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Charles Woodyard To Head CHA Amid Vacancy Dustup: Report

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The former head of the public housing agency in Charlotte, N.C. was named the new leader of the Chicago Housing Authority Thursday as housing advocates blast the CHA over allegedly unused properties.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Charles Woodyard, the Charlotte Housing Authority's former president and CEO, resigned from his previous position in order to head Chicago's public housing agency. The news was confirmed in a statement issued Wednesday by the Charlotte agency. Woodyard is set to start his new gig Oct. 24.

In a statement announcing the appointment, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Woodyard "has proven management ability and a history of innovation in public housing, and is the right man to lead the CHA to the successful completion of its Plan for Transformation and beyond."

Under Woodyard's tenure, the chairman of the agency's board of commissioners, Joel D. Ford, said the Charlotte program "has become nationally recognized as an innovative, aggressive and financially strong community partner that provides housing to Charlotte's working poor, elderly, disabled and others who need supportive housing in safe and attractive units."

Once appointed, Woodyard will be stepping into a moment of tension between the CHA and the Chicago Housing Initiative. This week, the initiative accused the CHA of sitting on thousands of vacant housing units, despite the fact that the agency faces a daunting waiting list estimated at 68,000 families. The initiative claims the CHA has 21,900 available units at their disposal but will only be filling 15,760 of them -- leaving a surplus of 6,000 units, as FOX Chicago reports.

In response, CHA leadership claims a 98 percent occupancy rate in their housing units. The CHA's Jadine Chou said that the agency does not count units that need rehabbing or are otherwise idle in calculating their occupancy, according to WBEZ.

Still, the initiative's organizer Leah Levinger stands by her coalition's report and the Chicago Reporter cited a unit at 3605 W. Douglas Blvd. in North Lawndale as one of several examples of already-rehabbed CHA developments that continue to sit empty. At the same time, occupancy in developments such as the Cabrini-Green rowhouses and the Lathrop Homes has nosedived.

"We didn’t pull this out of thin air. This is their data that they have reported publicly that’s all hidden in plain sight. So I think the issue is that what they call a vacant unit is not what any ordinary, average American would call a vacant unit," Levinger told WBEZ.

The CHA is also recovering from the controversy surrounding its former CEO Lewis Jordan who resigned from his post in June after widespread city credit card misuse was alleged by a Better Government Association (BGA)/FOX Chicago investigation. The controversy was likely behind Emanuel's decision to rein in credit cards for all city agencies.

And the crackdown hasn't ended there for the CHA. Emanuel also announced Thursday that the CHA's board chairman will no longer be compensated. The position previously came with a $100,000 annual salary.

Photo by Zol87 via Flickr.

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