A housing authority is a local administrative agency that provides assistance to low-income individuals and families. These agencies are independent of the municipal government, and have their own staff and management. They also provide rent subsidies to eligible residents.
The first housing authorities were established in cities during the Great Depression. At the time, high concentrations of poverty were prevalent and the infrastructure of the city was often poorly maintained. In response, Roosevelt began several New Deal programs to combat blight and to provide affordable housing to low-income families.
Today, the Chicago Housing Authority is a municipal not-for-profit corporation. Its Board of Commissioners is appointed by the mayor. This agency operates the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which offers rental assistance to very-low-income applicants.
The program offers families the choice of renting a single-family home, an apartment or a townhouse. Families with vouchers pay 30 percent to 40 percent of their income toward rent.
Most housing authorities have long waiting lists for people in need. Those accepted for assistance will be assigned a case worker and need to regularly visit the agency to check on their status.
In addition, the agency maintains a list of available units and notifies interested parties when a unit becomes available. Some of these units are owned by the agency, while others are rented by the agency to low-income families.
A housing authority is also responsible for providing utilities, including water and elevators, to its residents. The authority is required to make repairs on its property within a reasonable time period.