When a house is not a home: Rental woes in the federal subsidy program

When Joletta Jordan moved into a private rental on the southwestern edge of Chicago earlier this year, the single mother thought that her luck had finally turned. Jordan had just been reunited with her 7-year-old daughter after recuperating from surgery in a hospital, then a nursing home. Little did she know that their new apartment, which she rented with the help of a federal rent subsidy, known as a Housing Choice Voucher, would only add to their problems.

Within a matter of months, Jordan was back at the hospital. This time, her daughter was checked in because the mold growing in their apartment touched off an asthma attack. Then, sewage started to back up in their kitchen. In July, inspectors deemed the unit uninhabitable. Jordan and her daughter had nowhere to go.

Watch the video by Tyler Stabile to see how Jordan's story unfolds. And check out our latest investigation, "Cashed out," which exposes the growing number of private buildings subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority that are struggling to pass inspections.:

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  • This is being written from a standpoint of a former cha landlord. This story is way too one sided.
    First, your percentage of units that fail is misleading. You can fail for something like a smoke detector battery needing to be replaced. So that fact that 59% fail doesn’t add a lot of detail. You would need to give a percentage breakdown for the reasons for the failure.
    Two, there is way more to the story than what is presented in this video. I know for a fact that if there is mold growing in the apartment, or otherwise uninhabitable for water backup, the CHA would cancel the HAP contract sooner rather than later on a 24 hour emergency basis. There are numerous procedures the tenant has to go through to get this done—which she eventually was able to do. This is unacceptable and no one should live like that. Unless I missed it, you didn’t mention the timeframe between when she told them about the mold / water backup, and the time it took for them to cancel the HAP contract.
    If she is living in a shelter, I know there is more to the story. A two person voucher entitles the person to a unit for around $1,102 a month. There are many landlords out there who accept a voucher, so I don’t understand why she is in a shelter.
    Finally, the CHA is somewhat of a bureaucratic nightmare and that’s why I am former CHA landlord. Too many things a landlord has to do to comply that you don’t have to do on the open market. I think the number of high quality units out there for rent to a voucher holder is slowly decreasing because 1) The rent ceiling hasn’t been raised in years, and 2) two much red tape. Tenants will be left to deal with scummy places like this one because better units are too expensive for the program and too many processes to go through.

  • I totally agree with CMJR. Statistics can be so misleading. As a landlord it can be near impossible to comply with these ever changing standards. There needs to be cheap housing without gov regulations. If you are thinking of renting your properties always make sure you have a thorough lease.

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