Transforming CHA: Bush Team Keeps CHA Waiting


Some 2,000 families of the Chicago Housing Authoritys Stateway Gardens, Rockwell Gardens and Robert Taylor Homes may have to wait for the funds for new housing at their developments, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials.

HUD officials confirmed in early February that the Notices for Funding Availability (NOFA) for approximately $105 million in HOPE VI funds for redevelopment of the Stateway Gardens, Robert Taylor Homes and Rockwell Gardens communities had been withdrawn by the administration of President George W. Bush.

CHA expects to apply for $35 million for each development, according to CHA spokesperson Derek Hill. Each development Robert Taylor previously received an $18 million HOPE VI grant but CHA is expected to apply for additional funding for the program.

Donna Kack, an official from HUD’s HOPE VI office in Washington, D.C., said the NOFAs’ withdrawal was a normal course of action when a new presidential administration takes office.

“Although the NOFA was just about ready to be published, it’s been withdrawn along with lots of other notices to give the new administration time to review it, she said.

“There’s a new secretary here. He or anybody that can give point can review the NOFA and decide whether they want it to go ahead or not.

Francine Washington, the Local Advisory Council president for Stateway Gardens, said the delay in publication of the NOFAs will benefit the residents. She said that it would give residents of her development more time to plan for their future mixed-income community.

“(The delay) will give us more time to work on the plan. I figure they’re going to delay it until August or September. That will give us more time to come up with a better plan, Washington said.

The CHA Board of Commissioners approved developers for the Rockwell Gardens, Stateway Gardens and Robert Taylor Homes projects at a Feb. 20 board meeting.

The board approved a team including the Davis group, Walsh Construction, Mesa Development, Kimball Hill Homes and William Moorehead and Associates for Stateway Gardens; a team headed by East Lake Management and Development for Rockwell Gardens; and a team headed by Brinshore-Michael Development for Robert Taylor.

The HOPE VI funds are a critical part of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s $1.5 billion plan to rehab or redevelop all of CHA’s 25,000 occupied units. At the time the plan was announced, CHA officials said they would use their annual operating funds and special grants from HUD to compose the $1.5 billion.

In 1999, Residents’ Journal interviewed (now former) HUD Assistant Secretary Harold Lucas, who said the $1.5 billion was not guaranteed and depended on the U.S. Congress.

CHA spokesperson Derek Hill said the agency planned on applying for approximately $105 million in HOPE VI funds for the redevelopment of Rockwell, Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway. When asked if CHA had alternate sources of funding if the HOPE VI grants are not approved ultimately, Hill expressed confidence.

I will not speculate on a what if because were too positive over here at the CHA, said Hill. “We think we have the $1.5 billion wrapped up in a bag and we can do exactly what we promised everyone in public housing that we will do.

Hill said the plans for redevelopment including demolition of buildings – are moving forward.

Its not stopping anything right now. Our plan for transformation remains. Nothing is changing, he said.

Hill said CHA expects to receive the HOPE VI grant ultimately and doesn’t feel that the withdrawal of the NOFA will delay the redevelopment.

“We are hoping that it won’t affect the residents whatsoever. We fully expect to get the HOPE VI grant,” Hill said. The longer the Bush administration reviews the NOFA, the longer it will take before CHA can apply for HOPE VI funding for its developments. This, in turn, can mean a longer wait for residents of Stateway and Rockwell to relocate back into mixed-income communities.

But Stateway’s Washington likes the delay in the NOFA’s publication. Washington said the delay will give Stateway residents a chance to have greater input in the process.

“If it went on schedule in May, we would have been rushing and putting together a crappy package,” Washington said. Residents of Stateway are well organized and aware of the upcoming redevelopment. More than 400 residents came to a late January HOPE VI meeting.

Washington said her residents would rally against the CHA if residents did not have enough control over the redevelopment process.

The residents trust (their leadership) to do the right thing. And if we had to go up to CHA, all my residents would come out and march, she said.

In 2000, Washington said the relocation of residents from several Stateway buildings slated for closure to other buildings was delayed because residents did not have input in the effort.

“If (CHA) could control the process, my people would have been mistreated and they would have been displaced. They would have set them out there and half-stepping, Washington said.

“So we wanted to make sure (the residents) had everything they had coming to them and then some.”

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