CHA backtracks on Westhaven security cuts

The Chicago Housing Authority is reinstating $15,000 it had cut from the security budget at a mixed-income community in response to public complaints by the development's condo owners.

Top CHA officials also agreed to clarify guidelines governing eviction from Westhaven Park Tower and to organize some kind of social event so the building's CHA residents and condo owners can get to know each other better.

Chief Executive Officer Lewis Jordan and Chief of Operations Duwain Bailey met about 15 condo owners last week. The 113-unit building stands at 100 N. Hermitage Ave., site of one of the old Henry Horner buildings.

"They seemed committed to working with us, that if people are violating the rules they either change or we get them out," says Kathy Quickery, president of the building's condo association.

The housing authority always has maintained that residents need to be good neighbors, says CHA spokesman Bryan Zises.

"They shouldn't be held to a higher or lower standard," he says.

The condo association had budgeted $83,000 for this year to pay for a security guard, and they expected the CHA to provide $15,000 of that sum, as it had in 2007. When they learned in early February that the agency intended to cut their funding, they spoke out against the plan at the February meeting of the CHA board of commissioners.

Quickery says the building's developer first told her the CHA had lost federal funding, forcing it to cut expenses; Later he said the CHA felt the building didn't need the security money because elderly people lived there.

Neither Jordan nor Bailey gave a reason at last week's meeting for the cut in funding, Quickery says.

"They both pleaded ignorant," she says. "But they do seem very positive about making this mixed-income community work, about making this a success story. I just hope they follow through on that."

In addition to restoring the funding, Jordan and Bailey agreed to specify which offenses constituted grounds for eviction from the mixed-income community. The condo association had felt the guidelines were inappropriately murky.

Zises says CHA residents have always needed to meet the conditions of their leases, which are not at all vague. Property managers are responsible for enforcing those conditions.

But there appeared to be communication problems between the CHA and the two property management companies overseeing the building's units, Quickery said.

"Nobody could really tell us what the procedure was for what to do if someone was violating their lease," she says.

A representative from Interstate Realty Management, the company which oversees the CHA units in Westhaven Park Tower, told CHA residents on Thursday that three violations of either the condo association's regulations or security rules will now result in eviction, Quickery says.

The last issue discussed on March 4 was the need for interaction between CHA residents and condo owners. If people know their neighbors, they can distinguish between them and people who don't belong in the building, Quickery said.

Neither the date or the nature of the mixer have been determined yet, but the hope is that it will help integrate the building's two populations and alleviate some of the existing "us against them" feeling. About 30 percent of the units belong to CHA renters; condo owners occupy the rest.

But planned activities aren't needed for CHA residents to benefit from living in mixed-income communities, Zises says. Besides, "I'm not sure that you can manufacture these types of interactions. They have to happen organically."