CHA to consider paring list of property managers

Five private companies would manage more than 20,000 public-housing units in the city if the Chicago Housing Authority approves a plan to scrap nine existing property managers.

CHA officials recommended the move this morning, during the authority's monthly committee meetings. They say the plan would streamline costs and raise accountability among the authority's property managers.

"More than ever, it is extremely important for CHA to review all aspects of its operations in order to do things better and more efficiently," CHA spokesman Matt Aguilar wrote in an e-mail. Reducing the number of firms "better enables both the Authority, as well as the private property management firms, to meet the increasingly higher standards that we hold for ourselves and our partners."

According to CHA documents, each firm would manage about 1,200 to 5,500 housing units. Officials selected the five companies from 24 applicants over a six-month screening process, according to authority records.

The firms are East Lake Management Group, The Habitat Co., H.J. Russell and Co., Woodlawn Community Development Corp. and the Hispanic Housing Development Corp. All are among 14 existing property managers.

The companies would be in charge of overseeing occupancy, leasing and marketing; selecting residents; enforcing leases; collecting rent; evictions; maintenance and repairs; management of grounds and public spaces; budgeting; accounting; and adherence to CHA guidelines.

They would hire about 200 public-housing residents to help with the work, according to documents, and at least 20 percent of their $11 million in total contracts would go to contractors or subcontractors owned by minorities, women or people who are disabled. The authority could renew their two-year contracts for one year up to three times, for a total of up to five years.

The authority would no longer work with Legum and Norman, U.S. Residential, Metroplex, HRC, Interstate, Urban Property Advisors, Wentworth Gardens RMC, It's Time for a Change RMC and Community Builders.

Aguilar says the change is part of a policy shift rather than dissatisfaction with existing managers.

"The CHA has valued the partnerships it held with all of its property managers," he wrote. "This move is not a reflection of prior satisfaction, but rather that of an intention to take the CHA to a new level of customer service."

CHA committee members also recommended a proposal to use federal stimulus funds to install 3,198 cameras around nearly 16,000 public-housing apartments for families and seniors.

Seimens Building Technologies Inc. would receive almost $23 million over 16 months. To maintain the cameras, the authority could renew the company's contract for one year up to two times, for a total of three years and four months.

Seimens would hire 30 public-housing residents to help with the work, according to CHA records, and subcontractors owned by minorities, women or people who are disabled would receive at least 40 percent of the contract total.

According to authority records, the federal government has awarded the CHA roughly $143 million in recovery money. Officials say the remainder of those funds will help them rehabilitate 900 units of public housing and demolish tattered buildings to improve safety in surrounding neighborhoods.

Several of those buildings are part of the Harold Ickes Homes, which once housed nearly 1,000 families.

Officials closed five of the development's 11 buildings in 2007, but families still occupied six buildings until late last year. Officials say security concerns, the buildings' poor condition and vacancies — 132 of 492 apartments were occupied — led them to close three more.

The CHA board will consider committee recommendations during its annual meeting, at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Flannery Apartments, 1507-31 N. Clybourn Ave.

Staff Writer Adrian G. Uribarri can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 12, or adrian at chitowndailynews dot org.



I believe most of the City residents want to see better management. There's no excuse when any CHA development gets overtaken with gang activity and drug sales. Policies don't seem to get followed. I would hope that there are tighter controls with ensuring that all of the chosen management companies have the ability and willingness to address this ongoing problem. It's not fair otherwise to the other CHA residents and it's not fair to the rest of the community.

Because some CHA residents fear speaking up for fear of repercussions, there should also be non-CHA area residents serving on the board of each of the CHA sites as well. Management should also be required to send a local rep to their area CAPS meetings to make sure they are being a good neighbor to the rest of the community.