Although the Chicago City Council met for the first time Wednesday since July 30, most of the action occurred outside the chamber before the meeting began.
Several community groups and aldermen showed up on a stormy morning to voice their support for a plan that would place the Chicago Housing Authority under the supervision of the city council.
Supporters of the plan—dubbed the “Keeping the Promise” ordinance—said CHA had amassed over $400 million in surplus funds between 2008 and 2012, money that should be going to provide more housing options for Chicago’s most needy residents.
Rod Wilson, executive director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center in Bronzeville, said the CHA is sitting on about 13,500 housing vouchers for low-income Chicagoans, vouchers the agency was funded for but has yet to distribute.
The biggest problem people in need of housing face is an agency with “no governance, no oversight and no accountability,” he said.
JaShaun Flakes, a married mother of two young children, spoke about her struggles to secure any kind of housing for herself and her family.
“As a mother, giving up was not an option,” she said. “So I tried a shelter…[but it] was infested with rodents. How could I take my babies through that? So, it was back to [living in] the car.”
Flakes said she and her family are currently living with her mother while they continue to wait for assistance from the CHA. They are just one of the over 40,000 families still on a waiting list, according to Wilson.
Aldermen from 13 wards have signed on to the ordinance—being pushed by the Chicago Housing Initiative—to help put pressure on the council to possibly allow Inspector General Joe Ferguson more control in overseeing the CHA.
Ferguson would first have to be given more power in overseeing Chicago’s Public Building Commission, a move that is expected to take place amid the current power struggle to remove current City Council Inspector General Faisal Khan.
The aldermen who support the ordinance, which was introduced Wednesday and referred to the Committee on Housing and Real Estate, are: Joe Moreno [1st], Leslie Hairston [5th], Roderick Sawyer [6th], Toni Foulkes [15th], Lona Lane [18th], Willie Cochran [20th], Howard Brookins, Jr. [21st], Ricardo Munoz [22nd], Michael Chandler [24th], Roberto Maldonado [26th], Walter Burnett, Jr. [27th], Scott Waguespack [32nd] and Deb Mell [33rd].
A representative from the CHA declined to answer questions by phone but did issue a press release stating the CHA “has released an additional 3,000 vouchers in 2014, and will soon unveil a plan for increased voucher utilization through 2018.”
The press release also indicated the agency has already begun the process of “maximizing agency transparency” with the public through issuing quarterly reports and plans to work more closely with the mayor’s office and “the city of Chicago,” though it did not indicate in what capacity.