West Side residents will meet Thursday night to discuss a proposal from Action Now  to establish a Chicago Housing Trust that would rehab vacant buildings as affordable rentals (Thursday, October 25, 6 p.m., Penn Elementary, 1616 S. Avers).
At a South Side meeting last week , residents spoke up about the problems associated with vacant properties. Action Now leader Charles Brown told about seeing a man taking a young girl into a vacant building; Brown gathered a few neighbors and went to her rescue.
The group has opposed an “anti-violence initiative” by Mayor Emanuel under which over a hundred vacant homes have been demolished, instead proposing a public-private effort they’ve dubbed “Rebuild Chicago .”
“Why tear them down,” said Action Now leader Adeline Bracey. “We don’t need any more vacant lots.” She called for a moratorium on demolitions. “Let’s look at the property and if it’s sound, why not rehab it?”
The group has revamped an earlier proposal and plans to introduce an ordinance calling for a Chicago Housing Trust that would accept donations of vacant buildings from banks and lend them at no cost to developers who would agree to provide affordable housing and hire local residents.
Banks and developers have expressed interest, said policy director Dan Kleinman. Banks would get to remove negative equity from their portfolios and take advantage of tax write-offs, he said, and developers would be spared acquisition costs, enabling them to provide housing at lower cost.
“Let’s teach our young people a trade so they don’t need to stand on the street being harassed and arrested,” said Bracey.
“Our neighborhood has changed in the last 40 years,” said Brown. “We want to bring it back to the way it used to be.”
Similar programs have been successful in Flint, Michigan, and Cleveland, Ohio, Kleinman said
The group is circulating an ordinance among aldermen and has met with the mayor’s office, he said.