Chicago Housing Authority's accounting of empty units draws attention from HUD

I walked into the Chicago Housing Authority's annual meeting Tuesday as Commissioner Mildred Harris ticked through a checklist of the agency's recent successes.

More than 800 new units are slated to open up this year; the occupancy at family sites sits at 98.8 percent; and mixed-income developments are 97.8 percent leased out.

Having just reported a story on the thousands of CHA units that are currently sitting empty, my ears perked up.

By our count, the occupancy rate at family units was actually at 63 percent at the end of last year. Why the vast disparity between our numbers and Harris'?

CHA officials don't factor many of those empty units into their occupancy rate. They do count them into another important equation, though: the budget.

Our investigation found that the agency collects full rent from the federal government on thousands of empty units. And many have been vacant for years.

The issue has caught the attention of officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. On Thursday, a delegation will travel to Chicago from the Washington, D.C. headquarters to tour properties with high numbers of vacancies.

They're slated to visit Altgeld Gardens and the Murray Homes, Lake Parc Place, Parkview Senior Apartments, Cabrini Rowhouses and Lathrop C. Homes. In those developments alone, 2,238 apartments are currently sitting empty. Check back later in the week for a follow up post on their visit.

In the meantime, we are posting all of the information we were able to glean on the vacancy issue from the CHA through the Freedom of Information Act.

For starters, here's the breakdown of those "offline" units (the ones that are empty but aren't factored into the occupancy rates that Harris was boasting about):

Click through the following links for more occupancy data (.xls doc) on the CHA's stock of senior and  family housing, scattered site units, and mixed-income developments. Also, pull down information on the "offline" units in an Excel spreadsheet here.

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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