The Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) today hosted a rally to preserve affordable housing programs and healthcare at the new Armond King Senior High Rise Apartment Building, rehabilitated with HOME Partnership financing.
HACC Executive Director Richard Monocchio was joined by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. Also present were HACC staff, Cook County Bureau of Economic Development staff, residents from Armond King Apartments, advocates from Housing Action Illinois, Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County, Connections for the Homeless, and Joining Forces.
Invited guests and speakers gathered in front of the senior high rise building with signs and strong voices resonating the messages of Housing for All; Honk for Housing; Healthcare for All; Seniors and Children Matter; No Cuts to HOME; CDBG Counts!
The HACC used the opportunity to showcase a newly refurbished senior affordable housing apartment building that was renovated with HOME and CDBG funding. In Program Year 2016, Cook County received almost $9.8 million in CDBG funds. The Trump administration is proposing a 50% reduction to CDBG in 2017, and the complete elimination of the CDBG program in 2018.
“The HOME program has allowed us to rehabilitate about 2,000 housing units through the Housing Authority of Cook County. The Trump administration is proposing to zero out HOME money which would directly impact our ability to increase the stock of affordable housing in Cook County,” President Preckwinkle said.
“HOME Partnership funds have been used in four HACC buildings with more than 450 units of affordable housing for very low-income seniors and disabled residents. If the Trump administration slashes HOME, it would directly impact our ability to increase affordable housing stock – especially for seniors and the disabled,” said HACC Executive Director Monocchio.
“Eliminating Community Development Block Grants, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and the HOME Investment Partnership will make it nearly impossible to build and operate rental housing that is affordable for the working poor,” Monocchio added.
He added that should the Trump budget cuts succeed, the HACC will also be forced to eliminate critical human service and workforce training programs that promote resident self-sufficiency, youth after school programs, childcare services and education opportunities for low-income children and families.
Additionally, eighty-five percent of HUD’s budget goes to rental assistance, where most of the cuts are targeted. The HACC serves more than 17,000 families which means that some vouchers will need to be eliminated based on current HUD funding levels. Families with vouchers could also see a 50 percent increase in the rent portion, and/or a reduction in bedroom unit size as a result of the revised payment standards.
“The HUD budget blueprint is disastrous to our core mission of housing affordability especially when one in four of all renter households who live below the poverty line end up with about $5 per day left over to spend, after using 70% of their income on rent,” said Monocchio. “We are now faced with implementing cost savings contingency plans to minimize any disruptions so that we can keep families housed. Otherwise, thousands of households will be at risk, and the burden will be even greater,” Monocchio stressed.
The HACC projects it will lose at minimum close to $8 million from its operational budget. Future development projects will remain in a holding pattern and capital repairs will lag behind. Rents will increase and subsidies will decrease even further with fewer affordable units available.
No vouchers are being issued and the waiting list will remain closed. Illinois could lose 10,734 housing vouchers, hurting extremely low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and working families with children.
The state’s public housing funding could be slashed by $107,266,201, further jeopardizing the health and safety of residents who already need critical repairs for problems such as leaky roofs and outdated heating systems and electrical wiring. The HACC projects it will lose at minimum close to $8 million from its operational budget.
Several residents from other HACC properties voiced concerns and described their housing struggle.
Daijah Sawyer said she grew up in public housing and wanted to make a difference for other young people who are trying to escape a life of poverty and violence. “We all deserve to live in safe and decent housing and if we work hard, we can achieve our goals,” she said. Daijah also pleaded to those in power not to cut her education, her housing, or her dreams.
Kelly Brooks talked about her struggles as a young mother and expressed gratitude that she was able to get the help before the cuts were proposed. Brooks qualified for a voucher under the HACC’s Family First program designed to provide housing for homeless families for 24 months.
“I was living in a shelter with my five children with no options for meals or daycare. My church graciously paid for us to stay in a motel for stability until a more permanent situation was available. I was referred to the HACC Family First program, and it saved my life. The program is a lifeline and I was able to find a full time job and am eager to begin course work to become a paralegal,” Kelly said.
Advocates from Connections for the Homeless, and Joining Forces expressed concerns about CDBG funding cuts that provide supportive housing and other human service resources, warning that resource centers could become overwhelmed with people seeking shelter, food and medical care.