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Jun. 17 2010 - 9:58 am | 218 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

125,000 apply for CHA spots, desperate for affordable housing

In just three short days, 125,000 people have already applied for the public housing wait list in Chicago. With over three more weeks to go, that number will likely continue to rise.

But only 40,000 families will actually end up on the wait list, and those waiting may  have to wait for years to actually get into a unit. It may seem unfair, given the need, but the Chicago Housing Authority is trying to make a wait list that’s actually useable and functional, unlike lists they’ve had in the past.

Before 1999, the wait list was continually open and CHA allowed anyone to sign up anytime, says the Chicago Tribune.

“We created a really long list,” said Kellie O’Connell-Miller, director of communications for CHA. “It was just too long to manage.”

The huge number applying speaks to the incredible need for affordable housing in Chicago, says O’Connell-Miller. Her words ring true, especially in the midst of the housing market crash. Housing, we’ve got, but decent housing that people can afford? That’s much harder to come by.

Rents have become so high, in fact, that the little people have left to live on doesn’t buy them much. A study out of Northeastern University in Boston shows that some low-income families with young children have only $600 left after they pay their rent.

Trying to stretch $600 to cover everything a family needs isn’t easy. The USDA estimates a modest food budget for a family of four with two young kids is $770 a month. Not to mention electricity, gas, clothes, toilet paper, diapers and health care.

Housing costs need to go down and wages need to go up. Not just one, not the other – both. Six-hundred bucks is not enough for a family to get by, much less move forward. We don’t need more McMansions or condos with granite counter tops. We need decent, affordable apartments and houses for families and kids to grow up in.

The Chicago Housing Authority can help provide that, but there are more than 40,000 families who need it. These next few weeks will show us just how many families are waiting for their chance.


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    $600 left? That’s simply not true! The poor families that I know are lucky to have $200 left after paying rent. These families would not be eatting were it not for Food Banks. The only reason they’re not starving is that the Moms spend all day traveling on buses going from one food bank to the next 5 days a week. In this ‘hood they are called “Gatherers”, and its a very respectable title. It shows that a Mom is “working”, as it takes hours and hours of travel and waiting in long lines to get that food for your family. It also means you are not a “Grocery Ho” a woman with a sex partner who buys her family food in exchange for sex). And yes, their children are on foodstamps, but they often have to sell 1/2 their foodstamps in order to afford going to a laundrmat, buying soap, shampoo, shoes, socks, and used clothes for their children.

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    I'm a journalist living in Chicago writing about poverty and public housing. I don't come from the streets - I grew up on a farm. But I'm passionate about urban issues and getting to know people who are completely different from me. I'm quirky, funny and friendly.

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