In Search Of Scattered Site Housing


Inquiring minds want to know: When will Chicago public housing residents relocating from Chicago Housing Authority developments be able to move into the scattered site units that are currently available for occupancy?

Under a decades-old federal court decree known as the Gautreaux case, a judge ruled that new public housing should be scattered throughout the city, creating several thousand scattered site units. The units are low-rise town house-style structures in generally better condition than the high-rises. Twenty-five percent of CHA’s scattered site units are four bedrooms or larger, and 75 percent of the units are three bedrooms or larger.

And yet, residents are not selecting scattered site units as a relocation option. CHA officials contradict each other about whether the scattered sites units are available to the relocating residents. And relocation officials apparently are not informing residents about the scattered site units. Instead, the officials are focusing on available units in other CHA developments and Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers.

According to the CHA Plan for Transformation Year 2 Moving to Work Annual Plan 2001, of CHA initially planned to rehabilitate 400 of its 2,922 scattered site units in 2001. The document states “site assessments revealed that the majority of scattered sites are in better physical condition than originally estimated&.Therefore, the rehabilitation schedule of the scattered sites will be substantially accelerated. 800 units should be rehabilitated by the end of 2001.”

$77 million was allocated to rehab the scattered site units, which should be completed by 2003, according to a March 29, 2001 CHA press release.

But CHA has moved only a small number of residents so far and none are moving into the scattered site units. Many of the relocated residents have received Section 8 vouchers and the rest have moved into other CHA developments, according to a not-for-profit group which is monitoring the plan and CHAs own documents.

As of January 1, 2001, just 181 residents had been relocated as a result of redevelopment or building closure, according to the Metropolitan Planning Council. Eighty-four of those residents moved into the private sector with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers by March 31.

CHAs own projections show that no resident will get to move in to the rehabbed or vacant scattered site units in 2001. In 2002, CHA predicts it will move 2,684 resident households but only 200 will be moved into scattered site units. According to CHA officials, very few residents relocating from CHA family developments are choosing scattered sites as one of their permanent housing choices on the Housing Choice Surveys.

Maybe residents arent choosing scattered sites because, in at least some developments, CHA residents undergoing relocation are being told that scattered site housing is not a temporary relocation option. Scattered sites are listed, however, on the Housing Choice Survey as a temporary relocation option.

The Housing Choice Survey asks residents to “indicate 1 (one) housing site preference for temporary moves&.Identify a temporary public housing development/scattered site region.”

The Housing Choice Survey asks residents to make three selections for permanent housing after redevelopment. Scattered sites are one of the options listed. Residents may choose a Section 8 Housing Choice voucher as a temporary or permanent housing option.

But during a Housing Choice Survey Clinic this past June, I and other Madden Park residents were told that scattered site units were not an option for temporary housing.

I asked Sonya Franklin, one of the presenters at the Housing Choice Clinic from CHA’s Section 8 Relocation Department, why residents couldn’t choose scattered sites as a temporary relocation option since it was listed on the form. Franklin said CHA officials told her and other presenters that relocation into a scattered sites unit was not a temporary option.

“We were told that scattered sites were not being offered as a temporary choice,” said Franklin. Franklin added that residents could choose scattered site units as permanent choices.

Franklin said Madden Park residents choices for temporary relocation were Section 8 vouchers or relocation into one of three other family developments  Ida B. Wells, Dearborn Homes or Harold L. Ickes Homes.

This was the third housing choice survey that I had filled out since being told by the property managers in September 2000 that I had to move out of my building.

CHA Explains
CHA CEO Terry Peterson contradicted Franklin and said that he didn’t have the authority to offer scattered sites units as an option for relocating residents at all.

In late June, I asked Peterson why scattered site units were not a temporary housing choice option.

Peterson said that CHA would have to meet with Alex Polikoff, the lead attorney in the Gautreaux Decree, before the Scattered Site units could be an option for any relocation – permanent or temporary.

“Scattered Sites falls up under Gautreaux. That is what Alex Polikoff governs,” Peterson said.

“As it relates to scattered sites, we would have to get sign-off and work with Alex Polikoff in order to do that.

“And that is not something that Alex has agreed to do in terms of allowing scattered sites at this point in time to be used as a relocation source right now,” Peterson said.

Gautreaux Lawyer Explains
Polikoff said the Scattered Sites units could be used for those who want to make them their permanent home.

In early July, I asked Polikoff why scattered site units were not a temporary relocation source.

Polikoff said, “Residents would have to move again” if the units were a temporary housing source.

Polikoff said that scattered site units could be agreed upon as a temporary choice only if no resident chose scattered sites as a permanent housing selection on the Housing Choice Survey.

“If there aren’t people who are seeking scattered sites units for permanent residence, then we have no objections to their being made available for temporary.

“But if there are people who want them as permanent, they should go first,” said Polikoff.

Polikoff informed me that some scattered site units may also be available other than those scheduled for rehab.

“It’s not only if they are rehabbed. There are other scattered sites that become available on a turnover basis when a family moves out. So rehab isn’t the only way they might be available for permanent families,” Polikoff said.

Far Behind
In mid-summer, CHA was far behind in fulfilling its own goals for rehabbing the scattered site units.

In July, I asked CHA spokesman Francisco Arcaute if any scattered sites were available for occupancy.

“Yes,” he said. “We have 50 units completed so far scattered throughout the city. And 40 which should be completed shortly.”

Arcaute said 2,400 of the 2,922 scattered site units were occupied. He added that CHA planned to rehab 750 by the end of the year.

In late August, I asked CHA Chief of Operations Dwain Bailey why residents who chose the scattered site units as a permanent housing choice were not relocating into the available scattered site units.

Bailey maintained that residents did not know much about CHAs scattered site housing.

“There is a lot of information regarding Scattered Sites that needs to get out,” he explained. “(Scattered Sites) has not been a resource that a lot of residents are selecting.”

Bailey said CHA was currently figuring out what units would be available for residents relocating from CHA redevelopment sites.

“The process is still being defined,” he said.

“The way that we’re doing this is the people who have identified scattered sites as a permanent selection will get first priority to go into one of these rehabbed units.

“We’ll have to make sure that they get to these units,” said Bailey.

Because Madden Park is being redeveloped now, Bailey said he thinks those residents will be in a prime position for occupancy of scattered sites units.

“So, with this first group coming out of Madden Park, what were going to do is, there will be a meeting and we will have before you all of the addresses that have been rehabbed that are currently available to be occupied by relocates from Madden Park,” Bailey said.

As more residents are relocated, Bailey expects there will be competition for the available scattered sites units.

“The pool of people competing for scattered sites will also increase,” he said. “So it’s going to be kind of a competitive thing, I’m sure at some point, because a lot of people are going to want to go into scattered sites.”

What’s the holdup?

Since redevelopment began this year, several Madden Park residents in buildings scheduled for closure in 2001 have received Housing Choice vouchers and moved into the private market or into the Ida B. Wells development.

I am among the few who have asked for a scattered site unit. To date, I have yet to receive word about the availability of any scattered site housing for me to view.

But last fall, I was asked to view a unit in the Ida B. Wells development. I declined to look at the Wells unit since I did not select Wells as a relocation choice on any of the housing choice surveys that I filled out.

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