MPC public housing forum introduces new partners in CHA’s Housing Choice Voucher program - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC public housing forum introduces new partners in CHA’s Housing Choice Voucher program

The second Building Successful Mixed-Income Communities forum of 2008 explored the restructuring of CHA’s Housing Choice Voucher program.

On June 24, 2008, MPC continued to expand the focus of its Building Successful Mixed-Income Communities forum series, this time addressing new administrative changes to the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program for an audience of 100 policymakers, advocates, residents, service providers, and other stakeholders. In addition to offering opportunities for low-income families to find affordable housing in the private market and new communities, the HCV Program has played an important role in the relocation of CHA residents as part of the Plan for Transformation.

The panel, moderated by Paul Fischer, professor emeritus of politics at Lake Forest College and a member of MPC’s Resource Board, featured leaders involved in the restructuring and new administration of CHA’s HCV program: Nan McKay, president of Nan McKay and Associates; Bill Riley, program director at Quadel Consulting; Philip Fairweather, representative of Thomas & Herbert Consulting; Janice Stewart, executive program director at CVR Associates; and Stan McCright, executive director of McCright and Associates. Lewis Jordan , CEO of CHA, gave opening remarks.

Mr. Jordan updated the audience on the recent opening of the CHA HCV program waiting list for the first time in 10 years. CHA will use a lottery to select 40,000 families from the more than 260,000 who applied to compile a new waiting list. Mr. Jordan described the new structure of the voucher program and expressed his desire for more CHA involvement and oversight, calling for greater efforts to make voucher holders “good neighbors” through expanded self-sufficiency programs and increased dialogue between owners, residents and administrators. “While we feel we are going in the right direction, we have challenges,” said Mr. Jordan, including administration technology and addressing the needs of residents, communities and partners.

Ms. McKay outlined her role in assessing CHA’s Housing Choice Voucher program, formulating best practices for program management and facilitating the bifurcation of administrative functions between CHA and its subcontractors. She praised the degree of collaboration between those involved in the program, and acknowledged CHA’s increased financial and administrative control as a means of achieving a new degree of cohesion in its housing operations. Ms. McKay’s presentation summarized the technological solutions to streamline operations and provide a better “customer service” experience to voucher holders . She stressed, “Why are we in business if not to serve our clients - families and owners?” Specific enhancements include two new call centers, job specialization, new computer systems, and required direct deposit for owners by the end of 2008.

Bill Riley, former executive director of CHAC, Inc., a subsidiary of Quadel Consulting, discussed the significant progress of the HCV program , which has grown from serving 14,000 families to 35,000 families in the past 10 years, including 4,300 relocated CHA residents as part of the Plan for Transformation. In addition, HCV families now live in every city community and ward, with 42 percent of families living in “opportunity areas.” With the help of targeted outreach efforts, the Latino voucher-holder population has increased from 1 to about 11 percent, and the Choose-to-Own program is now the most successful in the country, with more than 250 participants. Mr. Riley stated Quadel will be responsible for 65 percent of the HCV population and continue its previous roles of managing and maintaining the HCV waiting list and administering special programs such as Choose-to-Own, Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) and mobility counseling, and improving service delivery through neighborhood satellite offices.

Philip Fairweather described Thomas & Herbert’s history and role as a subcontractor of Quadel Consulting, operating two satellite offices for the CHA HCV program, with plans to expand to other neighborhoods. Mr. Fairweather has been involved in a number of similar projects across the country and was part of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) economic development team during the restructuring of the CHA in the late 1990s.

Janice Stewart explained the role of CVR Associates in managing 35 percent of HCV units and overseeing communications. She explained the operation of the program’s new call center, which will ease the workload of other employees and streamline the customer experience. She also spoke about the need for better communication with landlords and the desire to find new owners willing to participate in the HCV program.

Stan McCright outlined new efforts to speed up the inspection process and facilitate the addition of new units to the HCV program. Echoing Ms. McKay’s stress on improving service through technology, Mr. McCright voiced his goals to heighten the inspection call center’s efficiency and expand internet services to include the online posting of inspection results.

A brief Q&A followed these presentations, addressing a number of topics, including the need to expand services to facilitate resident integration into new communities and additional opportunities to move to self-sufficiency. Panelists also discussed resident access to the new program, clarifying that existing HCV holders have been notified via mail of the appropriate satellite office, and that families and landlords interested in the CHA HCV program should call the main number (312-935-2600). In response to recent media attention to the HCV program, Mr. Jordan emphasized the importance of regional cooperation in administering HCV programs, as well as the need for housing authorities, service providers, policymakers, and communities “to work collaboratively to fight the notion of ‘who voucher holders are.’”

For information about past Building Successful Mixed-Income Communities forums and related publications , please visit MPC’s web site.

MPC research assistant Robert Kett contributed to this article.

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