Quiet issue: over 60,000 on CHA waiting list

While this story is mainly about why the Chicago Housing Authority has 3,400 unoccupied units, there is another long-running issue here: the CHA has over 60,000 people on a waiting list for housing.

The CHA currently operates 20,000 properties that serve about 57,000 families, but about 3,400 units remain unoccupied. CHA’s wait list was almost 60,000 families as of March…

We are in the business of affordable housing; our goals are generally aligned with those of the (Chicago Housing Initiative),” said CHA spokeswoman Kellie O’Connell-Miller. “But from our perspective, we’re moving forward as quickly as we can. This is a multiyear redevelopment plan. The biggest challenge is the part of the plan that requires some units to come offline.”…

O’Connell-Miller said wait list standings aren’t made public because it’s not a fair assessment tool.

“It’s not a straight numbering system. Placement is dependent on family size and what bedroom need is,” she said. “The turnover varies on what the tenant needs. There are so many variables.”

The CHA is planning to take a fresh look at its Plan for Transformation this year under new leadership, Woodyard said, and welcomes suggestions and input from the community.

There are a couple of problems with this large waiting list:

1. The waiting list has been long for year and has continued to grow. In my article “The Struggle Over Redevelopment at Cabrini-Green, 1989-2004,” here is what I found about the waiting lists:

By 1984, 24,000 people were on CHA waiting lists for apartments, while another 56,000 households were waiting for CHA Section 8 vouchers…

The waiting lists for public housing continued to be long; in 2002, 48,000 families were waiting for public housing, while 38,000 more waited for Housing Choice vouchers.

2. The CHA says they are working on this issue. This might be believable if we haven’t heard similar things for decades and we haven’t seen many projects being delayed. Taking a “fresh look at its Plan for Transformation”? Sheesh.

3. The issue of affordable housing needs to be addressed on a broader scale, preferably throughout the Chicago region. Even if more affordable housing is made available in Chicago, are there good or at least subsistence jobs available in the city? Both cities and suburbs need to work on this. Unfortunately, neither the City of Chicago or suburbs have really shown a willingness to tackle this. See, for example, the contentious of affordable housing in Winnetka and Westchester County.

In sum, even if these 3,400 units were suddenly occupied, there are still over 50,000 people in Chicago looking for housing. This is an issue that needs to be addressed more comprehensively.

3 thoughts on “Quiet issue: over 60,000 on CHA waiting list

  1. Now CHA got a bigger problem on their hands. A lot of people with section 8 have been shuffled around the city because of greedy landlords having their buildings go into foreclosure. This is sad. This has been happening since the beginning of The Plan For Transformation aka Plan Forward. The city has torn down all the projects and still haven’t replaced most of the units they promised they was going to replace. CHA recently did a update on the waitlist and should be reopening the waitlist soon. A lot of people didn’t respond to the waitlist update therefor their names have been removed. A lot of people didn’t respond because they either moved out the state/city, lost their right to housing, died, or just moved on. CHA has got to so better.


  2. The Windy City has distinctions but not positive ones. Chicago’s retail sales tax is the highest in the nation at 10.25 percent. Unions, high taxes, and political corruption have made Chicago one of the leaders in big city decline.

    Chicago again continued its population decline with a loss of 63,000 from 2000 to 2006 leaving a total of 2,833,321.

    Little known fact:

    The Chicago Housing Authority leaves thousands of its apartments vacant in any given year.

    CHA reported in 2010 that it had “delivered” 20,288 apartments, but that only 18,325 were “available for occupancy” and only 15,984 were actually leased.

    Why is there a 4,300+ unit difference between apartments available and apartments actually occupied?

    Little known fact:

    The CHA counts many of these “offline” units as ‘replacement housing’ towards their 25,000 unit commitment, even though the apartments are not housing anyone.

    Little known fact:

    We’re not talking about short-term vacancies— we’re talking about 2 years, 4 years, 6 years, 10 years vacant.

    Little known fact:

    These vacant apartments are located on all sides of the city (north, south, and west), in scattered site housing, senior housing, and traditional family housing.

    Little known fact:

    The CHA continues to receive money from HUD for a significant number of these vacant apartments, whether they are occupied or not.

    Now a well known truth:

    With over 68,000 households on the CHA’s waiting lists, many living in homeless shelters, it is unacceptable for the CHA to leave even a single habitable apartment vacant over the long-term.


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