CHA Statement on Center for Tax and Budget Accountability Report

Jan 13, 2017

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) is committed to transparency and welcomes public scrutiny at every level. That is why the agency makes available virtually all its financial data, board reports and occupancy records on the website.

The numbers reported in the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability’s report do not accurately represent the Chicago Housing Authority’s most current financial status or housing production numbers.

The CHA has asked the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) to continue to reach out to us to review the information in this latest report so that it accurately represents CHA’s most current financial status and housing production numbers. CHA is eager to work jointly towards a result that enhances transparency and reflects the actual level of investment and priority CHA holds for affordable housing and the 64,000 families we serve.

The CTBA report cites specific assertions that do not reflect the current data that are, in fact, reported by CHA to HUD on a quarterly basis and publicly available on CHA’s website.

CHA has since 2000 made nearly 17,000 additional Housing Choice Vouchers available and today provides vouchers to almost 47,000 families who live in every every one of Chicago’s 77 community areas, with special HCV programs created to serve some of the city’s most vulnerable, including homeless veterans, the mentally ill and the physically disabled. This represents a 90 percent voucher utilization rate, which CHA plans to maintain throughout 2017 and in the coming years. These vouchers, apartments and homes not only provide safe, affordable shelter, but with parallel CHA investments in schools, libraries, grocery and other retail endeavors, they add to the robustness of neighborhoods and sustainability of communities.

In fact, CHA has delivered 93.7 percent or 23,423 of the 25,000 units which were agreed to in 2000, with the remaining 1,577 units to be in the completion process by the close of 2017. In addition, during the same period, CHA has worked with private sector and non-profit partners to leverage approximately $500 million for the delivery of 2,324 affordable units (to those families making 60 percent of median income or less) and 3,007 market rate rental or for sale units, which have provided not only needed additional housing, but aided in the revitalization of neighborhoods long blighted by the former high rises

While the decision to pay off the debt was made in 2012, prior to the current administration’s stewardship, reducing CHA’s debt from $224 million to $18 million stopped the agency from accruing interest and further indebtedness. This resulted in approximately $40 million of gross interest savings from 2013 thru 2026.  Additionally, fully funding the pensions will generate a nearly 150% gross return over 20 years. These actions did not impact CHA’s ability to deliver housing and created a fiscally sustainable, federally funded agency post the Great Recession. CHA should be lauded for having an Institutional Credit Rating of AA by Standard and Poor’s, their highest designation for any US Public Housing Authority.

CHA has traditionally maintained a consistent policy for its waiting lists, which have attracted large number of people given the continuing demand for affordable housing nationwide. These numbers don’t change due to the availability of CHA housing or vouchers; they increase in response to a fragile and changing economic market. Nearly one-half million jobs were lost in Chicago during the time period cited in the report and poverty and unemployment rose, with more people than ever were paying more than 30 percent of their income towards housing.  This volatile economic environment is what drives waitlist applications, not CHA’s lack of investment in affordable housing.