The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James B. Zagel
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce this court's order of April 5, 2010, in which they allege that the CHA's decisions denying the family split requests of Horner class members Camilla Rathers, Diane Fain, Dawnetta Bridges, and Lucritia Hampton run contrary to the requirements set forth in Paragraph 17 of the Horner Amended Consent Decree and to the balancing test adopted by this Court's order. They therefore ask the Court to order the CHA to grant the requests for family splits made by these Horner class members.
Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion and argue that the Court did not adopt a balancing test but rather a case-by-case approach to deciding family split requests. They ask that the Court refer this dispute to the mediator in lieu of adjudication; if the Court declines to do so, Defendants ask (1) that the Plaintiff's motion be denied, and (2) that the Court allow the CHA to use the 2009 Admission and Continued Occupancy Policy ("2009 ACOP") at Horner Phase I. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.
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. The revitalization project was to be completed in five phases. 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.
Paragraph 17 of the Horner Amended Consent Decree reads in relevant part: Where necessary to accommodate family housing needs, CHA and the Horner plaintiffs may agree to allow household members with children of their own to convert to principle leaseholder status and thereby obtain their own Horner Housing Certificate; provided that the Horner plaintiffs may petition the Court to authorize such conversions if CHA and the Horner plaintiffs are unable to agree.
On April 5, 2010, I granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff's motion to have CHA grant the family split requests of four Horner class members. Plaintiffs argued that the CHA had adopted a blanket policy of denying Horner class members requests for family splits. CHA denied this and contended that Paragraph 17 of the Decree vested discretion in the CHA to determine whether or not a split would be permitted, taking into consideration its desire to make efficient use of its housing resources, to be fair to families also waiting for new units, and to alleviate overcrowding.
I found that the CHA did not have a blanket policy against family splits. While they clearly had a preference for denying such splits, I found their policy to be reasonable in light of the goals embodied in the Decree. Paragraph 17 of the Decree does not grant Horner Plaintiffs an absolute right to a split but does guarantee them a right to appeal a decision by the CHA and the Mediator to this Court. Therefore, I will review each Plaintiff's request for a family split in light of the facts presented to me. Neither prior CHA nor Mediator decisions are binding on my ruling.
The Plaintiffs now once again seek the Court's intervention to enforce family split requests by four Horner families. Under the 2003 Admission and Continued Occupancy Policy which governs Horner Phase I units, each family has become overcrowded in their current unit and requests a Housing Choice Voucher ("HCV") as their replacement housing. In each case, the CHA denied the split request and the families were placed on the waiting list for larger replacement units. Horner Plaintiffs Camilla Rathers, Diane Fain, Dawnetta Bridges, and Lucritia Hampton appeal to the court to order CHA to grant their split requests.
In response, the CHA seeks to have a uniform occupancy policy at all of its developments and so has also requested that the court grant them approval to use the updated 2009 Admission and Continued Occupancy Policy ("2009 ACOP") for Horner Phase I units. Only Horner Phase I uses the 2003 Admission and Continued Occupancy Policy ("2003 ACOP"). The 2009 ACOP currently governs all other traditional public housing units.
Camilla Rathers and her family (collectively "the Rathers") currently reside in a 4-bedroom unit. She has requested a split and an HCV for her daughter, Alocia Rathers, and Alocia's two children. The Rathers are overcrowded under the 2003 ACOP standards, but would not be under the 2009 ACOP. On July 21, 2010, CHA denied the request and added the family to the 5-bedroom waiting list. They are the sixth family on the list. The first person on the waiting list is a recent medical ...