Illinois Democratic U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin sent a letter asking HUD Secretary Ben Carson to report on his agency’s plan to address the serious problems at public housing developments in East St. Louis, IL. Secretary Carson returned control of local housing programs to the East St. Louis Housing Authority in 2017 after 32 years under federal receivership. ProPublica and The Southern Illinoisan report that residents continue to face safety and security issues and deteriorating conditions. The senators’ letter expressed concern that HUD has failed its oversight obligations, and Senator Duckworth issued a separate statement calling the decision to end receivership a mistake.
Secretary Carson visited East St. Louis last month, declaring the transition to local control a success. Only a month prior to his visit, a young mother was murdered by an intruder who entered through her broken first-floor window, which she had repeatedly asked to be fixed. The Trump administration has proposed eliminating federal funding for capital repairs to public housing, despite a nationwide backlog upwards of $50 billion. Secretary Carson has pushed for greater reliance on the private sector to provide public housing, but economically distressed areas like as East St. Louis have limited access to private resources. A representative from the East St. Louis housing authority noted that the agency has limited funding to actually address the needed repairs and renovations.