I walked into the Chicago Housing Authority's annual meeting Tuesday as Commissioner Mildred Harris ticked through a checklist of the agency's recent successes.
More than 800 new units are slated to open up this year; the occupancy at family sites sits at 98.8 percent; and mixed-income developments are 97.8 percent leased out.
Having just reported a story on the thousands of CHA units that are currently sitting empty, my ears perked up.
By our count, the occupancy rate at family units was actually at 63 percent at the end of last year. Why the vast disparity between our numbers and Harris'?
CHA officials don't factor many of those empty units into their occupancy rate. They do count them into another important equation, though: the budget.
Our investigation found that the agency collects full rent from the federal government on thousands of empty units. And many have been vacant for years.
The issue has caught the attention of officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. On Thursday, a delegation will travel to Chicago from the Washington, D.C. headquarters to tour properties with high numbers of vacancies.