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Guild v. Chicago Housing Authority

April 5, 2010

HENRY HORNER MOTHERS GUILD, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CHICAGO HOUSING AUTHORITY (CHA), AN ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel United States District Judge

Judge James B. Zagel

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On December 17, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a motion for declaratory and injunctive relief asking that I (1) declare that the Chicago Housing Authority's (" CHA") policy of denying Horner class members "family splits" to relieve overcrowding violates Paragraph 17 of the Horner Amended Consent Decree, (2) enjoin CHA from enforcing its "family split policy" as expressed in Section 4.7.A of CHA's Admissions and Occupancy Policy for West Haven Park II B Rental and Subsequent Phases ("AOP") against Horner Phase II class members, and (3) require CHA to grant family split requests of four individual Horner class members. Plaintiffs allege that CHA has violated Paragraph 17 by denying two Phase I families and two Phase II families their family split requests. Defendants oppose Plaintiffs' motion and argue that Plaintiffs have not been denied any right and that the CHA solution is the most efficient and equitable to the presented issue of overcrowding.

I. BACKGROUND

On September 1, 1995, I approved an Amended Consent Decree ("Decree") binding Defendants, the Chicago Housing Authority et al., and Plaintiffs Henry Horner Mothers Guild et al., to the terms set forth therein. That Decree identified 933 families who lived at the development in April 1995. The goal of the Decree was to convert the Horner development from a hazardous low-income housing development to a mixed-income neighborhood consisting of new and renovated mid-rise and low-income, low-density homes. As part of that process, the Horner families were given their choice of replacement housing. Residents selected new units on the site of the old Horner project, new units built in the Horner neighborhood, and rehabilitated units at the Horner Annex, and scattered-site units throughout the city. Others selected section 8 vouchers providing subsidized units in existing buildings in the city and suburbs. As of 2008, all of the original Horner families had been provided their choice of new replacement housing.

The redevelopment plan built more public housing than was necessary to accommodate the original Horner families. As new public housing becomes available, CHA and its private manager fill the units with CHA families from other developments who are on the Housing Offer Process ("HOP") list. Typically HOP families have been relocated from dangerous buildings and have elected to take a temporary section 8 subsidy while they wait for the mixed-income units to be developed. These families, unlike the Horner families, have not received "replacement housing" until they can be housed at Horner.

Two of the families at issue in Plaintiffs' motion are Horner HOP list families who came to Horner from other developments (Miles and Griffin). The two other families (Bradford and Miles) are original Horner families. Plaintiffs have brought this motion because of their needs for larger units. In three of the four cases, the apartments became overcrowded when someone in the household had a new baby. Accordingly, each has requested that CHA grant them a "family split" pursuant to paragraph 17 of the Decree. Each has requested a newly constructed Horner Phase II replacement unit.

Plaintiffs allege that CHA improperly denied the four class members' requests for family splits. In May and June, 2009, CHA denied each of the requests on the ground that Section 4.7.A of CHA's AOP does not provide for family splits, but rather requires CHA to assign the entire family to larger dwelling units within West Haven Park. All families who requested family splits have been placed on waiting lists for larger units.

Paragraph 3 of the Horner Agreed Order of February 1, 2000 allows the Horner plaintiffs to appeal decisions of CHA relating to Phase II of the Horner redevelopment to the Horner Mediator ("the Mediator"), John Schmidt, with review of the Mediator's ruling to this Court if requested by any party. On June 17, 2009, the Hornerplaintiffs appealed CHA's decision to deny family splits to four Horner class members to the Mediator. The Mediator reviewed CHA's decisions to "determine reasonableness under all facts and circumstances." On December 7, 2009 the Mediator found that although it would "be desirable to make the moves to larger units faster than may be possible in all cases, the delay does not seem to me to make the CHA's decisions unreasonable." Denying family splits would also increase the availability of new Horner housing to a larger number of low-income tenants which is consistent with the purpose of the Decree. Horner plaintiffs Demetria Miles, Sheena Griffin, Odell Bradford, and Joanne Harris now appeal the Mediator's decision to this Court.

A. Demetria Miles

The Miles family moved into a new 3-bedroom unit in Phase II of the Horner development on February 1, 2008. In early 2009, after the birth of a child, the family became eligible for a 4-bedroom unit. Plaintiffs propose that Ms. Miles and her son be "split off" and moved to a new 2-bedroom unit at Horner while the remaining family stay in the family's current 3-bedroom unit. CHA proposes that the Miles family be placed on the waiting list for a 4-bedroom apartment.

B. Sheena Griffin

Ms. Griffin and her family moved into a new Phase II 4-bedroom unit at Horner on June 11, 2008. After moving in, one family member gave birth to a new child. Ms. Griffin now seeks a split to provide a new 2-bedroom unit for the mother and child. All parties agree that the Griffin family qualifies for a 5-bedroom apartment under the federal and CHA Occupancy guidelines. Again, CHA argues that instead of providing a split, the Griffin family should be placed on a waiting list for a 5-bedroom unit.

C. Odell Bradford

Odell Bradford, his daughter, and two grandchildren live in a 2-bedroom unit and are eligible for a 3-bedroom unit. CHA argues that the Bradford family should be placed on the 3-bedroom waiting ...


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