HUD Subsidized Tenants Issues Forum

On March 31st HUD Subsidized tenants from all over the city gathered together for a forum to discuss issues in their buildings.  The goal of the Issues Forum was to identify problematic issues within HUD subsidized buildings in the city of Chicago and to move towards solutions.  MTO worked with organizers and tenants from various community organizations throughout the city such as STOP (Southside Together Organizing for Power), O.N.E. (Organization of the NorthEast) and Access Living along with the National Alliance of HUD Tenants to plan and implement the forum.

Around 30 tenants participated in breakout sessions, on topics including: Maintenance, Security, Recertification, REAC inspections, Reasonable Accommodation, and Organizing Concerns.  Tenants identified issues and formulated demands to bring to HUD in a series of accountability meetings.  Each breakout session developed a concrete list of policy changes and solutions to increase tenant participation in management decision making and to improve living conditions.

Drawing from the issues identified at the Issues Forum, tenants will bring their concerns to the local HUD office in a HUD Town Hall meeting in early summer.  Tenants will present documented problems and individual experiences on to local HUD officials and demand accountability from the local office.  Any issue or policy change that remains unresolved will then be presented in a second HUD accountability session called Eyes and Ears in the late summer or early fall.  The Metropolitan Tenants Organization with its tenant leadership aim to improve living conditions and preserve aging housing stock in HUD subsidized buildings.


President’s 2013 Proposed Budget Increases Rent for HUD-assisted Families

“Obama’s proposed hike to minimum rent for HUD-assisted families could put poorest in the street”


By YanaKunichoff – March 27 2012 – Community Renewal Society


A proposal in the 2013 presidential budget to raise the minimum rent in public housing could put the poorest families at risk of ending up on the street, say advocates.

And what may be most surprising for some people, Pres. Obama’s proposed hike is more than what’s being asked for by the Republicans. Plus, it pitted two local pols against each other over this issue in Washington.

John Bartlett, Executive Director of the Chicago-based Metropolitan Tenants Organization called the proposed increase, which would raise the minimum rent to $75 a month from $50 for all households assisted by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, “horrible.

“People can’t get back on their feet if they don’t have a home, and some of them will lose their home because of this,” said Barlett.

$75 may not sound like much, especially in Cook County, where the average price is $853 for a one-bedroom apartment, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that 19,602 Illinois families in project-based Section 8 housing, supportive housing and those using housing choice vouchers administered by HUD would be negatively impacted by the rent increase.

What’s more, Illinois would be hit harder than the national average: 14.11 percent of households relying on rent assistance here would face an increase, compared to 12.4 percent of households nationally.

“There has been a lot of pressure on discretionary programs in general,” said Barbara Sard, author of the Center’s report on the cuts.  “All of the low-income housing programs are part of the discretionary side of the budget.”

The problems of the recession on low-income people have been compounded by cuts to social programs, which have been accelerating since the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in the November 2010 election, Sard added.

The proposal to raise the minimum rent in Section 8 housing originally came from the House, which proposed in October 2011 to raise the rent to 12 percent of the local Fair Market Rent, or to $69.45 a month and index it for inflation.

The leader of this push in the House was Republican Rep. Judy Biggert, Chair of the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, from the 13thCongressional District of Illinois, which is in the Southwestern suburbs. And one of the most vocal opponents of the bill was Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez from the 4th Congressional District west of downtown Chicago.

“Raising rents for the poorest of the poor. I just don’t know how this makes sense,” said Rep. Guttierrez, in a February discussion of the rent increase. He had offered an amendment in February to remove the provision from the budget, which he later withdrew.

In response, Rep. Biggert told the subcommittee that increasing the minimum rent for rent-assistance housing would lower the overall cost of the program and allow more people to receive help.

In the end, the difference between the proposal coming from Rep. Biggert–$69.45–and the increase proposed by President Obama–$75–was minimal.

But Sard noted that “for the first time ever the administration proposed an increase in a minimum rent to an even higher level than the Republicans had proposed.”

And when looking at assistance for the “very, very poor,” every penny counts, she said.

“Congress and the president have a lot of discretion as to picking winners and losers,” in the budget cuts, said Sard, and “housing programs are only a small side of the overall budget.”

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes that, along with raising the minimum rent, the 2013 fiscal year budget is “at least $1.7 billion below the amount needed to fully renew rental assistance provided this year under HUD’s three major rental assistance programs.”

Barlett, from the Metropolitan Tenants Organization,  sees the proposed raise in the minimum rent as part of a larger attack on the poor.

“It’s more of a tax increase on the poor instead of taxing the billionaires.”

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Chicago votes to oppose cuts to HUD

On July 28th, families, disabled citizens, and the elderly throughout Chicago celebrated the unanimous passage of a City Council Resolution authored by tenants, organizers, and allies with the Chicago Housing Initiative (CHI) opposing any cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Led by Alderman Suarez, Chairman of the Committee on Housing and Real Estate, forty-seven aldermen signed on to the Resolution, which urged IL Senators Durbin and Kirk to preserve desperately needed HUD funding for Chicago and the nation. In recent years, Congress has cut HUD funding to dangerously low levels and, this year, is threatening once again to decimate programs that help those most in need.

In Chicago alone, HUD funding provides more than $250 million in Public Housing Capital and Operating dollars and helps to house an estimated 185,562 low-income families and seniors.  Additionally, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs provide an enormous range of affordable housing, economic development, and social service programs for the residents of Chicago.  In fact, a number of wards in Chicago benefit from over $1 million in CDBG funding.  These services help Chicagoans avoid foreclosure, hunger, and homelessness. In these difficult economic times, Chicagoans simply can’t risk losing any more of the services HUD funds.

As the debt crisis winds down, and the battle for the budget begins, residents throughout Chicago are sounding the alarm about what a loss of federal funds would mean for Chicago neighborhoods. Passing this City Council Resolution was an important first step, but there is more work to be done. Wilma Pittman Gibson, a community leader with ONE and CHI says she hopes that the City Council “will go one step further and hold a Hearing where we can tell the stories of what these cuts will really mean for our communities.”

Major Protest Friday Against Devastating Budget Cuts

Not on Our Backs: Stop the Slash-and-Burn Budget Cuts to HUD

Friday, February 25th
4pm – Teach In and Testimonies; 77 W. Washington – The Chicago Temple
4:45pm – March and Rally at the Thompson Center; 100 W. Randolph – Corner of Randolph and Clark

23.8% cuts to HUD’s budget will devastate Illinois communities

Just a few of the specifics include…

  • 67% – 70% cuts to Housing for the Elderly & Disabled

  • Over $78.3 Million will be cut from IL’s public housing budget, leading to unsafe conditions & continued demolitions while over 118,000 families languish on IL public housing and voucher waiting lists
  • Additionally, LIHEAP is being slashed 66% and WIC is being cut 10%
  • Funding for Community Health Centers is cut 46%

We need you to come out and make your voices heard! RSVP to Sara Mathers at 773.292.4980 x 240 or by email at

Sponsored by the Chicago Housing Initiative, Kenwood Oakland Community Organizations,  Jane Addams Senior Caucus,  Logan Square Neighborhood Association,  Lakeview Action Coalition, Metropolitan Tenants Organization,  O.N.E.,  Southside Together Organizing for Power

Co-Sponsoring Organizations:  Access Living,  Action NOW,  Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance,  Bickerdike,  Chicago Coalition for the Homeless,  Coalition to Protest Public Housing,  Housing Action Illinois,  Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs,  Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, and growing.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

When Bed Bugs Attack

Bed bugs have returned, invading our hospitals, hotels, public transportation, and most unsettling of all, our homes. While bed bugs do not transmit disease, bed bugs have proven to be a serious nuisance to homeowners and renters alike, across the nation.

While New York City leads the nation in reported incidents of bed bug infestations, according to an August 2010 report released by Terminix, the Windy City does not find itself far behind – we live in the fifth most bed bug infested city in the U.S. MTO can certainly attest to this, as hotline calls pertaining to bed bugs have increased dramatically in the last two years. In 2010, MTO received 313, usually very frantic, calls with complaints of bed bugs. Two years ago, bed bug calls to MTO’s hotline were nonexistent.

In response to this sudden reemergence of bed bugs in Chicago, MTO has led efforts to create a roundtable of representatives from HUD, EPA, Chicago Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Public Health, and other invested agencies and community organizations. MTO is actively working with this group on creating a policy proposal for HUD subsidized buildings. Among other recommendations,  MTO has proposed the following to be included in a HUD policy on bed bugs:

-Landlords should disclose any known bed bug infestations within the previous 12 months to prospective renters,

-HUD should support an initiative for an educational campaign on bed bugs and pest control,

-Landlords should hire certified/licensed pest control professionals for both bed bug inspections and treatments,

-Landlords should encourage tenant notification of bed bug sightings by never retaliating against tenants (e.g. imposing fees, threatening eviction, etc),

-and HUD should allocate a long term source of funding to help landlords and renters combat bed bug infestations.

MTO is working on the bed bug issue at the state level as well. Meron Kahssai, an MTO Healthy Homes Organizer, has been appointed to the Illinois Subcommittee on Bed Bugs, a subcommittee of the Illinois Structural Pest Control Advisory Council. MTO will serve on this subcommittee as the voice of renters and will provide the necessary insight on the plight of renters to the other members of the state’s bed bug subcommittee. The goal of this subcommittee is to create a report with recommendations to the IL General Assembly on the prevention, management, and control of bed bugs which include recommendations on an educational campaign, proper transport and disposal of bed bug infested materials, and best practices of treatment and eradication.

Tenants who have dealt with bed bugs are encouraged to join MTO’s bed bug committee. This committee is open to anyone who is interested in serving the need of renters affected by bed bugs by pushing policies for both subsidized and market rate renters. Please contact Meron Kahssai at 773-292-4980 ext. 229, if interested.

Bed bugs will be the topic of discussion at the January 20th Tenant Congress meeting at the Chicago Urban League (4510 S. Michigan). Following a presentation on bed bugs, the floor will be open for a question and answer session. This meeting is open to the public.

Testify about Your Experience as a HUD Subsidized Renter

Wednesday, June 30th will be your chance to voice your concerns to Mr. Ed Hinsberger, Chicago Multifamily HUD Director, and Mr. George Gilmore, HUD Neighborhood Coordinator.

HUD Subsidized Renters are invited to attend a HUD Townhall Meeting. This meeting is for property-based Section 8 Chicago HUD Subsidized tenants only.

When: Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Time:   1:00pm till 3:00pm
Where: Access Living
115 W Chicago Ave

The Metropolitan Tenants Organization along with Access Living are providing tenants of subsidized housing a platform to address their concerns regarding maintenance and management of HUD subsidized buildings.

For more information please contact:

Metropolitan Tenants Organization
Farid Muhammad
773.292.4980 x 236


Access Living
Deidre Brewster
312.640.2100 x 132