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Alderpeople, Residents Blast Chicago Housing Authority Leader Over State Of City’s Public Housing

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CHICAGO – Alderpeople and Chicago Housing Authority residents stormed the agency when its top leader made a rare appearance before the city council on Tuesday.

Tracey Scott, the CEO of the CHA, has been peppered with complaints about the poor condition of the buildings, questions about the agency’s agreement to lease land to the Chicago Fire football team, and concerns about its vacant units during the state’s homeless crisis. city.

“I appreciate you confronting CHA,” Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) told Scott. “Because CHA is a monster. He’s a monster.

Dozens of senior citizens living in the Albany Terrace Apartments in South Lawndale came to the meeting to denounce the slum-like conditions in their building, saying his pipes burst during a cold snap in December. Residents were left in unsafe conditions, they said, with some using gas heaters to keep warm.

RELATED: CHA Senior Building went without heat for days during the freezing Christmas, residents say

Resident Charles Odum said elevators malfunctioned consistently, there were bed bugs in the building and there was no access to regularly functioning washers and dryers.

“We told them our disapproval,” Odum said of the meeting.

Scott noted the concerns and said the agency has received significant funds to redevelop the property starting next month.

But on Tuesday, aldermen jumped at the opportunity to annoy the agency and its leadership with broader questions and scathing comments about everything from the voucher sign-up process to complaints about building management.

A municipal agency overseen by a mayor-appointed board, the CHA owns approximately 20,000 apartments throughout the city. It also provides thousands of families with vouchers to help them rent out privately owned units. The agency receives the majority of its funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Recently, the agency has come under fire for its tepid response to the city’s growing population of residents suffering from homelessness and for a deal it made with the Chicago Fire to lease a large tract of land on the Near West Side that had been originally promised for public and affordable housing. The team plans to build a practice facility on the site.

RELATED: This land was promised for housing. Instead it will go to a professional soccer team owned by a billionaire.

“How is it that with tens of thousands of homeless people living in parks and shelters and couchsurfing, the city is ready to lease public housing land to a soccer team?” said resident Anthony Perkins.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), whose ward includes part of the former ABLA Homes development where the football facility is plannedrequested a full financial analysis of the housing authority’s lease with the football club.

“There are some serious concerns,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “My biggest concern is the gentrification of the ABLA housing area…. What we have seen, time after time, are agreements that have not included the community.”

Scott said the deal with Fire had not been finalized, but the team had agreed to lease the ABLA land for $1 million a year for 40 years. He said part of the proceeds would go to the renovation of the Jane Addams Homes, which are part of ABLA, and the Fire had agreed to provide a new basketball court, green space and internship and sports management job opportunities.

“We can meet our housing commitment in that area, even with the development of football,” Scott said.

RELATED: The Chicago Housing Authority continues to give away valuable land as HUD approves the deals

But some councilors weren’t convinced and continued to question the development during the three-hour hearing.

“It seems counterintuitive to me that CHA is going ahead with its goal of creating housing for people it has displaced and helping meet the needs for affordable housing, by selling off some of its land,” Hadden said.

The housing authority has also come under criticism of its “Plan for Transformation,” a massive city-wide redevelopment effort that began in 2000. Under the plan, the CHA displaced thousands of residents and demolished tens of thousands of units, promising to replace them with mixed-income homes. community.

But after more than two decades, the CHA has still not lived up to its promises to rebuild many of the sites.

“Can we say publicly that the transformation plan has failed? Of course he did,” Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20), said Tuesday.

Many aldermen wondered what the housing authority’s plan was for the approximately 2,000 vacant units it had across the city, particularly as the city’s population of people suffering from homelessness increases to more than 60,000 and housing rolls expectations continue to grow. Sigcho-Lopez asked why the housing authority is sitting on about $500 million in cash, while Ald. James Cappelman (46th), said many buildings in his ward don’t even have locks.

“It’s frustrating. I’m seeing this breakdown in communication,” Cappleman said.

Scott responded by saying that of the 2,000 vacant units, approximately 1,000 were undergoing redevelopment. He said the agency needs to keep money on hand to develop projects and that the CHA properties were currently at 90 percent occupancy.

Scott also blamed many of the agency’s limitations on Congress failing to expand low-income tax credits in its most recent budget, which he said were essential to the development of affordable housing.

“We are committed to mixed-income community development,” Scott said. “The fact of the matter is that money isn’t just sitting there to make it happen overnight.”

But the commissioner also followed up on concerns raised by tenants in the public comments section of the meeting, expressing exasperation at the Housing Authority’s waiting list, home ownership program and voucher system, lack of ADA access in buildings and the constant turnover of building managers.

“The homeownership program, the building managers, they suck,” Taylor said. “And the CHA sucks not to even let people know about it [home ownership] it’s an option. We know that home ownership leads to generational wealth. Are you saying blacks and browns shouldn’t have it? I know that’s not what you’re saying. But that’s what the system told us…it’s not about “we don’t have the answers.” This is a question of ‘we just don’t listen.’”

Alderman Roberto Maldonado (26th) harshly questioned Scott about the city’s complicated process for providing residents with rent subsidy vouchers. He called for a more centralized registration system that would inform potential tenants of the availability of public housing in their neighborhoods.

“I am very, very dissatisfied [the current] approach,” said Maldonado. “Navigating any CHA website is not an easy thing. And for the average potential tenant, it is even more difficult.”

Councilor Scott Waguespack (32nd) also criticized the housing authority’s management of the Lathrop Homes development in Lakeview, accusing the agency of neglecting the buildings to better incentivize their demolition.

“Lathrop has languished for far too long,” Waguespack said. “The people who live around there are disgusted… there’s an absolutely abysmal approach to maintaining those buildings on the south side of the site.”

“He’s too nice,” Ald added. Harry Osterman (48th), who chairs the city’s housing and real estate committee. The unfinished Lathrop redevelopment “sends a message to the community directly there, and to other communities, that the addition of affordable housing is not being cared for.”

Scott said the housing authority plans to make further progress at Lathrop in 2023.

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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