Chicago Housing Authority CEO resigns

October 15, 2013

Photo courtesy of CHA
CHA CEO Charles Woodyard’s resignation is effective Nov. 1.

The head of the Chicago Housing Authority resigned Tuesday without a new job and giving boilerplate language in a statement about wanting to spend more time with his family.

Charles Woodyard has been CEO of the public housing agency since 2011. Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed him after Lewis Jordan, the previous CEO, was pushed out amid questions surrounding CHA credit card use.

Woodyard had run the public housing authority in Charlotte, N.C. and has an extensive real estate background. “He developed programs to encourage the private sector to invest in public housing. That is exactly the type of background I want here for the city of Chicago, to take us to stage two in the Plan for Transformation,” Emanuel said at the press conference appointing Woodyard.

Woodyard’s resignation is effective Nov. 1., and rumors have previously swirled about him stepping down. And over the past month or so, the CHA board of commissioners have been meeting behind closed doors over unnamed personnel matters.

CHA is two years from supposedly finishing its massive $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation – the blueprint for tearing down public housing and replacing some developments with mixed-income communities. Emanuel served on the CHA board as the Plan, the largest public works housing initiative in the country, was being written.

The economy and fickle housing market have slowed down the Plan especially for selling market-rate units. Meanwhile, CHA promised it would rehabilitate or redevelop 25,000 units for public housing families. For fiscal year 2014, CHA plans to deliver 562 public housing units, but none of them will be on mixed-income sites. Originally, the Plan for Transformation was a five-year plan. Today, it’s supposed to be completed by 2015. That would mean the CHA would have to deliver a whopping 7,000 units by then.

Woodyard revealed Plan Forward this past spring, the second phase of the original plan. It focuses on acquiring homes in neighborhoods across the city for rehab and boosting economic activity around CHA sites.

One of Woodyard’s goals had been to develop the acres upon acres of idle CHA land for non-housing uses.

“It’s more than housing. Housing was the foundation,” Woodyard said in April. “We will work with the private sector and public sector to see if can have job-creating retail. If we can have retail that provides a needed service for our families. We’re going to make sure that the investment that the public makes doesn’t wither and die on the vine because we haven’t completed the community.”

The Shops & Lofts project is underway at 47th and Cottage Grove, which will include a Wal-Mart and housing. The State Street corridor still has tracts of grassy lots.

But some CHA residents want the next CEO to focus more on housing - despite the direction Emanuel has moved the housing agency.

“I hope it means we have a CEO who’s going to come and take care of business like it’s supposed to be taken care of. Bringing back our units that they tore down and promised to build back up, providing more public housing for people,” said Natalie Saffold, a resident leader from the former LeClaire Courts. The complex is completely demolished and there are no immediate replacement plans.

Emanuel and CHA board chair Z. Scott will initiate a national search for Woodyard’s successor. CHA released a statement saying: “Plan Forward remains fully operational and CHA remains committed to the initiative’s vision of coordinating public and private investments to develop strong, vibrant communities as well as to help strengthen economic independence for CHA residents along their road to self-sufficiency.”

Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @natalieymoore.