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Advocates, Aldermen Want Demolished Public Housing Replaced

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CHICAGO (CBS) – As Mayor Rahm Emanuel prepared to introduce a five-year housing plan to the City Council on Wednesday, some aldermen and housing activists were urging the administration to halt what they see as a loss of public housing in Chicago.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Altgeld Gardens resident Cheryl Johnson, CEO of the Chicago Housing Initiative, a group dedicated to preserving and expanding subsidized rental housing, said aldermen should be given more oversight of the Chicago Housing Authority.

“We believe that the CHA must guarantee one-to-one replacement of standard public housing units that have been demolished or redeveloped using city dollars,” he said.

Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th) and other aldermen joined in the demand for CHA to replace every unit of public housing that has been demolished with other affordable housing units.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who grew up in the Cabrini Green housing complex, noted while many people go homeless now, there are still vacant CHA buildings and apartments.

“We need to make sure that everybody in our society have homes,” he said.

Burnett said he’s hopeful new leadership at the CHA would work with housing advocates to address their concerns.

The mayor has said his five-year, $1.3 billion housing plan will help create 41,000 homes in Chicago.

Department of Planning and Development Commisioner Andrew Mooney told CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot that, “The properties that we’re looking at throughout the city in a number of targeted areas are buildings that have been foreclosed and vacant for a long period of time and possibly abandoned.”

The money will come from federal, state, city and private sources. The city owns 8,000 vacant residential lots. The goal is to use those lots for development.

“This is separate from public housing, but it is affordable housing,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “So people who work or are in the modest income area, still can have housing or affordable apartments and they can’t do it without the support of the public sector.”

Alphonso Jones, a resident of the CHA’s Judge Slater Apartments senior complex, said the agency isn’t using the resources it has available now, and that should change.

“One, CHA must lease up its vacant apartments. Two, CHA must start rebuilding on land where CHA demolished and not rebuilt,” he said.

Some developers must commit to creating affordable housing because 78 percent of the units are for those earning less than $30,960 a year and 62 percent of the rental units must be dedicated to those earning less than $15,480 a year.

Interested developers must contact the city directly. Individuals interested in foreclosed properties can reach out to the delegate agencies in targeted areas by calling 3-1-1 or visiting www.cityofchicago.org/dpd.

The plan could be voted on by City Council for approval, next month.

The CHA has spent years tearing down high-rise buildings that became havens for crime, and replaced many of those units with large complexes of smaller townhomes, row houses, and single-family homes. However, critics have complained from the beginning that not enough new public housing has been built to replace the units that were demolished.

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