Section 8 Voucher Holders Criticize Program

May 5, 2008

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Some people living in federally subsidized housing in Chicago have long complained about the program. They dislike how the it's run and the condition of their apartments. Residents are now organizing to find recourse.

Latonia lives in a West Side row house and runs a daycare inside. She pays about $500 a month in rent, her portion through the federal Section 8 program.

She's had mold, rain seep through the ceiling and a still-unfixed shabby basement door. Latonia, who doesn't want her name used for fear of losing her apartment, complains to the landlord and the private company that runs Section 8.

LATONIA: They don't respond in a timely matter. Because when I tell them it's an emergency inspection, it took them about a month or two to come out.

When Latonia moved in two years ago, she says the unit passed an initial inspection. Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Program, or CHAC, is the private company that administers Section 8. It receives $20 million a year.

A decade ago, the federal government required the Chicago Housing Authority to outsource Section 8. Meanwhile, attorney Tamara Holder has taken an interest in residents. She's not ruling out a lawsuit.

HOLDER: I don't want to make threats. But the way it's looking, absolutely. There are too many people who've been displaced and who've been harmed.

Those allegations include CHAC not answering the phone and providing shoddy inspections. Local housing officials say they acknowledge some of CHAC's problems.

So does CHAC. In June two new vendors will handle customer service and inspections.