Where are CHA’s Residents?


On April 14, Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan announced the results of an “exhaustive tracking process and data analysis” that looked at where its former residents are and how they are doing.

In releasing the information, Jordan said he was aiming to correct misimpressions of agency’s progress on its 12-year-old Plan for Transformation.

Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan talking to reporters about his knowledge of where relocated tenants are, during his press conference resident relocations under the Plan for Transformation, at CHA downtown headquarters on April 14, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Johns

“There’s a myth out there that we don’t know where our families are,” Jordan said. “We do know where these families are.”

When the CHA’s Plan for Transformation was launched in 1999, the agency pledged to demolish its high-rises, re-build mixed-income communities where the developments once stood, and allow former residents to move back. To ensure former tenants could return, CHA also pledged to keep track of them. There were approximately 25,000 residents in the family developments, scattered site housing, and senior buildings when the Plan for Transformation began, according to the CHA.

But if Jordan’s press conference was intended to dispel the notion that CHA doesn’t know where its former families are, his own numbers didn’t quite back him up. On page 3 of CHA’ report, it states that “(2,202) have not responded to CHA outreach and thus their location is unknown.”

In July 2009, the CHA even placed ads in local newspapers searching for 3,200 relocated families they lost track of. CHA’s press release adds that “CHA and a private contractor exhausted every means to identify the whereabouts of former residents. And while these former residents have been non-responsive, they retain the option for reinstatement should they make contact with CHA.”

I asked Jordan how the agency lost track of the tenants in the first place, since many of those families received Housing Choice Vouchers formerly known as Section 8, where they have to pay a portion of the tenants’ rent.

“People move around,” Jordan said. “And they move extensively. And the responsibility of those families is to consistently let us know where they’re going. And we understand their mitigating circumstances that may cause families to forget or not be able to contact us. So we used the media to help us track those families.”

Jordan went on to say some tenants for have moved out on their own, have been evicted, or have died, while some still have Housing Vouchers.

Jordan also said that there is also some commonly held beliefs that most of the tenants were forced out of the city.

“This report fully refutes those claims,” he said.

An Update on Relocation

The CHA “Plan for Transformation: An Update on Relocation” report states that of the original 25,000 households in good standing that lived in CHA housing in October 1999, 8,300 were residents of senior housing and approximately 16,500 resided in family or scattered-site developments.

Today, nearly 60 percent – or 9,388 of them – remain in CHA’s system, either by renting in a CHA development or renting through CHA’s voucher program. 3,395 or 36 percent of these residents currently live in the remaining traditional family properties.

1,896 or 20 percent of them live in the newly created mixed-income communities, and 4,097 of them are renting in the private market using a CHA voucher. In addition, of the 4,097 households currently using a CHA voucher, only 60 families are renting in the suburbs and only 11 reside outside of Illinois.

Jordan said that during the first years of the Plan, residents who left developments tended to cluster nearby.

But Jordan maintained that things have changed and tenants have moved to a greater variety of areas.

“This trend is different,” Jordan said. “Now, the families reside in 75 of the city’s 77 neighborhoods.”

However, CHA’s own report shows that former residents are still concentrated in low-income areas on the South and West sides. The report states that just 35 percent of the families currently using CHA vouchers “moved to areas where poverty rates were below 23 percent.”

Jordan said the families chose the areas in which they moved.

“We do provide them with mobility counseling. But at the end of the day, it’s that family’s decision as to where they went and where they moved,” Jordan said.

1,240 of the families, which is 7 percent of the families relocated, currently rent in the private market without a CHA subsidy, “but remain in contact with CHA, having expressed a desire to return to CHA housing at some time in the future.”

Another 1,307 or 8 percent of them are now living in the private market without a CHA subsidy after moving on from public housing. 1,221 residents have died and 1,488 have been evicted.

Jordan also said that the vast majority of seniors reside in the same properties where they lived in 1999. The remaining seniors either died or moved or are living without a CHA subsidy.

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