May 9, 2016
Over the last 16 years, the Chicago Housing Authority demolished massive high rises like the Robert Taylor Homes, Cabrini-Green, and Stateway Gardens. Instead of operating its own buildings, the CHA now gives 44,000 people vouchers to help pay the rent in private buildings. The Chicago Housing Authority calls this part of its “Plan for Transformation.”
Something has been transformed – but it’s not the living conditions for the tenants. Yes, conditions in the old high rises were terrible. But so are conditions in the private housing market. Four of ten voucher tenants live in buildings that have had code violations over the last five years, including apartments with no heat, rodents, and structural problems. The vast majority still live in poor, high crime neighborhoods where jobs and supermarkets are scarce.
What has been transformed is the amount of profit made off the CHA. One man, who admits “I’ve been called a slumlord,” brings in $364,150 a month from CHA voucher-holders. Another company, Pangea – whose investors include Illinois governor Bruce Rauner – collects more than a million dollars a month.
CHA used to be the biggest slumlord in Chicago. Now it’s contracted out that privilege, all to the profit of wealthy landlords.