Overcoming economic hardships and creating self-sufficient residents are two main goals of the Chicago Housing Authority ten years into its Plan for Transformation.
Speaking to the City Club of Chicago Monday, CHA CEO Lewis Jordan said, “We’re almost at the end of the road.” That’s means they’re 5,000 units shy of completing CHA’s goal of building or renovating 25,000 units throughout the city. Jordan said “81% of total development process had been completed before the housing market took a turn for the worse.”
Despite the downturn in the economy the CHA plans to complete an additional 1,026 units by the end of 2011.
To help achieve this goal, the CHA has created a Property Investment Initiative. It’s designed to purchase vacant homes in neighborhoods that have been effected by the decline in the housing market. So far, 16 homes have been purchased through the initiative and Jordan said the CHA plans to purchase around 200 single family and multi-unit properties over the next few years. Jordan called the plan an “economic engine” that is responsible for helping to empower residents through a job training and employment placement program called Opportunity Chicago. Jordan said since the inception of the program in 2006, 42% of heads of households are now employed as opposed to 15% before the program was in place. The average yearly income for these workers has risen from $9,000 to $20,000 dollars, but Jordan said much more work needs to be done to employ the remaining 50% of CHA residents and improve their economic situations.
Throughout the past decade concerns have been raised that crime could become a problem in areas where CHA residents have relocated to. Jordan said there’s no statistical evidence to prove that the people who were responsible for crime or violence were necessarily public housing residents. Jordan said he believed so strongly that there was no correlation between public housing residents and criminal behavior that the CHA has commissioned a third party to conduct a study of crime in the city. Kellie O’Connell-Miller, a CHA spokeswoman, said the study is expected to begin this fall and would likely be conducted by the Urban Institute. The Plan for Transformation is expected to be completed by 2015.