Throughout the long, arduous process of figuring out what will happen to Lathrop Homes, a low-rise public housing development on the North side along the Chicago River, residents say they've always been guaranteed one thing by the Chicago Housing Authority: those Lathrop residents that wanted to stay through the entire revitalization process would be allowed to.
But at the last meeting they had with the CHA at the local Boys and Girls Club, they got some conflicting information. According to members of the Lathrop Leadership Team, CHA development manager Veronica Gonzales told residents they may not get to stay, nor are they guaranteed to come back.
"It was crazy because from the very beginning we had been told we would be guaranteed to stay," said Miguel Suarez, a 22-year resident of Lathrop who attended the meeting.
According to Suarez, and a letter written by the Lathrop Leadership Team to CHA CEO Charles Woodyard, Gonzales said residents may not be able to stay through the transformation process for safety reasons. And that if residents were moved out, they would be put through the same "Housing Offer Process" that all CHA residents go through - put on a waiting list and required to reapply when their number came up.
Residents appealed to Woodyard for clarification on July 3, but as of yet, residents and community leaders say they have received no reply.
The Chicago Housing Authority did not respond to a request for comment on this article by deadline.
The leadership team, Lathrop Homes' Local Advisory Council and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association are hosting a rally this Saturday at the corner of Diversey and Leavitt streets to demand that residents be allowed to stay and that CHA lease up all of Lathrop's 925 units.
The group will highlight our most recent investigation, Home Evasion, that revealed the federal government continues to fund the CHA as if its vacant units were occupied. They'll also highlight Lathrop's recent placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
"We're going to bring awareness to the community of what's going on. Lathrop has 900 plus units and only 160 are occupied, but CHA is receiving federal funding for these vacancies," said Suarez. "Where the hell is that money going to?"
UPDATE: The Chicago Housing Authority spokesperson Matt Aguilar provided this statement on Lathrop Homes:
"CHA would like to clarify a possible misinterpretation regarding its relocation policy.
CHA's position on residents' ability to remain on-site during redevelopment has not changed. The agency continues to meet its responsibilities under the Resident Relocation Rights Contract. CHA has expressed its expectation that residents will be able to remain on-site during redevelopment activities and affirms that expectation. However, the Resident Relocation Rights Contract specifically provides for relocations in the event of an emergency, or for safety or security reasons. In the event that an on-site situation becomes unsafe due to construction or other unexpected occurrences, the RRC stipulates that families will indeed have to relocate, without any change to their priority status upon their return to Lathrop after redevelopment.
As of right now, there are no safety issues at Lathrop, or any other conditions for which relocation would be appropriate. CHA is not presently considering any relocations, and will continue to work with residents throughout the redevelopment process."
© Community Renewal Society 2012
Photo credit: Brent Lewis