August 5, 2002
- Meghan K. Harte
- Mary E. Wiggins
- Richard M. Wheelock
- Robert D. Whitfield
Re: Independent Monitor’s Report No. 2
Our agreement provides that I will consult with representatives of CHA and CAC to convey any interim recommendations I may have for improvements in the Phase II Relocation process. Report No. 1 was submitted to you on July 24. I now submit Report No. 2:
In my first report (par. 1), I called attention to the need for additional relocation counselors at Stateway Gardens. Discussions in which we have participated at various weekly team meetings and with others involved in the relocation process lead me to conclude that the problem of inadequate numbers of counselors is not limited to Stateway Gardens, but exists at other sites which are slated for demolition in Phase II. Within the past few weeks contracts with additional counseling agencies have been approved by the CHA Board. This is a step in the right direction, but taken at so late a date it is doubtful the new personnel will make a material difference in Phase II. If the CHA approval process was an impediment to earlier approval of these contracts, steps should be taken to streamline the process for the future.
Another problem which I mentioned in my first report (par. 4) was that weekly meetings of the relocation staff were cancelled when for various reasons the relocation project manager was unable to attend. We have found that this situation exists in a number of developments. For example, weekly meetings were cancelled at Cabrini on July 10 and 17; at Ickes on July 11 and 18 and August 1; at Taylor A and B on July 11 and 18; and at ABLA-Jane Addams and Bridgeport on July 9, 16 and 23. These cancellations have the potential for slowing relocation and jeopardizing timely follow through in this complex process.
The current timing for the Phase II process appears to present a major problem in six developments. CHA relocation staff personnel continually emphasize the need for speed in moving the residents from the buildings. They insist that the CHA must adhere to target dates for having the buildings empty and ready for demolition. We have been told that the past delays and current slow pace of HCVs being issued by CHAC has caused a further squeeze on the time schedule. This situation has the potential to lead to number of very serious problems, and to expose CHA management to the charge that greater emphasis is being placed on having the buildings vacated by predetermined dates – which do not appear to have any overriding significance – than on assuring the orderly, thoughtful, efficient and compassionate relocation of the residents. This situation is especially marked in the developments listed below, showing the average number of families to be moved each week between July 29 and the announced target date of September 30 for emptying the buildings:
Development Families left as of the week of 7/29/02 Families to be moved per week (average) Bridgeport 108 12 Ickes 106 11 to 12 Stateway Gardens 110 12 Taylor A 86 9 to 10 Taylor B 87 9 to 10 Washington Park 64 7
It is my understanding that the schedule is even more restricted than illustrated in this chart. Real target dates for emptying the buildings are probably earlier than stated above. I have been told that when a building is from 85 to 90% empty, it is no longer safe for remaining families to stay.
It has been discussed at team meetings that on August 15, the moves to make-ready units will be expedited for families who have selected public housing and for those who are still in the early stages of the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) process.
Among the difficulties I foresee as a result of this situation for families in these developments who have chosen HCVs, either temporary or permanent, are the following:
The tight schedule puts pressure on the relocation counselors to select potential rental sites with great haste, with inadequate attention paid to the quality or appropriateness of placements. The lack of adequate numbers of relocation counselors, mentioned above, makes it more difficult for the relatively few current counselors, even with the best of intentions, to take a reasonable amount of time with each family, and attempt to present housing options best tailored to each familys individual circumstances. We have been advised that the counselors are paid on the basis of the number of families placed in HCV units, which if true could motivate them to recommend units in areas and with landlords who are ready to accept HCV applicants from public housing. In light of the time schedule, it would be natural for counselors to contact landlords with whom they already placed families from public housing, in communities which already have substantial concentrations of low income and minority residents. Counselors may avoid landlords who may have more attractive housing in more appropriate locations, but who may resist public housing applicants. Counselors may thus have neither the time nor the economic motivation to identify and pursue areas in the City or suburbs with which they are not readily familiar, or in which they have not in the past placed HCV families from public housing.
A related problem is the restricted market for public housing residents seeking HCV rentals, whether temporary or permanent, owing in part to racial and economic discrimination among landlords. It has been widely reported that many landlords, especially those in communities with little or no present racial integration, resist or refuse HCV applicants from CHA developments. The current time schedule precludes any organized effort to address this problem.
We have been told by representatives of several housing advocacy groups and experts that the result of these problems taken together will be that the current vertical ghettos will be replaced with horizontal ghettos, made up overwhelmingly of African-American families at or below the poverty level. If the preceding analysis is accurate, some families who have chosen HCVs will be placed in rental units that may not be appropriate for their needs or the best they could obtain if more time was taken to assist in the relocation process; other families will be relocated to make-ready units in public housing developments pending their locating a unit in the private market, resulting in two moves instead of one. The current deadlines for emptying the buildings will be a driving force causing these situations to occur.
The current tight schedule for emptying the Phase II buildings also has the potential for causing unnecessary hardships on families who have opted to relocate temporarily or permanently to public housing, as well as those who chose HCV but were found ineligible and therefore will be returned to public housing. One of the reasons is the slow pace at which replacement housing units are being constructed for these families, except perhaps the housing being constructed under consent decrees for Horner and for certain Cabrini buildings. It is our understanding that very few units have been constructed or contracts let for replacement units for CHA residents, and that a portion of the planned construction will involve site specific criteria which many families may not be able to meet. The current lack of availab
le new construction will result in delays between the time families will return to permanent public housing, and even greater delays for families who, although lease compliant, do not meet site specific criteria of newly constructed units.
In order to avoid these undesirable results, I recommend the following:
First, that CHA management revise the current target dates for emptying the buildings in the six developments listed above to dates that are consistent with the objective of relocating the families in a more deliberate and compassionate manner.
Second, that prompt steps be taken to buttress the HCV program, to the end that adequate numbers of counselors be enlisted, that CHACs processing of HCVs be expedited, and that CHA assure that counselors are placing emphasis on the quality of the relocations rather than the number of families moved.
Third, that CHA management consider (1) engaging in legal proceedings to enforce the law requiring landlords to rent on a non-discriminatory basis, including the Chicago ordinance prohibiting discrimination against HCV holders, and (2) mounting a public relations campaign to encourage communities and landlords to make decent housing available on an non-discriminatory basis to public housing residents.
Fourth, that prompt steps be taken to synchronize the demolition of old and construction of new public housing units, to the end that the residents who are to remain in public housing will have permanent units available, and will not have to reside in make-ready units for extended periods.
These recommendations will apply with equal force to the relocations in Phase III and later years.
In paragraph 5 of my first report I called attention to a situation at Ida B. Wells involving inaccurate make-ready addresses. We have learned that this also occurred in Taylor A and B. Apparently this did not result from a series of inadvertent errors, but rather was planned at some level within CHA. It is our understanding that the team members are aware of this problem and that it will be remedied promptly, so that accurate make-ready addresses are used and families are not misled or upset by wrong or inappropriate addresses.
A series of particularly distressing incidents involving street gangs at several developments has come to my attention.
- The building manager of Taylor B, 4950 S. State, stated at the weekly meeting on July 25, 2002 that the move out process might be impeded because gangs control the use of the elevators; she has arranged to have personnel from the elevator company come to the buildings on the days of the moves to assure the movers access to the elevators.
- At the Taylor A weekly meeting on July 25, a representative of Changing Patterns stated that on certain days their personnel have been denied access by gang members to the buildings located at 4950 S. State and 4525 and 4555 S. Federal.
At the weekly meeting of Taylor B on August 1, it was reported that a resident was recently moved to a make-ready unit at Dearborn, and that because her male friend was connected with the gang that rivals the predominant gang at Dearborn, violence ensued and serious injuries were inflicted on the friend. It was also reported that this problem potentially involves residents of Taylor who may be relocated to Ickes. We understand that the team members are aware of the need for care in selecting the locations of make-ready units, having in mind gang rivalries.
I assume that CHA management is attempting to solve these and similar problems. One solution may be to request that police monitor the buildings involved on a 24-hour basis until it is clear that the residents and their guests may have access to the buildings and the elevators free from interference of gang members. However, in making this suggestion I do not intend to minimize the complexity of dealing with the gangs, and that the better part of wisdom may be to finish the moves without unnecessary confrontations. These problems will undoubtedly recur in the remaining buildings, and should be planned for and confronted directly in later phases of the relocation process.
You will undoubtedly recognize that some of the bases for the foregoing recommendations are not based upon personal knowledge, but rather upon what I have read or been told, or surmise. Accordingly, I urge you to call me in the event you or others of your staffs wish to discuss any of these matters with me, correct any of my assertions or assumptions, or otherwise take issue with my premises or conclusions.
Thomas P. Sullivan
Independent Monitor, Phase II
One IBM Plaza