February 22, 2018

CHA More Rose Than Thorn, Says CEO

The February 15 column “The Thorn in Chicago’s (South) Side” by third-year student Natalie Denby contains some glaring errors about the Chicago Housing Authority’s cash reserves and housing voucher utilization.

In fact, CHA has spent down its surplus cash reserves to zero since I arrived at CHA in 2015 through an aggressive development strategy that has resulted in more housing and community amenities for our residents and Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Today, CHA maintains only the level of operating reserves recommended by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and that number stands at $110 million. This is considered sound fiscal management by any standard, especially among government agencies that routinely face uncertainty in federal funding. All of this information is available on CHA’s website, which the columnist could have easily accessed to obtain current financial data.

CHA has invested its money in new developments and community amenities across the city, from its first-ever coinvestment in Pilsen to an arts and recreation center in Bronzeville to the first colocated housing and Chicago Public Library branches in the city’s history. We also have invested in a new mixed-use development that will bring new apartments and a Target store under one roof in Rogers Park. 

Regarding voucher utilization, CHA has more vouchers now than at any time in recent history with more than 47,000 vouchers leased to help low-income families find housing in neighborhoods of their choosing. It’s important to understand that when CHA began its historic Plan for Transformation in 2000, only 30,000 Housing Choice Vouchers were available. Today, vouchers are accepted by landlords in all 77 Chicago community areas. 

CHA also has in place a number of programs aimed at providing greater housing choice and mobility for voucher holders, including higher rent payment standards in neighborhoods that provide greater opportunities and landlord incentives designed to encourage more landlords to rent to voucher holders.

It is through innovative work, programs, and policies like these that CHA and its partners are creating greater opportunity and building stronger neighborhoods and a better foundation for the future across the city of Chicago.

— Eugene Jones, Jr., CEO, Chicago Housing Authority