Garcia: Misuse of CHA Funds Shows Emanuel’s Wrong Priorities for Affordable Housing

Rate of production of affordable housing units down more than 90% since Emanuel took office, as 10 percent of city population languishes on waiting list.

CHICAGO –(ENEWSPF)–March 19, 2015. City Hall has abandoned hundreds of thousands of Chicago’s poorest families by steering more than half a billion dollars in funds for housing vouchers, rehab and construction away from its core responsibilities, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia said today. His comments came in the wake of a report that the Chicago Housing Authority’s program to rehab and construct affordable housing has evaporated in the last four years, and that the agency has been instead stockpiling the money or steering it to other uses.

“Mayor Emanuel controls the CHA — and for four years now he’s shortchanged low-wage workers, seniors on fixed incomes and children in poverty of critically needed affordable housing,” he said. “This is one more sad example of Mayor Emanuel’s track record of broken promises, bad choices and wrong priorities. The people of this city deserve better.”

Ryan Grim, Arthur Delaney and Kim Bellware of the Huffington Post reported on March 18 that Mayor Emanuel’s housing agency had moved “hundreds of millions of dollars from a fund earmarked for its affordable housing program and used the money instead to boost its pension, purchase government debt and build up a staggering cash reserve.”

Meanwhile, more than 280,000 people — more than 10 percent of the city’s population — languish on the CHA’s housing wait list at a time when median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city tops $1,600. Eligible Chicagoans wait ten years on average for rent subsidies. The national average wait time is 12-24 months.

While housing advocates have complained for years that the CHA has dragged its heels in developing affordable housing, the rate of development of units under Emanuel has essentially flatlined.

The CHA delivered an average of 843 affordable units of housing each year, either in new construction or as rehabbed units, in the four years before Emanuel was elected mayor. That number dropped by almost half in the first year of Emanuel’s administration, to 424. The following year, that number was down again by almost three-fourths, to a paltry 112 — even as the CHA’s stockpiles of unspent cash continued to skyrocket. In 2013, the CHA constructed or rehabbed only 88 housing units, and the agency was on track for 2014 to meet a goal of 40 new units — less than 10% of the annual production rate the year before Emanuel took office.

“Thousands of working parents, elders and young people struggle every day in this city to find decent housing that they can afford,” said Garcia. “At the same time that Mayor Emanuel’s friend, millionaire governor Bruce Rauner, is gutting critical frontline services for low-income people and our most vulnerable residents, we see that Mayor Emanuel has given the Rauner agenda a running start by starving a huge number of our residents of access to a critical component of the city’s economic safety net.”

“Emanuel is happy to give his political donor Ken Griffin — the richest man in Illinois — $55 million to bankroll his new investment in Marriott, and next to nothing to the minimum wage working mother who is trying to house her kids. Those kinds of distorted priorities have got to end — and they will the day I take office.”

Source: Chuy Garcia for Mayor