Rahm Emanuel's Housing Agency Sitting On Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars With Massive Waitlist
(just some brief excerpts from a long article)
CHICAGO -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel's housing agency has been pulling hundreds of millions of dollars from a fund earmarked for its affordable housing program and using the money instead to boost its pension, purchase government debt and build up a staggering cash reserve.
Meanwhile, Chicago's most vulnerable are bearing the brunt. The Chicago Housing Authority's waitlist tops 280,000, with a sizable portion of the city's population hoping for a shot at affordable housing. Ninety-seven percent of the people receiving housing assistance are black or Latino, and 85 percent are women, according to the agency. Some 15,000 families on the list are homeless.
Early in Emanuel's term, the size of the housing agency's reserves began hitting eye-popping levels. Instead of pouring that money into housing, it found other ways to chip away at the pile. In 2011 and 2012, the CHA pumped more than $55 million into its pension fund, nearly 10 times the amount it was required to. But because the amount of federal money the agency was receiving outstripped what it spent by such a large amount, the reserves remained high. So in late 2012, the agency took $185 million and paid down its debts early. Of what remained, millions were pumped into state and local bonds.
The decision to hoard cash while tens of thousands of families are in need of housing appears to be a strange one only if the goal is to find housing for the people the agency is supposed to serve. Yet developers, bar and restaurant owners and other interests who want to see the city of Chicago continue to gentrify have little interest in assisting the poor, black and brown single moms who populate the waitlist. Instead, they'd prefer the women and their children leave the city and find housing somewhere in the distant suburbs or beyond. The trend was underway before Emanuel took office, with the 2010 census finding 182,000 fewer African-Americans living in the city than a decade before, when Chicago began demolishing its public housing.
The agency's massive cash reserves were first noticed by the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of tenants. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a Chicago-based watchdog group, later produced a report on the stockpile, leading to a spate of news coverage over the summer. But the fate of much of the money the housing agency has stashed away has so far gone unreported. Through a series of open records requests, the Chicago Housing Initiative and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability obtained internal documents revealing that under Emanuel, the CHA has become as much an investment fund as a housing agency.
"It might be that a desire to reduce the number of low-income and minority families in Chicago is what motivates those who control CHA to withhold available housing assistance," said Leah Levinger, the executive director of the Chicago Housing Initiative. "Chicago activists have long questioned whether Emanuel's 'world class city' is contemporary code for rich and white -- a way to name development strategies that have obvious racial impact without all the racial overtones."
The reverse Robin Hood strategy implemented by the CHA is not an aberration when it comes to Emanuel's politics. The deregulation that the agency has exploited was made possible by a law passed in 1996, the same year President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform legislation that capped federal welfare spending and gave states more leeway to administer benefits. It was part of a strategy of triangulation that Emanuel, then a top Clinton aide, pushed as a way to win back working-class white voters and distance the party from traditional liberalism. The pinnacle of the new approach involved "ending welfare as we know it," a move Emanuel aggressively lobbied for as an aide.
1. "but, hey...Rahm has a PLAN for the city." In response to Reply # 0
so i should vote for him! (c) CRich.
yeah...his plan is fuck over the poor to benefit the rich. i don't like that plan. so i rather have the guy who is at least talking about addressing the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. he's talking the talk i want to hear. Rahm is not.