation of low-income housing tax credits from IHDA for construction of affordable housing units at the New Madden Wells. Affordable housing is reserved for people who earn between 80 and 120 percent of the median income in the Chicago region.

The groundbreaking for construction of new public, affordable and market rate housing was to begin at the site in 2003, according to Eunice Crosby, the Local Advisory Council president of Madden Park Homes, who speaks on behalf of the current and former residents at the redevelopment site. This added delay is not sitting well with her.

A current view of the Madden Park Homes. This landspace remains empty of the replacement public housing units scheduled to be built in 2003. Photo by Mary C. Johns

“I don’t like what’s going on, because it’s nothing like when we started out. This thing has changed from the very beginning. We don’t have the same developer. We don’t have the same plan. Nothing is like when we started out,” Crosby said.

“I even fought the issue of them not even wanting to build too many 4 bedrooms…

“When we started out, this was a great plan. Now, I have to see it.” Crosby appeared puzzled as to why the developers were given an extension and why no replacement housing was being built.

“I still don’t understand why they’re given an extension. We were already supposed to be breaking ground. The Darrow Homes are gone and Madden is gone, so why [aren’t] you building something,” Crosby said.

“And they are not supposed to bring nothing else down until they build something.”

All that remains of the public housing complex are residents living in town homes situated on a stretch of land that runs along Lake Park Place just east of Cottage Grove Avenue and 39th Street.

Crosby, who lives in one of the town homes, said that she and the other families remaining at the delayed redeveloped public housing site are expected to relocate sometime in 2005.

The remaining residents living in these town homes that are part of what's left of the Madden Park Homes are expected to be relocated sometime in 2005. Photo by Mary C. Johns

But she doesn’t like the prospect of CHA tearing down her and the others’ home of many years, in which she alleges much money was personally spent on the maintenance of the town homes.

“We’re supposed to be going in 2005. But my issue is, why take them down when the housing market is already null and void,” she said.

“To me it’s senseless. They are town homes; they’re not just row houses. And for the design of the development that is coming back, everything is stuck together anyway. So it will fit, in my opinion,” declared Crosby.

Under Phase 1A of the New Madden Wells mixed-income community, approximately 163 rental housing units are projected to be built. There will be 63 public housing units, 52 affordable units and 48 apartments will be market units, according to the CHA Board-approved document requesting ratification to extend the letter of intent for the development of Phase IA for the New Madden Wells.

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