Photo by Mirkica Popovik, Public Narrative journalism fellow from the Social Justice News Nexus.
CHA residents and activists hold a sleepover and demonstration outside the mayor’s office. Photo by Mirkica Popovik.

(This story originally appeared on the website of the Social Justice News Nexus at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.)

Several dozen housing activists set up camp outside Chicago’s City Hall the evening of October 13 asking City Council officials and the mayor’s office to implement a more transparent and aggressive oversight of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). With blankets and sleeping bags, activists with the Chicago Housing Initiative Coalition waited until the next morning to be first in line and testify at a City Council budget hearing.

During the sleepover and demonstrations, members of the housing coalition said they blamed the CHA for mismanaging its public dollars. They cited the CHA’s latest audited financial report, which reported the agency had a $440 million surplus, no debt and a fully funded pension.

Advocates argued the CHA has failed to fulfill the housing needs of low-income residents who qualify for housing assistance. And now, they are urging the CHA to start meeting its obligations by repairing vacant apartments and offering its thousands of empty units to the 122 thousand households on its waiting list. They also asked the CHA to release 11 thousand more housing vouchers.

Public housing residents and advocates said they are outraged by the fact the CHA is continuously getting paid to manage, sustain and repair public housing units, even though the agency is failing to do so.

“CHA is sitting on more surplus than the whole City of Chicago deficit,” said Leah Levinger from the Chicago Housing Initiative Coalition. “They can drop homelessness by 12 percent overnight, house 12 thousand more people with no dent in the city’s budget just from the CHA resources.”

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