Embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is facing yet another controversy as Latinos make a call for more subsidized housing options throughout the city.
According to Medill Reports Chicago, local minority leaders are looking to the Chicago Housing Authority to alleviate displacement and gentrification pressures on Latino neighborhoods, which often leaves families without affordable housing options.
“It’s a big shock for families in a neighborhood that’s been low-income for so long,” said Byron Sigcho, a member of the community activist group Pilsen Alliance.
Almost a quarter of the Latino community in Chicago is income-eligible for CHA public housing, yet low participation rates in the program are still being reported. Surveys suggest that a lack of knowledge about the CHA is primarily to blame for this confusing trend.
“It’s not that they don’t want to live in public housing, but that they don’t know” about the services, said Savannah Clement, the housing manager at the Latino Policy Forum. “It speaks to CHA’s poor outreach strategy.”
The average American moves about 12 times in their life, and that number is even higher for low-income families of minority descent. While it is reported that 25% of Chicago’s Latinos were eligible for public housing in 2014, they comprised only 10% of the population in these units.
“Latinos are participating at less than half the rate they should be based on income,” Clement added. “Without the consent decree there is no accountability.”
The public housing crisis is yet another issue that Mayor Emanuel must deal with on the heels of the Laquan McDonald shooting. According to New Republic, construction of low-income housing has decreased substantially since Emanuel took office in 2011.
Between 2007 and 2010, the CHA rebuilt approximately 900 units per year. In 2011, the number of rebuilt units plummeted to 424, and only 49 units were constructed in 2014.
The widespread concern with access to public housing has grown to the point where the Pilsen Alliance has threatened legal action against the CHA. In 1996, the CHA settled a class-action lawsuit, filed by Latinos United, which alleged unequal access to public housing services for Latinos.
To compound their troubles, the CHA dropped its long-standing development contract with the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation (HHDC) in August, puzzling the Latino community.
“We were flabbergasted,” said Paul Roldan, president and chief executive officer of the HHDC. He added that it was a “huge mistake on the part of the city and the CHA.”
Despite the controversy, the CHA has made some progress in their efforts to provide affordable housing to Latinos. Yahaira Battiata, an employee of a local organization that serves low-income Latinos, notes that the CHA now offers translation and language services in their programs.
Clement also said she has seen progress, adding that “that’s what’s so strange about all this.” It seems as if there is still much to be figured out between the Latino community in Chicago and the CHA.