C.H.A. subsidizes slumlords

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As CHA shifts from maintaining publicly-owned low-income housing to subsidizing privately-run housing, the number of subsidized buildings that fail CHA inspections has soared, Angela Caputo reports in the Chicago Reporter.

Last year, nearly 60 percent of buidings in CHA’s Housing Choice Voucher program failed inspections at least half of the time, she reports.  The failure rate is twice as high as it was six years ago.

Between 2006 and 2011, landlords collected $337 million in subsidies for buildings that chronically failed inspections, according to a Reporter analysis of payment and inspection data for CHA’s voucher program.

Some slumlords are taking advantage of the program to milk buildings — getting higher rents than they could on the open market — with little maintenance, and walking away when things get too bad, tenant advocates argue.

That means tenants have to live with mold, rodents, broken walls, ceilings and porches, and sometime no heat or water — and neighborhoods are dragged down by declining properties and, eventually, dangerous vacant buildings.

CHA provides little accountability for slumlords, advocates say.  Nor is this a new problem.  In 2005, the Chicago Tribune found that 40 percent of units inspected in the voucher program got failing grades.  Four years later, HUD ” issued a blistering audit that found the agency continued to routinely overpay landlords who rented out failing units that were ‘not decent, safe and sanitary,'” Caputo reports.

CHA’s use of vouchers since the Plan For Transformation was launched in 2000 has grown by 60 percent.  The agency’s new draft Plan Forward projects further stepping up the use of vouchers.

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