The Austin Weekly News published an article in its Nov. 23 issue titled “CHA rehab wreaking havoc on residents”. In the article, three residents of the Lawndale Gardens apartment complex shared their problems with the Chicago Housing Authority in regards to the department’s relocation and rehabilitation efforts at the complex.

CHA spokesperson Karen Pride contacted the Austin Weekly News to offer a response to the various charges made by residents.

AWN: Does the CHA have a response to any of the concerns raised by the residents regarding the boxes dropped off in the hallways, no notification of the relocation fairs and residents feeling as if they’re being forced out?

CHA: “The CHA works with all its residents to ensure a safe and smooth transition from one housing location to another. If residents have concerns about the relocation process, they should contact their service connector or relocation counselor.”

AWN: Is the Lawndale Garden’s being renovated or torn down, and if it is only being renovated, why would residents believe it was being torn down?

CHA: “Lawndale Gardens is being rehabilitated. There was no communication from the CHA that the development would be demolished.”

AWN: How much is the renovation costing?

CHA: “Approximately $21 million.”

AWN: What training do these counselor’s have?

CHA: “CHA contracts out the counseling function to professional social service providers. Both CHA and the firms provide regular and on-going training. CHA provides training at least quarterly and as often as monthly on relevant issues such as the data systems. We also conduct in-services on programs such as the Re-start Utilities program, CDPH substance abuse program, workforce development programs, and collaborating with other agencies, such as the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). Other training examples include two special one-day trainings on lease compliance, one on collaborating with property managers to document and assist residents with on-site issues related to lease compliance, and one on curing lease violations. In addition to the training CHA provides, the service providers do additional trainings with their own staff, both related to and not related to the social work licensure.”

AWN: How many CHA residents from the gardens have been placed in new housing, either in Sec. 8 or in new housing that replaced demolished high-rises?

CHA: “One family has moved to senior housing and approximately 18 have moved into the private market with a permanent Housing Choice Voucher. The other families moved within the development during rehabilitation.”

AWN: When did trucks go out to help residents move?

CHA: “The 18 residents have moved between June 2006 and now. Trucks arrive at a building on the dates that the family moves. The family sets up a move date that is convenient for them and then CHA schedules a truck.”

AWN: What is the procedure to inform residents about the relocation fairs? Were the dates of the fairs announced at the April Town Hall meeting with garden tenants. Do the specialist have the fair packets? Can the AWN get a packet?

CHA: “The relocation fairs were announced via fliers, through the service connector, relocation specialists and on the CHA weekly radio show aired on WVON-AM, among other methods of dissemination. The information about the fairs was not announced at the April town hall meeting. The CHA can provide a relocation packet to the Austin Weekly News.”

AWN: Also, why would the failure to pick up a packet result in any penalties to residents?

CHA: “The following is stated in the CHA Relocation Rights contract, Section 7, A2, second paragraph – ‘If the Leaseholder fails to pick up and sign for a Relocation Packet, the CHA will send written notice of failure to comply with this obligation. The Leaseholder must attend a presentation to receive a Relocation Packet or retrieve one from the management office within fifteen (15) calendar days from the verified date of mailing and sign a certification. Failure of the Leaseholder to respond to this notice within the fifteen (15) days may result in the loss of the right to return.’ This contract was created by CHA and the resident leadership. The CHA encourages families to pick up their packet using a variety of communication methods. No resident has ever lost the right to return for not picking up a Relocation packet.”

AWN: Is the CHA going to address the resident’s concerns personally in light of the AWN article?

CHA: “The CHA is always happy to, and will, assist residents individually regarding their concerns. They need to contact the CHA directly.”