CHA CEO Eugene Jones, Jr. speaks to City Council

February 18, 2016 04:45 PM

CHICAGO (Feb. 18, 2016) – Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) CEO Eugene “Gene” Jones, Jr. on Wednesday outlined the agency’s progress on achieving the goals set out in the City’s 2000 agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), discussed efforts that CHA has made to work with advocates of the Keeping the Promise Ordinance to address concerns raised in the ordinance and spoke of the role that CHA is playing in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s work to assure quality, affordable housing options for residents across the city.

Speaking before the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate, Jones provided an update on the status of CHA housing since the HUD- approved Plan for Transformation was initiated in 2000, noting that the CHA’s commitment in 2000 was to rehab or replace 25,000 units and today, over 22,000 units have been completed through new construction, acquisition and rehabilitation. Also significant, CHA has actually increased housing opportunities since 2000, serving roughly 50,000 households in 2000 compared to today’s 64,000 households through public housing and the Housing Choice Voucher program.

Jones noted that despite the ups and downs of the economy and the impacts of the Great Recession, and because of the positive impact of CHA’s Plan for Transformation, CHA residents today are faring far better than they did in 2000.

In 2000, only 15 percent of the adult working-age population held a job and today that figure has soared to 65 percent. The average income from work of a CHA resident in 2000 was $10,000 per year. Today, the average income is more than $19,000. Credit for these changes goes to the residents, to the CHA staff and to the community partners who provide job training, counseling, financial literacy and other social services to CHA residents.

A major tenet of the Plan was ending the isolation of housing developments and fostering the creation of strengthened communities with the diversity of incomes, jobs, and stores and other amenities that make neighborhoods sustainable.

“Today, these mixed income developments include a mix of tenants and home owners who live side-by-side, and reflect the kind of economic diversity that every sustainable community should have,” Jones said, noting that the new developments have brought new resources, from new retail to parks and community centers that enhance the lives of residents.

Jones took the opportunity to talk about what he considers CHA’s highest priority and Mayor Emanuel’s mandate -- continuing to expand affordable housing options. “Over the past eight months we have accelerated development deals and housing production that includes having more than 500 units under construction,” Jones said. “This has been done by renewing and building relationships with residents and other stakeholders and reaching out to new communities so we continue to create affordable housing opportunities and vibrant, mixed-income communities.”

Jones said he is following the Mayor’s directive to make sure that CHA brings more affordable housing opportunities to our communities, not only at traditional and mixed income sites, but in every neighborhood.

The CHA is meeting this charge, he said, by using a strategy that combines building, acquiring and rehabbing housing. Jones cited the most recent acquisition and developments projects completed in the last month: the 111 apartments at Presbyterian Homes in the West Ridge and Lakeview communities and the opening of the 45-unit Casa Queretaro in Pilsen, the CHA’s first development in that community built in partnership with non-profit developer The Resurrection Project.

Over the next two years, Jones said CHA is on track to deliver nearly 1,000 apartments for seniors and families in traditional housing, mixed income communities and acquired or co-investment properties throughout the city, moving the CHA closer to its goal of completing the 25,000 units promised in 2000.

Jones highlighted the efforts CHA has made to address housing advocates’ concerns raised in the ordinance. Specifically, CHA has worked on better reporting. Since 2014, CHA has increased voucher leasing by adding 9,000 housing vouchers and increasing the voucher leasing to 90% of its allocation.  Finally, CHA has worked with the residents and Ald. Joe “Proco”

Moreno (1st) to commit to off-site replacement of units demolished at Lathrop.

Jones, housing advocates, Aldermen and attorneys representing housing interests agreed that it was vital that elected officials from across the city work in partnership with CHA to help the agency meet its goals, and Jones asked them to work with CHA to identify opportunities in their communities where the CHA can acquire buildings to expand housing options.

“By working collaboratively, we can make great progress in finding new solutions to the challenges we face,” Jones said.

Housing advocates who also appeared before the City Council committee echoed Jones’ comments about the work that has been done.

"The fact is that CHA is providing housing to more families (64,000 in contrast to 50,000) today than in 2000, when the Plan began,” Julie Brown of BPI Chicago said. “While CHA can never be the whole answer to addressing the affordable housing need, the numbers show that CHA is an important contributor to the solution. Its ability to do so depends very much on the Moving to Work agreement with HUD which, while providing oversight and control, provides the flexibility needed to provide housing, social services and other elements critical to the successful attainment of the Plan’s goals.”

In addition to creating more housing opportunities, the CHA has also been able to leverage its resources to develop community assets that help contribute to the vibrancy of the mixed income communities, including:

• Quad Communities Arts & Recreational Center in the Oakwood Shores redevelopment area (formerly Madden/Wells)

• Bronzeville Mariano’s Market In Oakwood Shores

•  XS Tennis recreational facility the Legends South redevelopment area (formerly Robert Taylor)

And Jones has initiated other community-wide programs that offer benefits and opportunities to residents and youth, including:

•  A focus on increasing job and business opportunities for CHA residents through the CHA’s Section 3 program. A pilot program has been launched that in 2016 will provide grants to Section 3 individuals and businesses, up to $5,000 or $20,000 respectively, to help them land jobs or start a business.

•  Building on the record 2,500 youth in paid employment and learned experiences over the summer, the CHA declared 2016 the Year of the Youth.

• The formation last year of the CHA’s first-ever Big Brothers Big Sisters program.