Charles Woodyard, the new CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), started his new post on Monday, taking over an organization facing considerable, immediate challenges.
Woodyard is replacing disgraced former CEO Lewis Jordan, who resigned earlier this year after news broke that he used city funds for personal expenses. Before taking over the CHA, Woodyard was the president of the Charlotte Housing Authority, and he had been a part of the North Carolina state agency since 2002.
Before his tenure in Charlotte, Woodyard had already worked for 20 years in the public sector, holding board positions on 10 local, regional and national boards, including Leadership Charlotte, Public Housing Authorities Directors Association and the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials.
It’s a good thing for the CHA that Woodyard has such vast experience, because he’ll need every bit of it to tackle the problems currently faced by the organization.
The biggest controversy, as reported by the Huffington Post and other outlets, is the CHA’s handling of vacant housing units. Despite the fact that the waiting list for CHA homes stands at an immense 68,000 families, recent reports showed that the CHA currently has almost 22,000 vacant properties – and it will only be filling 15,760 of them, which would result in a surplus of 6,000 perfectly livable units.
Also stirring discontent is the organization’s “one strike” rule, which states that CHA residents can be evicted from their property for a single arrest. Though the rule was initiated to weed out the bad apples in public housing, a detailed investigation by the Chicago Reader’s Angela Caputo found the system to be rife with inconsistencies, as residents were evicted for crimes they didn’t commit or crimes of acquaintances and family.
Phillip Gregory, who lives in CHA housing in Parkside, told Chicago Now that Woodyard must listen to actual CHA residents if he is to succeed.
“He needs to speak more with those who have been here for numerous years and can actually assist him in [developing] a system where they can come down and reconcile how people’s backgrounds, how people’s lifestyles affect this area over here,” Gregory said.
Woodyard clearly has his work cut out for him, and Chicago Agent will be covering his progress every step of the way.