Don’t Rock The Boat

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Is it a coincidence or do Chicago Housing Authority residents experience a lot of hassles when they challenge their landlord?

Many residents believe that if you speak out against some of the actions of CHA, your living status may be threatened. As a resident of CHA, it is hard to be outspoken. Many residents, especially the community activists who fight for residents’ rights, have found that out.

Lakefront Community Organization (LCO) Executive Director Izora Davis (also a board member of We The People Media) has now joined that illustrious group.

Davis recently had to go to court because CHA tried to evict her under the controversial “One Strike and You’re Out” law. One Strike, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, states that a public housing resident can be evicted for the criminal activity – or even the alleged criminal activity – of a family member.

Davis faced One Strike because of an incident involving her son, who does not and never has lived with her in her current unit in Lake Parc Place. Her son was never on her lease. He is authorized to come to her apartment and check up on her because she has health issues.

CHA declined to comment for this story but Davis explained that her son lives with her daughter and has all of his identification at that address. Davis went to court and submitted proof of her son’s address and stressed that he is not a public housing resident. Davis said that if her son had been living with her, his income would have been included in her rent.

“Management knows that he does not live with me,” she said.

On Sept. 4, Davis returned to court and the One Strike case against her was dropped. Although she was elated by the victory, Davis said, “My name was scandalized. It is unfair.” She said she spent unnecessary money for attorney’s fees. Over the past 15 years, Davis has spent a lot of time in court as executive director of LCO. Davis has been fighting for the hundreds of former residents of the four Lakefront Properties buildings that were evacuated in 1985, stood vacant for 12 years and were imploded in 1998.

Davis suspected that the One Strike case was an effort to discredit her and stop her from fighting back. If she was forced to move, then the battle with CHA would die down.

Davis said what CHA tried to do was “not business. It was personal. Deal with me. Do what is right. Give residents services entitled to them. The replacement units were supposed to be built unit for unit.”

A long time resident of CHA told me when you have a gripe with CHA, watch and see what happens. Especially when CHA had its own police force, the police will be at your house for some reason,” she said.

“One Strike gave them the legal recourse to throw out a lot of residents.”

But the One Strike case against Davis did not even slow her down.

The Struggle
Early one morning in December 1998, four CHA buildings were imploded on the lakefront. CHA and HUD officials called the event “Promises made Promises kept.”

However, the former residents of those buildings were not satisfied. Many of them were there with picket signs protesting the demolition. They said that when they moved out of those buildings in 1985 and 1986, CHA promised to repair them.

As long as those boarded-up buildings stood there, the residents thought they would remind CHA that they had not done what they agreed to.

The residents originally lived a six-building development called the Lakefront Properties. They moved out with the promise that all six buildings would be repaired. What they got instead was Lake Parc Place – two buildings just north of the imploded ones at 3939 and 3983 S. Lake Park.

Some of the former Lakefront Properties residents live in Lake Parc Place, a mixed-income development. Others moved to other CHA properties or took Section 8 vouchers.

The former residents are represented by the LCO and the outspoken Davis. Davis is a former resident of 4040 S. Oakenwald Blvd., the one building of the four that were imploded that stood by itself. The other three buildings were situated in a horseshoe.

To date, Davis has a database of the former residents – “relocatees” – who are still eligible to move into replacement units. Over the 15 years since the relocatees moved out, Davis has held regular meetings and maintained thorough records. She had over 100 signatures from a meeting she held in April and there have been several more meetings since then. Davis said that the people who attend are still very interested in living in the Kenwood-Oakland area.

According to Davis, CHA is saying that they cannot find the relocatees or there are not many left.

“CHA just wants the relocatees to forget about it,” Davis said.

The LCO and CHA are still fighting a battle in court. According to Davis, CHA signed an agreement but they keep trying to make changes. Davis has a copy of every petition or letter that was ever filed in court or signed, including the agreement signed by then-CHA Executive Director Joseph Shuldiner when the buildings came down. Davis wants CHA to stick to the agreement LCO signed with CHA and not try to make changes. That agreement was for 302 Section 8 certificates, 241 units in North Kenwood Oakland and 200 units outside the area.

To date, nothing has been built on the land where the four Lakefront Properties buildings once stood. Just a few units have been built in the Kenwood Oakland area.

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