Return to [remote or in person] Committee on Housing and Real Estate
Live reporting by Rebecca Pritchard
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Vacant scattered site public housing, Waiting lists

Rebecca @attypritchard
Gooood afternoon Chicago! I’ll be live-tweeting today's Committee on Housing and Real Estate meeting for #CHIdocumenters @CHIdocumenters

12:47 PM May 8, 2024 CDT

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The meeting starts at 1. You can watch remotely here:
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Today's meeting will include the Bi-Annual CHA hearing. Tracey Scott, CEO of CHA, is set to testify. Read more from @BlockClubCHI here:…
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The broadcast has started:…
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The meeting finally started! @SigchoFor25 is calling to start the meeting. It sounds like there were issues with people not wanting the meeting to start. Alder Sigcho-Lopez is issuing a final warning that "anyone trying to disrupt will be removed from the chambers."
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Public comment begins. There are 30 commenters! There have been people waiting since 11 am. CHA residents are given priority.
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Alderman Sigcho Lopez requests for removals for disruptions once again.
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A resident of the 45th Ward refers to certain members of City Council as the "Sposato 16," likening them to the Vrdolyak 29, and admonishing them for blocking attempts toward improving affordability of housing.
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Multiple commenters talk about CHA's negligence toward its properties, mentioning unused acreage, vacant properties, and lack of response to issues at scattered site issues.
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President of Vivian Carter Apartments LAC talks about deaths from elevator malfunctions and brown water from the taps! He calls for a change at the head of CHA.
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A resident of the Dearborn Homes who has mobility issues and is frustrated with the cleanliness, lack of functioning elevators, and needing to stay home for weeks on end and cancel medical appointments as a result.
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Elevators not working specifically in CHA senior buildings is a very common remark among the commenters.
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Another common remark is lack of enforcement of laws that are meant to protect residents and maintain homes. "How can I expect a crook to hold a crook accountable?" says one commenter. Multiple bring up multiple different forms of discrimination including racism and ableism.
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A resident of Mercy Housing, a nonprofit operating some CHA residences, says after a nearby shooting they took the residents' keys away, leaving residents unsafe at the front door. It has been six months without keys!
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Another commenter who was on the CHA wait list for 9 years expresses frustration about the wait list, and the lease of unused CHA owned acres to Chicago Fire instead of using it for housing.
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George Blakemore is being removed.
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Bernadette Williams, President of Altgeld Murray Homes LAC, calls for a new head of CHA. Multiple commenters report that Tracey Scott does not meet with leaders of any of the Local Advisory Councils or the residents.
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Public comment ends after a passionate speech from Mr. Blakemore, who has returned. Now onto the subject matter hearing.
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CEO Scott now makes her presentation. She says CHA under her leadership is addressing historic problems within CHA and that public housing is severely underfunded across the country. The audience is clearly unhappy with her remarks.
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CHA has 247 wait lists specifically for public housing. There are currently 120k applicants on the wait lists. The Housing Choice Voucher wait list is closed and is currently at 22000 people on its wait list.
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Scott puts great effort into showing how much faster work has been done on building new units under her leadership than previous leadership. As far as unused land, for example that around Cabrini Green, she says CHA is looking for developers.
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She also addresses comments about renovating existing units and says renovations are underway. Several buildings have been fully rehabbed, there's an elevator project ongoing, new laundry machines have been installed, etc.
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Addressing customer service concerns, CHA is going to have a new website and will have a call center so that "the phone will actually be picked up."
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Alderman Villegas begins questions and specifically asks about a rumor about CHA taking a portion of the developer fee, which is meant to be an incentive for private developers to build affordable housing.
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CHA has to gather information to provide answers to questions about the development fees, but Scott says it is standard practice for housing authorities to share in development fees because it is on the housing authority's land.
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She says those fees go into "program income" which can be used to develop new housing and "other housing purposes."
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Alderwoman Fuentes tells a story about a woman in her ward whose son lost his hearing because roaches laid eggs in his ears!!! She tells this to emphasize that pests in a home are far more than just a nuisance.
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Alderwoman Fuentes asks about what land dispositions can be expected in the future.
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CEO Scott takes this opportunity to address the Chicago Fire deal and says, in front of homeless people who are on a wait list for public housing in a city that has lost almost 50k units, it directly benefits residents because they pay CHA $1m/yr.
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Alder Fuentes asks how much money CHA has in its reserves. Scott says CHA had money before she came in but they didn't by the time she came around in 2020. They have about a months' worth of reserves right now.
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When asked about mold in units, COO Eric Garrett says the way mold is handled in units varies on types of mold so sometimes it is appropriate to paint over mold. (One commenter mentioned she & her son developed over 20 allergies since moving into poorly maintained CHA property)
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Alderwoman Hadden continues to talk about maintenance and also brings up the residents' fear of retaliation! No question yet.
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Alderwoman Hadden asks about the elevator modernization project and asks about planning ahead for the finicky and expensive nature of maintaining elevators. COO Garrett says elevators will have a 2 year warranty and further maintenance will be in house.
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Hadden also asks about streamlining the 247 wait lists, which is difficult for people to navigate including alders helping their constituents. Scott says these are based on location preferences of applicants, and some have longer lists than others. Hadden says that's not clear.
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The estimated time for some locations is 25 years. 25 years!
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This isn't a new issue, obviously. Famously, Ald. Jeanette Taylor got a letter saying her application was selected from the waitlist after 20 years…
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We took a 5 minute recess. We return with Ald. Pat Dowell, who says she wishes we could have these meetings more often, maybe even quarterly.
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Ald. Dowell asks what is preventing addressing rodent abatement and back orders of supplies for housing. COO Garrett says management should never be saying to residents they don't have supplies and those should be arriving within 48 hours of orders being made.
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That being said, Garrett says door replacements are more involved as they are custom made and doors are back-ordered about 6-8 weeks.
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Ald. Dowell asks how CHA is attempting to lower the wait list for the Housing Choice Voucher list. Scott says 98% of vouchers are used and HUD does not issue new vouchers. New vouchers are a result of new construction, Scott says.
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Dowell also asks about her observation of an increase in substance abuse in senior buildings, asking if that's on CHA's radar. Scott says counseling services have been expanded, trauma informed care training is being used for staff, and staff is being expanded as well.
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Dowell next addresses vacant scattered houses and asks for CHA to provide to the committee dates of when those will be completed, as well as what management company will be/is responsible for those buildings.
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Scott now addresses a question about meeting with residents and leadership councils, but Scott says this is the first time she's heard that there was an issue. She says she meets with them all regularly, but that's not what the public comments said.
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Speaking to the elevator situation at Dearborn Homes, Garrett says it should have been built with more elevators and it is in their plan to build another elevator.
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Garrett says ultimately what CHA needs is more funding, more capital funding, particularly from HUD.