Proposal Could Limit Emanuel's Control of Chicago Housing Authority

Ordinance would give more control of the department to City Council

A proposal that could limit Mayor Rahm Emanuel's control of the Chicago Housing Authority will be presented at a public hearing next month.

The proposed “Keeping the Promise” ordinance would strip the mayor of certain powers and give the City Council more control over future development and spending decisions. 

Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, the ordinance’s sponsor, worries that the city is “hoarding money” and “not being transparent with the money they have.”

The ordinance would also make additional vouchers available for CHA residents to live in private residences, better known as Section 8 properties.

Critics claim that CHA is not doing enough to use federal funds to help house low-income Chicagoans.

The agency boasts a yearly budget of upwards of $1 billion. This is primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

CHA had an excess of $430 million at the end of 2014 with $260 million of CHA money bring used to pay off debt and fund CHA pensions in 2011 and 2012, according to the Better Government Association. 

The agency has failed to reach goals for public housing development dating back to 1999, the report shows. 

“It's very difficult when the CHA has no accountability to the aldermen,” said Moreno.

Nonetheless, the ordinance remains largely unpopular with members of the City Council.

Ald. Joe Moore, who once supported the measure, declined the opportunity to sign on a second time when the ordinance was reintroduced last year.

“I am less concerned with who controls what and more concerned with the policies being carried out,” said Moore.

The mayor's office claims that the proposed ordinance could potentially slow or kill development and services. The administration also warned that the proposal could scare off potential developers and further concentrate public housing into neighborhoods where it already exists.

Perhaps most importantly, Emanuel's camp claims that the ordinance could interfere with CHA's relationship with HUD.

"The Keeping the Promise Ordinance establishes an unworkable framework that would curtail the CHA’s ability to meet its housing targets," an Emanuel spokesperson said in a statement. 

An informational hearing will be held Feb. 17 to discuss the ordinance. 

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