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by Claudia Morell – email@example.com
The City Council’s Housing Committee will hold a hearing this morning on an ordinance that seeks to give City Council more oversight of the Chicago Housing Authority and ensure the agency uses its resources to address the city’s public housing shortage.
Since this is a subject matter hearing, no vote will be taken, only testimony will be heard. But newly-appointed CHA CEO Eugene Jones, Jr. is expected to testify, Bob Fuller, a legislative aid for the committee confirmed yesterday afternoon.
The “Keeping The Promise” ordinance drafted by Ald. Joe Moreno (1) in partnership with the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of community organizations that work with low-income renters, accuses the CHA of failing to spend hundreds of millions in federal funds between 2009 and 2013. Citing data from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) in the preamble of the ordinance, Ald. Moreno accuses the CHA of not circulating roughly 13,000 funded housing vouchers and leaving 4,600 public housing units vacant over the same four-year period.
“Efforts by aldermen and community leaders to tighten the reins on the CHA have escalated in the wake of on-going revelations of serious performance problems, unorthodox accounting practices, and persistent governance deficiencies at the CHA,” the Chicago Housing Initiative said in a release issued in July when Ald. Moreno introduced the ordinance for a second time.
The same release also cites “FOIA research” that found CHA, “quietly redirected an additional $147 million from its housing programs in FY2012 to prematurely pay off CHA’s remaining bond debt,” in addition to using $53 million to make “excess contributions” to CHA’s pension funds. CHA began diverting those housing funds into its reserves after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave CHA “greater flexibility and less oversight under a federal deregulation program called Moving To Work,” the release says.
To address these shortcomings outlined in the preamble, including the concern that a reduction in federal oversight is the main culprit for the city’s public housing shortage, the ordinance seeks to establish a new chapter to the Municipal code to address those grievances.
The ordinance would require exhaustive quarterly updates from CHA to the Council’s Housing Committee detailing the status of and future plans for public housing. It would establish a framework for replacing public housing units on a one-for-one basis and put restrictions on land swap deals involving CHA-owned land. It would prohibit the city from participating in land transfers or approving planned development applications on CHA-owned land until the agency details how it plans make up for the lost housing in the deal. This particular piece of the ordinance is significant in light of an ongoing redevelopment plan for the the Lathrop Homes in Ald. Moreno’s ward on the city’s northwest side, which is slated for Plan Commission consideration tomorrow.
The new regulations would apply to any owner of public housing units in the city, including property managers, agents exercising control over a property, or legal title holder.
The City Council’s Legislative Reference Bureau warns, “some of the controls and duties of the ordinance...may be beyond the City’s legal authority,” because CHA operates as a separate city agency.