MPC recommends strategies for maintaining contact with CHA families in private housing market - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC recommends strategies for maintaining contact with CHA families in private housing market

New research improves CHA service to relocating families

Faced with the national trend that only 15 percent of relocating families return to public housing, last year, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) enlisted the help of the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) to research ways to maintain contact with families about their option to return to a rehabbed or new unit. Even before MPC completed its report, CHA was using its practical suggestions to develop a seven-point strategy for improving service to families relocating from public housing into the private market. CHA publicly unveiled that strategy today at a meeting of public housing stakeholders organized by MPC. Temporary Relocation, Permanent Choice: Serving Families with Rent Vouchers During the Chicago Housing Authority Plan for Transformation — MPC’s report — was also released today.

“In order to provide the best array of services, with limited resources, it is critical that CHA staff have access to in-depth research to help shape their service model," said Robin Snyderman, MPC housing director. “The report we commissioned on CHA’s behalf outlines three areas of recommendations — the most important of which is coordination of services to residents.” The other areas are resident involvement in the Plan for Transformation and building support for the Plan.

Said Meghan Harte, CHA's director of relocation, “We have developed a broad, new set of programs to prevent homelessness, help families return to public housing, aid families as they integrate into new communities, and ensure all families achieve stability.”

The CHA’s new strategy includes:

  • Asingle point of contact for relocating families;
  • Support for families already in the private market;
  • An increased role for developers in the relocation process;
  • Supportive housing for residents with intensive service needs;
  • An improved “service connector” program for families not moving;
  • Coordinated communication; and
  • Community building and intervention.

MPC’s report was written by Kale Williams, senior scholar at Loyola University’s Center for Urban Research and Learning; Paul Fischer, professor of politics at Lake Forest College; and Mary Ann Russ, senior researcher with Abt Associates, who surveyed public housing relocation activities in other cities. For input, Williams and Fischer reviewed relevant relocation documents and interviewed community-based representatives, advocates, developers, marketing specialists, Local Advisory Council leaders, and CHA relocation and social service contractors. They also conducted two focus groups with residents.

“The current leadership of the CHA is undertaking the largest overhaul of public housing ever, while they’re combating a negative reputation — not of their own making, but nevertheless pervasive,” said Kale Williams, one of the authors and founding CEO of the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities. “The recommendations we’ve outlined in this report, and the new programs CHA staff have already set in motion, are essential to providing meaningful choices and support services to CHA residents, while improving public perceptions of the CHA itself,” he added.

The report’s first recommendation is for a simplified relocation process that offers a single point of contact for residents — known as a Contact Counselor — and a detailed description of the Contact Counselor’s role and responsibilities is provided. The report’s other recommendations call on the CHA to:

  • Involve residents in the relocation process as advisors in planning and design of new or rehabilitated development and in communication with other residents concerning access to services and progress on the Plan for Transformation;
  • Use a range of communications, such as one-page mailings, media releases and development-site social events, to maintain contact with relocated residents and correct mistaken impressions about CHA; and
  • Invest in creating a new identity for itself as a caring, efficient, accessible public agency that supports families and revitalizing neighborhoods.

Temporary Relocation, Permanent Choice , available online at , is the latest in a series of works the CHA has used to bolster their new relocation program. Other research includes independent monitor Tom Sullivan’s recent recommendations for improving the relocation process and The Robert Taylor Homes Relocation Study, a report by Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh of Columbia University’s Center for Urban Research, released last fall.

Founded in 1934, MPC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders committed to serving the public interest through the promotion and implementation of sensible planning and development policies necessary for a world-class Chicago region.

For more information, contact Robin Snyderman, MPC housing director, at 312.863.6007.

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