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Chicago Housing Authority CEO Tracey Scott got an earful Tuesday on everything from shoddy conditions and negligent property managers to the decision by her agency to lease CHA land to the Chicago Fire to build an $80 million training center.
Scott took her turn on the City Council hot seat as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s efforts to improve her relationship with the City Council by having the CEOs of all agencies of local government appear before alderpersons to answer questions.
Before the City Council’s Housing Committee interrogated Scott, CHA residents got a chance to vent first.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Finance Committee chairman, joined residents in unloading on Scott. His newly-redrawn ward includes all of CHA’s Lathrop Homes, where conditions are “just horrible,” he said — and where some security guards are “collaborating with gang members” according to some residents.
“I have called about graffiti removal on buildings that languishes for not only years, but months on the small stuff. … We try to fix small things where we can. We get it to our graffiti blasters. But Lathrop on the south portion of the site has languished for far too long. … The people that live there, the people around it — they’re just disgusted by it,” Waguespack told Scott.
“There’s just an absolute abysmal approach to maintaining those buildings on the … portion of the site south of Diversey. In fact, one would look at it and say it’s a deliberate move to destroy the buildings to make sure that they are not rebuilt. … And that is the path that we are on — to demolition.”
Now that the north side of Lathrop Homes has been rebuilt, and with a developer who wants to “do away with historic registered buildings on the south side” of the complex, Waguespack said he wants “decisions made” by Scott.
“I’m not gonna sit here and wait several more years while there are back and forth between the developer and the CHA and nothing happening except those buildings further destroyed when they could be rehabbed. … I’m just not gonna sit around and watch this thing destroy itself right across the street any longer,” Waguespack said.
Scott said she looks forward to working with Waguespack on “figuring out how we move Lathrop forward,” because “the next phase is looking at that south site.”
Always outspoken, South Side Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) didn’t disappoint.
She first applied for a CHA voucher as a single mother struggling to raise her three kids in a one-bedroom apartment.
Last summer, Taylor was notified her application was plucked off the waiting list.
After 29 years.
“I won’t share the things that I’ve had to endure to make sure that I had a place to stay. … When my number was called, I was honestly shocked. I had been waiting so long. I knew somebody had died,” Taylor said.
“But I also realize that these management companies don’t mean our folks well. They’re not good people — especially in the senior buildings. … You all need to be looking at these landlords. They love taking vouchers. But they don’t do any upkeep to the building.”
Taylor complained the CHA “sucks” at dealing with residents with disabilities. Then she brought up the soccer training facility Lightfoot muscled through the City Council the day after the Zoning Committee rejected it.
“The thought that we’re OK with building a soccer field over where housing used to be says what type of system this is,” Taylor said.
Arguing that CHA residents feel “neglected,” North Side Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) told Scott that “turning over a property is too late” to do repairs.
Scott said the CHA has included in its 2023 budget “over $100 million” for “capital improvements and maintenance.” The money will be spent in a variety of ways, some of it “directly with property management,” she said.
“When you go to just turn a unit and you’re a property owner, it might be that you’re painting and maybe fixing some finishes here and there. But often when we go into some of our units — especially the scattered sites — we’re finding that we’re almost doing a complete renovation.”