Report #4 of the Independent Monitor

October 9, 2002

To:

  • Meghan K. Harte
  • Mary E. Wiggins

cc:

  • R. Olomenji O’Connor
  • Richard M. Wheelock
  • Robert D. Whitfield

Re: Independent Monitor’s Report No. 4

Our agreement provides that I will consult with representatives of the CHA and the 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, Report No. 2 on August 5, and Report No. 3 on September 11. I now submit Report No. 4.

This is in the nature of a special report. Within the next month, I intend to submit a more comprehensive report with respect to Phase II, and recommendations for future years of the relocation project. However, I believe the subject of this report should not wait:

The entire process for the fourth year of the Plan for Transformation (Phase III), which is to occur during 2003, should be put into action now.

The single, most obvious defect I have observed in Phase II of the relocation plan has been the lack of sufficient time to accomplish the moves in an orderly, satisfactory and compassionate fashion. This has been apparent since I began my services as Monitor in July 2002, as I repeatedly observed problems that arose as a direct result of the rush to empty the designated buildings by September 30. So far as I can determine, the date to empty the buildings was selected without any relation to necessity. If the date was August 31, it could be explained by a desire to finish the moves before the start of a new school year. But September 30 the original date for most of the buildings in Phase II does not seem related to an objective reason, but rather appears to have been selected arbitrarily.

1. The belated, slow start

The entire moving process for Phase II was just getting into full swing in June 2002, while I was negotiating my contract with the CHA and the CAC. When my associates and I first began to attend team and building meetings in July, the process was still in the early stages. Relatively few moves occurred prior to August 1, only 60 days before the building-empty dates, as shown by the following chart :

Development Address Families Moved Through July 27
ABLA-Jane Addams 1433 W. 13th St. 98 of 139
Cabrini Extension North 1121 N. Larrabee. 3 of 23
Ickes 2282 S. Calumet 27 of 120
Stateway Gardens 3542-44 S. State 10 of 56
3547-49 S. State 15 of 73
Robert Taylor A 4525 and 4555 S. Federal 21 of 106
Robert Taylor B 4950 S. State 10 of 96
Washington Park 4120 S. Prairie 12 of 74
Ida B. Wells Homes Various addresses 4 of 25
Totals 200 of 712, about 28%

Thus, the remaining 512 families about 72% of those to be relocated in Phase II had to be moved from these buildings within approximately 60 days.

2. The process for residents who chose to remain in public housing.

Residents who chose to remain in replacement public housing had to go through verification of lease compliance, and then assignment of a make-ready unit.

  • By all accounts, the cure of non-lease compliance usually was a slow process. It often took weeks or months for the residents to become compliant, by making payment plans for back rent and utility bills, or by resolving housekeeping issues. Many families remained non-compliant/curable until July or August.
  • Ninety days prior to the targeted building-empty dates, residents who chose temporary public housing were assigned to make-ready units, usually on-site or at Dearborn or Ickes, and occasionally at LeClaire Courts and Altgeld Gardens. The assigned make-ready units were often not ready for occupancy. Many of the units required substantial rehabilitation; some are still being worked on as I write this report.
  • In many cases, few choices were given to the residents, and the units were sometimes in filthy, run-down buildings, with unreliable elevators.
  • Many residents believed they and their families would be placed in physical danger if they were relocated to public housing buildings inhabited or controlled by gang members.

3. The process for residents who chose Housing Choice Vouchers

The residents choosing Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) encountered even greater hurdles and delays:

  • The residents were checked by the buildings property management for lease compliance. CHAC then conducted a police background check. The residents were then interviewed by CHAC personnel at 1000 S. Wabash. The process was often delayed because residents failed to attend on the day fixed, apparently owing to their own neglect or to not having received letters from CHAC setting the dates of the interviews (many residents had no telephones or reliable mail service).
  • Once approved, the residents were certified eligible by CHAC and issued a HCV. Arrangements were then made by representatives of E.F. Ghoughan (EFG) or Changing Patterns for Families, Inc. (CPF), to have residents taken to inspect available rental units. During Phase II, EFG and CPF were the only two counseling agencies available to assist in the HCV process. Those agencies, with a limited number of available counselors and landlord contacts, were stretched thin. The amount of time their counselors could spend with each family was necessarily reduced as September 30 neared (the contract between CHA and CPF provides that each family shall receive information about five separate housing options), and the time frame for residents to make housing choices, for CHAC to conduct inspections, and for moving arrangements to be made, became even more abbreviated.
  • When a unit was located and approved by the resident, CHAC representatives inspected the unit to determine whether it met housing quality standards. If it did not, but could be put into acceptable condition, the landlord was notified and given time to make the specified changes and repairs, and CHAC then reinspected the unit. After the unit was approved for quality, CHAC representatives negotiated the rent with the landlord. A moving date was then scheduled.

It often happened that, owing to the length of this process, families who chose an HCV were unable to locate and move to an acceptable rental unit by the building-empty date, whereupon the families were moved to a make-ready unit in public housing, to be moved again when an appropriate HCV rental unit was found and approved.

4. Moving conditions.

The moving conditions in many buildings, both for residents moving to make-ready units and those moving into the private market with HCVs, were often chaotic, difficult or impossible.

  • In some buildings, gangs prevented elevator use on moving days.
  • On other occasions, the elevators were inoperable. During the week of September 22 the power in 4525 S. Federal (Taylor A) failed intermittently, and an aged fuse blew out at Stateway Gardens, which took many days to be replaced. In the meantime, without elevator service, moves were done by carrying residents goods down stairwells, sometimes as many as 10 stories.
  • At times at Stateway Gardens the moving vans had no adjustable ramp, which resulted in damage to residents furniture.

It is apparent that the moves were directed to proceed despite the
se problems because the targeted closing dates loomed.

5. Lack of resident cooperation

Sometimes the residents were themselves responsible for delays. In a significant number of instances, residents resisted or failed to cooperate in the relocation process. They did not attend meetings, fill out forms, come to scheduled interviews, pack for their moves, respond to notices, or otherwise cooperate in the moving process. A few actively resisted moving. The members of the relocation teams were patient with these persons, and tried to accommodate their needs and concerns, but recalcitrant residents led inevitably to delays in the process.

6. Emphasis at weekly team meetings on number of families moved.

My staff and I attended many weekly meetings at the various developments, during which the relocation teams responsible for the moves from each building talked about the progress of relocation. There was a constant drumbeat about the need to move all residents by September 30. As time went on, and the target dates neared, the main topic of discussion was the number of families remaining and when they would move. Very seldom during August or September did the participants discuss the quality or location of the units to which the residents were to move, although quality was sometimes addressed when a unit failed the CHAC inspection and was therefore delaying a move. But by and large, the emphasis was on quantity of moves, not the quality or appropriateness of the new location or unit.

As I stated in my third report (9/11/02, p. 4), I believe the CHA relocation staff did their very best to carry out the moving process in a proper manner. The root problem was that the marching orders from the CHA leadership were to clear the buildings by September 30, and like good soldiers the staff members did their best to comply.

7. Counseling for opportunity areas.

A major casualty of the abbreviated time table for emptying the buildings in Phase II was counseling regarding moves to opportunity areas (sometimes called mobility counseling), that is, moves to areas with restricted numbers of families with low incomes and African-American residents. These moves are designed to assist public housing residents in moving from high poverty, racially segregated areas to economically and racially integrated areas, and thus have an opportunity to move up the social and economic ladder.

The applicable contracts provide that this counseling will be made available to all interested families who are to be relocated. (Moving to Work Demonstration Agreement, Memorandum of Approval and Resident Protection Agreement Part II, par. B 2; CHA Leaseholder Housing Choice and Relocation Contract, par. 6 a.) The CHA-CPF contract contains extensive provisions about extended counseling and follow-up services for families moving into opportunity areas. This type of counseling requires one-on-one sessions, motivation, education and training. It takes time and personalized interaction between counselors and families.

To my knowledge, no real effort was made by either CPF or EFG the only two counseling agencies in Phase II to explain the concept of moves to opportunity areas to residents who chose HCVs. The foreshortened schedule in Phase II made this a practical impossibility. At the many meetings we attended with residents and representatives of CHA, EFG, CPF and the Local Advisory Councils, we heard only a few vague and fleeting references to moves to opportunity areas, but usually none at all. We doubt that the fleeting references that were made, in the midst of much other information being conveyed, registered meaningfully with the residents present. And, of course, many residents did not attend these meetings.

I have been told that the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, which administers the opportunity move program, was not called upon this year to offer counseling to any of the Phase II residents.

8. The Net Result

The net result of all of this has been that a great many of the moves were jammed into the last eight weeks of the Phase II process, with a disproportionate number in the last five weeks, and with many families still to be moved under very short deadlines. To illustrate the point, of the 712 families scheduled for Phase II relocation from the buildings named at pages 3 and 4 above:

  • The Plan for Transformation involved the entire year 2002.
  • About 35% of the families were moved during the last 5 weeks before the dates set for emptying the buildings.
  • More than one-half of the families were moved during the last 10 weeks before the target dates.
  • Approximately 115 families are still to be moved beginning October 7, with the relocation teams facing tight revised building-empty dates.

Some of the results of this hurried relocation follow:

  • Many residents were unable to conduct a thoughtful, careful search for a new residence – the kind of search we would want to make if we were moving to a new home.
  • Some families were moved to buildings that were in a decrepit condition. Others were relocated to units in buildings they thought unsafe because of gang problems. We were told of one severe beating which resulted, and we have been warned that more violence will come.
  • The selection of HCV locations necessarily was hurried. Many residents, faced with a last minute crunch caused by the impending building-empty dates, were pressured to choose units which were located in neighborhoods already high in poverty and African-American concentration. We were told that in some instances CHAC inspections were bypassed entirely to enable HCV moves to occur on the deadline date, although the units were later found to be in satisfactory condition; we were also told that other residents were not even given the opportunity to view the unit into which they were moved (we have not verified the accuracy of these reports).
  • Many families with HCVs had to make hurried choices in order to avoid the prospect of two moves first to a make-ready unit, and later to the private sector.
  • As a practical matter, counseling for opportunity moves was a dead letter.

Condensing so many moves into such a short time period had the inevitable result of depriving the counselors and residents of the opportunity to make a thorough and thoughtful survey of available housing.

The relocation process does not have to work this way. A far preferable way to handle future moves is to have them spaced out evenly during the year, with special regard for families with school aged children. This will obviously require a much earlier beginning date for the entire process, and later dates for emptying the buildings.

9. The 2003-Phase III Plan for Transformation.

A draft of the Plan for Transformation for FY 2003 has been distributed. The period for comments on the Plan closed on September 30. The draft states that in 2003, CHA will move 1,375 families to other public housing or to private housing with HCVs (p. 86). Those buildings and units involved are identified in Appendix 9 of the draft Plan for 2003 as follows:

Development Address Occupied Units (7/1/02
ABLA-Jane Addams 1433 W. 13th St. 74
Cabrini Extension South 374 W. Oak St. 55
Green Homes 630 W. Evergreen Ave. 51
1340 N. Larrabee St. 62
Horner Homes 1850 W. Washington Ave. 36
Robert Taylor A 4037 S. Federal St. 107
Robert Taylor B 4947 S. Federal St. 101
49
46 S. State St.
98
Trumbull Park Homes Various addresses 319
Ida B. Wells Homes Various addresses 156
Wentworth Gardens Various addresses 316
Totals 1,375

The Phase II relocation plan for 2002 included 71 families at 340 S. Western in the Rockwell Gardens development, and 106 families at various addresses in the Lowden Homes development. The 180 day notices for those families were issued in early August, 2002, with planned building-empty dates in February, 2003. In addition, under the Phase II plan, there are 74 families to be moved from 2514 W. Van Buren in the Rockwell Gardens development. Those families have not yet been issued a 180 day notice; I presume they too will be relocated during 2003.

Thus, there are potentially a total of 1,626 families to be relocated in 2003.

10. Recommendations for the timing of future relocation phases.

It is my considered and firm opinion that in order for relocation to proceed in a sensible, measured and compassionate fashion, the entire process ought to begin at least a year before the targeted building-empty dates.

Accordingly, I recommend:

  1. That at the October 15 meeting the CHA Board of Commissioners approve the 2003 Plan for Transformation as to those buildings over which there is no dispute.
  2. That the Board approve the Plan as to the balance of the buildings at the November meeting.
  3. That promptly after Board approval, notices be sent to all residents in those buildings, and the full relocation process be put into action immediately.
  4. That in no event should the Board approve relocation of a greater number of families in any year than can reasonably be expected to be handled in a measured fashion, without the kind of last-minute rush that characterized the Phase II relocation.
  5. That for internal CHA purposes the targeted building-empty dates be set at November 1, 2003. Emphasis should be placed on moving families with school aged children before Labor Day 2003. This will provide an additional 60 days to move the other families.
  6. That in future years, the process for the coming years Plan for Transformation be set in process at least a year before the targeted building-empty dates.

As heretofore, I am available to discuss this matter with you at any mutually convenient time.

Respectfully submitted, Thomas P. Sullivan

Independent Monitor, Phase II One IBM Plaza Chicago, IL 60611 312-923-2928

October 9, 2002