housing – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 CHA falls further behind http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/cha-falls-further-behind/ Thu, 12 Sep 2013 21:39:39 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7685 Under Mayor Emanuel, CHA production of replacement housing has slowed to a near halt — to the point that it’s virtually impossible to see the agency completing its new Plan Forward goals on time, housing advocates say.

And that’s with a five-year extension to CHA’s original ten-year Plan For Transformation.

The numbers are striking:  in each of the last four years under Mayor Daley, CHA produced between 760 and 880 replacement units.

In 2011, under Emanuel, CHA produced 424 units; the next year, 112 units; and in 2013, just 88.

And in its proposed plan for 2014, which was the subject of a public hearing Wednesday, CHA is proposing a grand total of 40 new public housing units.

In fact, that number includes 12 units at the new Dorchester Artists Housing located in a vacant scattered site that was rehabbed in 2005  — and already counted once toward the PFT’s goal of 25,000 replacement units, said Leah Levinger of Chicago Housing Initiative.

Temporary — and segregated

Most “unit delivery” in next year’s plan will come from project-based vouchers.  HUD granted a waiver to CHA in 2010 to allow the vouchers to be counted toward the PFT goal.  But there are only 302 units projected next year — far from enough to reach Daley-era production levels, or to move significantly toward the ultimate goal.

The voucher program does not provide permanent public housing, Levinger points out.  Contracts with landlords run from five to thirty years.  In more affluent areas, contracts probably tend to be shorter.  In any case, the length of the contract is at the landlord’s discretion.

And a large proportion of the vouchers are being used in poor, racially segregated communities, contrary to the stated goals of the CHA plan. About  2,600 of CHA’s current units are in privately-owned buildings with project-based vouchers.

CHA is also projecting 220 units from a new “real estate acquisition program,” purchasing and rehabbing private apartments or buildings.  These will be permanent public housing — if they are completed.

A precursor program, the “property acquisition initiative,” consistently fell far short of its goals: recent CHA plans projected acquiring nearly 200 units under this initiative, but only 30 units were actually added between 2010 and 2013.

CHA did not respond to a request for comment.

Missing money

Under pressure from CHI — and subsequently from HUD — CHA has stepped up leasing of its vacant units, but by the end of next year it’s still projecting that 20 percent of its “completed” units will be vacant or offline.

Still a mystery is what happens with the $40 million in funding for construction of replacement housing that CHA receives from the federal government annually.  Under an agreement with HUD at the beginning of the PFT, the CHA is apparently free to shift the money to its general operating fund.  Levinger would like to see an accounting of its use.

At a press conference before the Wednesday hearing, Rod Wilson of the Hope Center in Bronzeville said CHA is receiving $2 million a year in federal replacement housing funds for Ickes Homes and over $700,000 a year for LeClaire Courts.  Over a thousand units were demolished at Ickes and over 600 at LeClaire, but after several years, not a single replacement unit has been built at either development, he pointed out.

He called for an immediate halt to the CHA’s practice of demolishing housing prior to planning for its replacement.

“I have a right to return [to LeClaire Courts], but there is nothing to return to,” said Natalie Saffold, a 20-year resident who was president of the LAC at the development near Midway Airport.  LeClaire Courts were demolished four years ago.  “It was the saddest sight I’ve ever seen,” Saffold said.

As of 2010, 16,500 displaced CHA residents had a promised “right to return” to their communities.  Many have been waiting for years and years.

The unused replacement housing funds are on top of an estimated $30 million in federal operating funds that CHA receives for units that are vacant — and millions in federal funding for about 13,000 housing choice vouchers that CHA fails to distribute, according to CHI.

Rehab is most efficient

The only way for CHA to meet the goal of 25,000 revitalized units is through rehabilitation of existing developments like Lathrop Homes, Altgeld Gardens, and Cabrini Rowhouses, Levinger said.

“It’s by far the quickest and most cost-effective means of delivering units,” she said.

The vast majority of units created under the PFT so far have come through renovation of existing developments, she said.

The most disappointing performance has been in mixed-income redevelopments, which have contributed just over 2,000 units to the total.

Levinger draws a contrast between Lathrop Homes — where a plan by private developers proposes eliminating 525 public housing units — and Altgeld Gardens, where an independent planning firm is proposing a plan focused on rehabilitation.

(Altgeld-based People for Community Recovery is still calling for more rehab and less demolition, Cheryl Johnson said Wednesday.)

“When the developer does the plan, it’s in their interest to make the redevelopment plan as expensive as possible,” since the developer’s fee is based on a percentage of the total, she said. And demolition and new construction is the most expensive approach.  “It’s a terrible conflict of interest,” she said.

“[The Lathop Homes] plan is money-driven,” said Lathrop resident Titus Kirby at the Wednesday press conference.  “What’s driving this plan is the developer and their desire to make money — they figure it’s a chance to build expensive housing on free land.

“This plan is geared to the developer’s interests and not the interests of the residents or our neighbors,” he said.

According to the proposed annual plan, “CHA may submit in FY2014 a demolition/disposition application for all or some of the 925 non-rehabilitated units” at Lathrop Homes.

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SE Side wants to benefit from USX development http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/se-side-wants-to-benefit-from-usx-development/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/se-side-wants-to-benefit-from-usx-development/#comments Fri, 06 Sep 2013 22:16:10 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7672 With nearly $100 million in TIF funds being spent on the first phase of a massive development on the south lakefront, a community summit on Saturday will discuss strategies to win a community benefits agreement for the project.

The Coalition for a Lakeside CBA meets Saturday, September 7, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 3200 E. 91st.

Jennifer Epps-Addison of the Partnership for Working Families will discuss how community benefits agreements (CBAs) across the country have won opportunities for local workers and communities, and Tom Tresser of CivicLab will present an analysis of all TIFs in three local wards.

The Coalition will also release results of a new survey of Southeast Side residents.

Site developer McCaffrey Interests has been granted $96 million in TIF support from the city for the first phase of a vast new redevelopment of the former site of US Steel’s South Works (USX) plant, dubbed Chicago Lakeside.  Ultimately McCaffrey plans over 13,000 units of housing, 17.5 million square feet of retail, 125 acres of parks and a 1,500-slip marina.

The TIF subsidy will cover one-fourth of development costs for the first phase of the project, which will include 1 million square feet of retail and restaurants and 848 units of housing.  The first phase is planned for the northwest corner of the 530-acre site, which runs south from 79th Street along the lakefront to the Calumet River.

Concerns about displacement

A major concern is that development could cause displacement in the adjoining area, as it has in other communities, with property tax increases as home values rise forcing longtime residents to leave, said Amelia NietoGomez of the Alliance of the South East, an organizer of the coalition.

The coalition wants property tax relief for longtime residents as part of a CBA, she said.  According to the new survey, families on the Southeast Side have lived in the community for an average of 32.6 years; in South Chicago and the East Side, the average is 50.1 years, she said.

“Our people have lived here and worked here,” said Sylvia Ortega, a 37-year resident who is president of the Bush Homeowners and Tenants Association, directly across from the site.  “We survived the closing of the steel mills, the unemployment, the gangs and the blight.  We want to stay here.

“Our tax dollars are paying for the development,” she said.  “Our community needs to benefit from the development.  We don’t want to be left behind.”

Housing is another issue that organizers hope a CBA will address.  While the TIF provides for 20 percent of new units to be affordable, the affordability standard is based on the six-county area median income rather than the immediate area, where it’s much lower.  That means even affordable units could be out of reach of local residents without extra protections, NietoGomez said.

“You don’t want an artificial line between the new development and the existing residential community, and one way to prevent that is to make sure new affordable housing is on-site and fits the profile of neighborhood income,” commented Kevin Jackson of the Chicago Rehab Network.

Quality jobs

The Coalition is also calling for training programs and employment of local residents in the new development — and for partnerships with local schools focusing on science and technology.

“This development is going to take decades, so we want education and training for kids who are in school now so that when they graduate, they can qualify not just for construction jobs but as project managers, engineers, and for green jobs,” said NietoGomez.

“Development is great, we are looking forward to it, but there needs to be a balance with community needs,” she said.  “The families that live here deserve to be able to stay, and they deserve to benefit from the development.”

Tresser said that of the $96 million allocated for the first phase of the project, just $1 million is set aside for job training.  “I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to reach the grassroots.”

He added: “If we’re going to be spending public money, we should be getting high-quality, good-paying jobs.”

Two TIF districts — Chicago Lakeside and South Works — cover the site.  According to a McCaffrey brochure, the city has committed to spending $60 million on a new high school and $20 million for a new marina, among other projects.  The Chicago Park District has committed $120 million to new park development on the site, according to the brochure.

Currently work is being completed on the extension of Lake Shore Drive and Route 41 to serve the site, funded by $30 million in federal and state funds.

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At Altgeld, CHA scales back demolition plans http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/at-altgeld-cha-scales-back-demolition-plans/ Thu, 05 Sep 2013 22:09:55 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7667 With a federal historic preservation review of plans for Altgeld Gardens under way, CHA has dramatically scaled back the number of units it is considering demolishing there, according to a residents group.

People for Community Recovery discovered last year that the CHA development had been found to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, said board president Christian Strachan.

After the group contacted federal agencies for more information — and with demands for a community-led planning process — HUD initiated a Section 106 review aimed at minimizing the impact of federally-funded redevelopment on historic properties, he said.

Meanwhile a consultant hired by CHA in May to coordinate planning has discussed two possible scenarios, one involving demolition of about 120 units and one with even less demolition, according to Cheryl Johnson, executive director of PCR.

That’s a huge change from CHA’s proposal last year, when its annual budget included $7.3 million to cover “planning for demolition” for 648 units at Altgeld, or one-third of the units there.

“That’s a victory for us,” Strachan said.

CHA is expected to unveil a final draft of its plan at the end of September.

Community planning process

Meanwhile PCR and supporting groups in the Save Altgeld Coalition are conducting their own community planning process, with help by a volunteer group of architects and with far more robust resident participation, Strachan said.  It’s necessary because CHA’s approach to redevelopment has put residents’ interests last, he said.

“We’re putting together our own community development plan” that’s oriented to “empowering and protecting the community,” he said.

They’re holding a final town hall to gather input this Saturday, September 7, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Altgeld’s Community Building at 951 E. 132nd.

Citing the affordable housing crisis, the Save Altgeld Coalition wants to see 100 percent of Altgeld’s units rehabbed, Johnson said.

The community plan will also propose guarantees that Atgeld residents get employment in any redevelopment work, as well as commercial development including a grocery store.  Johnson said current CHA plans include no commercial development beyond a community garden.

“That’s something I think will change,” Strachan commented.

Consisting mainly of brick row houses located around 113rd and Ellis, Altgeld Gardens was built in 1945 to house African-American veterans and their families.  Current plans for an extension of the Red Line would put the transit line within walking distance, Johnson said.

A CHA spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment.

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Lawrence House residents fear vacate order http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/lawrence-house-residents-fear-vacate-order/ Mon, 19 Aug 2013 22:00:48 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7627 Tenants of a low-rent high-rise in Uptown and community groups concerned about the loss of affordable housing fear that a building court hearing Tuesday could result in an emergency vacate order.

Though new owners of Lawrence House, 1070 W. Lawrence, have claimed success in relocating tenants of other North Side SROs they’ve redeveloped, a vacate order would let the owners off the hook and leave it up to the city to find emergency shelter for nearly 200 residents, said Mary Lynch-Dungy of ONE Northside.

“We’re basically talking about making 200 people homeless,” she said.

The city is not pushing for an emergency vacate order, said law department spokesman Roderick Drew.

But the owners could propose an order, or the judge could decide to issue one independently.

Lynch-Dungy noted that though Lawrence House has been in building court since 2010 — with over 100 code violations — “no judge has considered the problems serious enough to issue a vacate order.”  But such an order at this time “would be convenient for the new owners,” she said.

FLATS Chicago purchased Lawrence House on August 5 for $7.5 million dollars and plans to upgrade and add amenities, marketing renovated units as hotel-style apartments, with rents for the smallest units nearly doubling, according to reports.

FLATS told the Sun Times they are “open to partnerships with housing agencies that could result in some rents being cheaper.”  At this point it’s not clear the city is taking them up on their offer, Lynch-Dungy said.

At other low-rent efficiency high-rises on the North Side, building code fines have been used by the city as leverage to encourage developers to preserve a portion of units as affordable, she said.

Fines for code violations at Lawrence House are about $2 million, she said.  Drew said negotiations the fines are still under way.

Loss of 372 affordable units in the building would come on top of hundreds of affordable units lost in the past year to SRO conversions on the North Side.

“This leaves Lawrence House tenants few housing options if they wish to remain on the North Side,” near social services, family and friends, Lynch-Dungy said.

The hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Tuesday, August 20, in Room 1107 of the Daley Center.

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A high-rise at Lathrop Homes? http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/a-high-rise-at-lathrop-homes/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/a-high-rise-at-lathrop-homes/#comments Sun, 11 Aug 2013 20:37:06 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7597 The development team hired by CHA for Lathrop Homes issued a “final draft” of their plan last week, but key details are missing and major questions remain in contention.

That includes the height of a high-rise building Lathrop Community Partners wants to build at the southern end of Lathrop — a flashpoint for neighborhood opposition — as well as issues of preservation, replacement of lost public housing, and public financing for private developers.

Built in 1938 along the Chicago River north and south of Diversy, Lathrop features low-rise brick buildings and landscapes designed by leading architects of the day.  It was cited by Preservation Chicago as “the best public housing Chicago has ever built” and named to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

Preservation plan from Landmarks Illinois

Preservation plan from Landmarks Illinois

CHA stopped leasing to new residents in 2000, at first promising a full renovation as public housing, then meandering through a series of planning efforts. At one point plans to demolish and replace the entire development were announced.

LCP, a consortium of for-profit and nonprofit developers led by Related Midwest, a developer of luxury high-rises, was selected by CHA to handle Lathrop’s redevelopment in 2010.  LCP issued three possible scenarios for community discussion last year.

At a community meeting on the “final draft” plan last week, lead designer Doug Farr said LCP had reduced overall unit count to less than 1,200 in response to concerns about excessive density. (One way they did this, it turns out, was removing the 92-unit Lathrop senior building from the count.)  Earlier plans projected 1,300 to 1,600 units.

That goes some of the way toward meeting objections of neighborhood groups and local aldermen — though they had argued that 1300 units on the 37-acre site meant a density level two-and-a-half times the surrounding area.  Lathrop currently has 925 units, with less than a fifth of them occupied.

LCP also reduced proposed retail development to 20,000 square feet, down from a high of 70,000 — with big box stores surrounded by surface parking — in earlier plans.

But although aldermen and neighborhood groups rejected the concept of a high-rise on the site, it’s still in the plan.  LCP is just not saying how high it will be.  They’re not even calling it a “high-rise.”

***

“The tallest building in the plan we’re calling ‘the iconic building,'” Farr said at a community meeting last week.  “We don’t know the height, we don’t know the unit count.”

The building would “provide focus” to Lathrop’s southern riverfront, he said.

On a model of LCP’s plan available at the meeting, the “iconic building” appeared to be two or three times the height of Lathrop’s nine-story senior building.  In earlier plans, LCP proposed a 28-story building.

“We believe a high-rise development in this neighborhood makes absolutely no sense,” said Paul Savojec, chief of staff for Ald. Scott Waguespack, whose 32nd Ward now includes a portion of Lathrop.  Neighborhood groups they’ve consulted “can’t support downtown-type density level at this site,” he said.

It’s not a new position.  Last year, in response to LCP’s initial plans, Waguespack was joined by 13 neighborhood associations in a letter to CHA demanding “better planning than a revival of the Tower in the Park style,” and noting that while CHA was demolishing high-rise developments elsewhere, LCP proposed “replacing neighborhood-oriented two- and three-story walkups at Lathrop with high-rise and mid-rise towers.”

Two local groups, Hamlin Park Neighbors and Roscoe Village Neighbors, called the proposed high-rise “the very antithesis of the pedestrian scale of the communities of which Lathrop is to be a part.”   They noted that it’s well over a mile from Lathrop to any CTA line, meaning increased auto traffic would be unavoidable in an already heavily congested area.

At one point Waguespack complained that LCP had “a pattern of providing limited opportunities for public input and then placing the feedback aside.”

Says Savojec: “If this were anywhere but a CHA site, what they’re proposing would be dead on arrival.”  He adds: “We don’t think there’s any reason CHA shouldn’t be held to the same planning standards as everyone else.”

While LCP talks about the importance of “integrating” Lathrop into the community — particularly by including retail development in the project — the lesson from CHA’s history is that “nothing is more isolating than going up vertically,” he said.

The only real rationale for increasing the project’s unit count is because “it’s better for the development team,” Sajovec said.  “Every additional unit means greater profit potential for them.”

Attempts to reach LCP for comment were unsuccessful.

“We’re not in a position to say whether the high-rise is appropriate without more details,” said Raymond Valadez, an aide to 1st Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno of the 1st Ward, where the building is proposed.

The building’s size is one of a number of issues on which LCP’s “final draft” is lacking in detail.   “It’s not the final final plan,” said Valadez.

Reflecting the concerns of neighborhood associations, Waguespack will push for “a hard and fast limit on how tall that building can be” in a planned development agreement laying out parameters for Lathrop’s redevelopment, Sajovec said.

They want the agreement to be as specific as possible, he said — in part because of Related Midwest’s record at Roosevelt Square, the company’s other CHA redevelopment project, located on the Near West Side.

Like other CHA mixed-income projects, Roosevelt Square has run into difficulties.  Work there stalled several years ago, and now Related is seeking adjustments in the income mix and construction schedule — and an extension of the local TIF in order to provide continuing financing.

***

Meanwhile, Lathrop residents and their supporters have been pushing for redevelopment as public and affordable housing that preserves the human scale of the development’s historic architecture and landscaping.  Working with Landmarks Illinois, residents proposed a preservation plan in 2007.

They point out that the surrounding area is saturated with luxury condo developments, including many now in foreclosure — and that market-rate components have stalled redevelopment efforts at CHA mixed-income projects.

Despite this, LCP’s plan has substantially more market-rate housing than other CHA mixed-income projects, where demand for market-rate has not been strong.

With LCP’s “final draft,” residents and housing advocates are concerned that promised replacement housing for public housing to be demolished at Lathrop — 525 off-site units if LCP sticks to its current allotment of 400 on-site units — is not a specific part of the plan.

At the community meeting, CHA’s Michael Jasso said the agency is “working with the development team” to address the issue, and Heartland Housing executive director Michael Goldberg expressed hope that replacement units could be located in “opportunity areas.” That’s the term for economically-thriving communities where CHA is supposed to put new units under a longstanding federal court order.

But asked whether plans for replacement units would be included in the Lathrop master plan, CHA spokesperson Matt Aguilar didn’t directly respond.  Instead, he referred in a written statement to efforts under “Plan Forward,” the new version of the Plan For Transformation, to develop or acquire units “in opportunity and developing neighborhoods.”  And he cited a new RFP to find developers “to deliver units to CHA in a variety of ownership or subsidy structures.”   But nothing about the Lathrop plan itself.

“They’re saying they’ll get to that sometime down the line,” said John McDermott, housing organizer for Logan Square Neighborhood Association, who works with the residents’ Lathrop Leadership Team.  “There’s no real commitment and no accountability.” He cites high land acquisition costs on the North Side along with aldermanic and “not-in-my-backyard” opposition as reasons for skepticism.

Aguilar emphasizes that “although the Lathrop development originally had 925 units, there are less than 165 units occupied today,” and 400 redeveloped public housing units “will more than accommodate the families that have a right of return.”

McDermott points out that Lathrop’s occupancy rate is simply a result of CHA’s refusal to lease units there for the past 13 years.  Public housing advocates have long argued that CHA has emptied its buildings in order to reduce its responsibility for providing housing.

Meanwhile, 200,000 Chicagoans tried to sign up for CHA’s waiting list the last time it was open.

Failure to provide promised replacement units is a problem throughout CHA’s redevelopments.  On Friday, Mary Schmich noted that “barely more than a third of the 1,200 units promised to displaced Cabrini residents have been built” — one reason many people don’t trust CHA, she writes.

***

One major change in the newest plan is the development team’s commitment to seek federal historic tax credits, available for preservation of sites listed on the National Register.  A project that preserved significant amounts of Lathrop would be eligible for the credits, which can cover 20 percent of development costs.

Earlier plans demolished or altered too much to qualify for the tax credits; developers instead were planning to seek $30 million in TIF funds.

Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago doesn’t think the current plan preserves enough of Lathrop to qualify for the credit.

The “final draft” preserves most of the buildings north of Diversy and a strip of homes on the southern side of the street.  “You can’t tear down most of the structures south of Diversy and call it a ‘preservation plan,'” Miller said.

He’s concerned that a long line of rowhouses along Damen is slated for demolition in LCP’s plan.  “Lathrop is the best of the best, and the rowhouses are really the best of Lathrop,” he said.

Miller thinks LCP and CHA could save save those rowhouses and the block behind them — and still work their market-rate magic — if they looked into using a vacant lot along the riverfront just north of Lathrop, which is currently for sale, as well as the Vienna Beef site south of Lathrop, now being vacated in a TIF-backed move.

Saving the rowhouses would also require scaling back new streets opening onto Damen — which Waguespack’s office suggests would also reduce traffic congestion.  Developers talk about increasing connectivity, Sajovec said, but the streets they’re proposing only open onto big box parking lots on the other side of Damen.

Miller calls for granting Chicago landmark status to the historic buildings and landscapes as part of the memorandum of agreement that will result from a federally-sponsored public review now underway.  The review is required because federal funds are involved in a project impacting a National Register site; its goal is to minimize the negative impact of redevelopment.

***

But the historic tax credit is only part of the financing picture, and while LCP and CHA aren’t talking about TIF funding now, Savojec warns that “at any point they could come back for it….We don’t think TIF will ever be off the table.”

McDermott calls that an “overwhelming likelihood,” adding: “At that time, when they do come to the city and ask for a TIF, they want the process to be so far along that it’s virtually unstoppable.”

Are they going to come to the city for TIF or other financing — as other private developers have at other CHA redevelopments — because they have too much market-rate housing and can’t sell or rent it?

At bottom, the issue is how much public investment should benefit private interests. Most people probably believe private developers bring significant financial resources to CHA redevelopment projects, but “that’s not the case,” said McDermott.

An analysis CHA public-private deals over the past decade shows that public funds have accounted for well over 80 percent of financing, according to Leah Levinger of the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of community organizations.  Developers themselves put up little and sometimes none of their own capital, she said.  Instead — along with 99-year leases for public land, with affordability requirements that last only 15 to 40 years — they receive huge developer fees from CHA.

And in the process, the supply of affordable housing is diminished, Levinger said.  Under the Plan For Transformation, over the last thirteen years, 18,650 low-rent apartments were demolished and 2,500 were built, she said.

It turns out that rather than private investment and public benefit, it’s the other way around, she said: “It’s like we’re paying to make people homeless.” There’s a double loss involved, she said — low-rent housing demolished while scarce housing resources are diverted to the private sector.

And with Chicago currently considering a new five-year affordable housing plan, she points out, half of the city’s affordable housing funding has been devoted to CHA’s redevelopment — resulting in the net loss of thousands of affordable units.

“Now is the time to think about this,” before the project is underway and more public subsidies are demanded, McDermott said.  “Is this the time to take another direction with Lathrop and adopt an alternate model of the kind that has worked for CHA?”

He points to the successful renovation of Trumbull Park Homes in South Deering — like Lathrop, a low-rise, brick development built by the WPA — as 100-percent public housing; or of Hilliard Homes at Cermak and State as a mix of public and affordable housing.  “Hilliard Homes hasn’t destabilized the South Loop or Chinatown,” he said.

Some opposition to Lathrop residents’ call “no market rate” reflects misperceptions about public and affordable housing.  Public residents at Lathrop now include a group of workers at nearby Costco, McDermott said.  And affordable housing aims at a range of middle-income renters.

At Roosevelt Square, affordable housing is aimed at up to 60 percent of area median income for the metropolitan region, which is about $45,000 for a family of four.  (That’s actually the median income in the city proper.)  CHA resident leaders’ Central Advisory Council has called for redeveloping Lathrop, along with other existing developments in areas with large inventories of market-rate housing, as public and affordable for families earning under 80 percent of AMI, which is $60,000 for a family of four.

The larger context includes a growing shortage of affordable rentals in Chicago — the shortfall was estimated at 130,000 in 2009 — and a glut of market-rate housing.  It also includes a number of CHA public-private mixed-income redevelopments that have stalled.

It includes the elimination of much of the North Side’s affordable housing in a new wave of SRO conversions — and the dramatic growth of low-wage jobs in Chicago.

If providing housing is the goal, rehab is far more cost-effective and much faster to accomplish, Levinger said.  At Trumbull Park, for example, 434 units were fully rehabbed in three years.

On the Near West Side, ABLA’s 3,600 units are supposed to be replaced by 1,467 on- and off-site public housing units — reflecting occupancy levels in the late 1990s — in part through Related’s Roosevelt Square development. In 2000, CHA completed renovation of 330 units of public housing in three years.  Then Related Midwest came in with the Roosevelt Square project; the first of six phases began 2004 and was completed in 2006, producing 414 units, including 127 of public housing.

The first phase got underway after “several false starts,” according to media accounts; the second phase was stalled by the housing crash and now, whenever it does start up, is not going to built all at once, a Related executive told Chicago Journal.

In July, Related won a 13-year extension of Roosevelt Square’s TIF.  According to the Near West Gazette, Midwest Related now projects completion of Roosevelt Square by 2035.  That’s well over 30 years from the start date.

With a timeline like that, Lathrop Homes could easily be finished by 2050.  By then, there could be far fewer families with a “right to return.”

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New city housing plan downplaying affordability? http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/new-city-housing-plan-dropping-affordability/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/new-city-housing-plan-dropping-affordability/#comments Tue, 18 Jun 2013 22:45:12 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7528 While the proportion of Chicago residents challenged by housing costs has surged in the past decade — half of all renters and homeowners are now officially “housing cost-burdened” — the city has apparently dropped the word “affordable” from its next five-year housing plan.

This odd and unexplained omission was widely commented on at a recent gathering of South Side housing activists, called by the Chicago Rehab Network to foster discussion and generate interest in the city plan.

“I am concerned about them taking the word ‘affordable’ out as if it were something to be ashamed of,” said Mattie Butler of Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors.

“Affordability is not just for people with subsidies,” she added — particularly since the city continues to measure affordability by the regional median income of $75,000 (as of 2010); the median income in the city is under $47,000.

(A Newstip on CHA demolitions last year pointed out that the large bulk of the city’s “affordable housing” production is targeted well above the lower reaches of the income range –indeed,  much of it above the city’s median income.)

“The city has dropped the word ‘affordable,’ but we have to make sure that affordability continues to be the focus of the plan,” said Janet Smith of UIC’s Voorhees Center.

She presented an overview of housing issues in Chicago as “a tale of two cities,” with thousands of high-end rental units under construction around the Loop while neighborhoods continue to be ravaged by the foreclosure crisis — and housing becomes less and less affordable.

Between 2000 and 2010, the proportion of renters paying over a third of their income for housing — the federal standard for “cost-burdened” — rose by 32.5 percent, and the proportion of homeowners who are cost-burdened rose by an astonishing 78 percent, she said.  (See CRN’s new City of Chicago Housing Fact Sheet.)

According to Smith, 50.2 percent of tenants and 49.5 percent of homeowners were cost-burdened in 2010, up from 37.9 and 27.8 percent, respectively, ten years before.

The loss of 200,000 residents in the past decade — mainly families, and 90 percent of them African-American — should serve as a wake-up call, she said.

In recent decades, the city has “settled into patterns of segregation,” and concentration of poverty has increased, she said.

Among those who spoke out at the CRN gathering were community leaders from South Chicago, Chicago Lawn, Bronzeville, Woodlawn, Englewood, and Chatham.

Among the issues they raised:

Tax increment financing:  An effort several years ago to dedicate a portion of TIF funds to affordable housing was scuttled by then-Mayor Daley.  Acitivists called for greater transparency — and for deploying TIF financing to create jobs and affordable housing in the communities where taxpayers live.

Demolitions:  “We do not need any more demolitions,” said a Woodlawn resident, and many indicated agreement — and opposition to the city’s practice of marking vacant buildings with red Xs.

USX site:  Community groups are pushing for a community benefits agreement with developers who want to build on the huge lakefront site.

CHA: The new CHA plan eliminates promises made to residents who were displaced under the first plan, one public housing resident said.  “Families thought the Plan For Transformation would mean more resources for them,” she said, “but many of them ended up homeless.”

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development hasn’t responded to a request for clarification regarding the title of the plan.

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Emanuel’s CHA plan challenged http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/emanuels-cha-plan-challenged/ Thu, 16 May 2013 00:13:42 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7206 UPDATED – While Cabrini Row House residents prepare to challenge CHA plans for mixed-income development, CHA resident leaders and housing advocates are questioning Mayor Emanuel’s update to the agency’s Plan For Transformation.

The Cabrini-Green Local Advisory and supporters will hold a press conference Thursday morning (May 16 at 9:30 a.m., 530 W. Locust) to announce “a new initiative to protect the Carini Row Houses,” according to a release from the Legal Assistance Foundation.

Row House residents have called on CHA to fulfill the promise in the original PFT to rehabilitate the development as 100 percent public housing; that plan was put on hold in 2011.

Meanwhile, resident leaders and community organizations called on the CHA board to reject the mayor’s plan and return to the drawing board — and to heed input from the public, including an emphasis on preservation and rehab of existing units rather than subsidizing private development as the most cost-effective way to meet CHA’s obligations.

The Central Advisory Council, comprised of elected leaders of CHA developments, criticized the mayor’s plan for lacking specifics on how CHA will complete construction of replacement housing and ensure families of their right to return to homes they were displaced from.

Few proposals from CAC’s detailed Strategies and Recommendations Report issued last year were incorporated in the mayor’s plan, the group said.

They called for reforming security programs which “harass law-abiding residents” but fail to make developments safe, and for elected representation for public housing residents living in mixed-income developments.

The Chicago Housing Initiative, consisting of community organizations representing tenants of subsidized housing, challenged Emanuel’s claim that 85 percent of the PFT’s promised 25,000 replacement units have been provided.  With thousands of rehabbed units remaining vacant, “the number [of occupied replacement units] is closer to 18,000,” said Leah Levinger of CHI.

Last year the group revealed that CHA receives millions of dollars in operating funds from HUD for units it has failed to lease out.

Under pressure from HUD, CHA has begun leasing vacant units in scattered-site housing, but in some cases the agency is limiting it to residents making 50 to 80 percent of area median income, Levinger said.  One speaker yesterday was a Wal-Mart worker turned away from public housing for not having a high enough income to live in public housing.

Levinger drew parallels between the Emanuel’s plan to step up investment in private developments and the parking meter privatization deal.  The PFT’s mixed-income developments have been a “massive transfer of assets to private control,” at great benefit to private developers but with little advantage to taxpayers and the public.

Typical “public-private partnerships” involve 95 percent public financing, no developer equity, and millions of dollars in up-front development fees, she said. In return, private developers control the land with a 99-year lease, while affordability agreements only extend for 15 to 30 years.

And according to CHI, public-private mixed-income records have a poor record of meeting housing production goals.  At seven development where over 5,000 units were promised by developers, less than half were ever provided.

The CAC and CHI are calling for preserving and renovating existing public housing stock, including Lathrop Homes, Cabrini Row Houses, Altgeld Gardens and West Haven Homes, and rebuilding housing for displaced families at Ickes Homes, LeClaire Courts, Cabrini-Green, and the State Street corridor.

 

UPDATE – CHA has issued the following statement:

“As part of Chicago Housing Authority’s new strategic initiative, ‘Plan Forward: Communities that Work,’ CHA is committed to building strong, vibrant communities throughout Chicago. Currently, the agency is working with a planner and the Near North Working Group to develop a plan for the future of Cabrini, including the row homes. However, CHA has not announced any decision on the future of the row homes. In the coming months, CHA will invite CHA residents and area neighbors to provide their input on our proposed plan for the revitalization of Cabrini. Our goal is to increase the quality of life and economic opportunities for CHA residents and the entire community.”

A previous version gave an incorrect time for Thursday’s press conference.

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Community groups cheer DeMarco replacement http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/community-groups-cheer-demarco-replacement/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/community-groups-cheer-demarco-replacement/#comments Thu, 02 May 2013 00:15:34 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7169 Last week Chicagoans joined a national protest action at the home of Federal Housing Finance Agency director Edward DeMarco, demanding his resignation.

On Wednesday, President Obama responded to growing demands to replace DeMarco, naming U.S. Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) as his replacement.

“It’s long overdue,” commented Katie Buitrago of the Woodstock Institute.

“This is a good day for homeowners and families across the state of Illinois and a big step in the right direction for our economy,” said Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks of IIRON, a Chicago-area organizing network.

“We now encourage Congressman Watt to implement common-sense policies like principal reduction to bring relief to tens of millions of homeowners and to jumpstart the economic progress our country needs.”

Community groups and housing advocates have called for DeMarco’s replacement for over a year, faulting him for blocking principal reductions on mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the FHFA oversees.

They argue that reducing mortgage principal to reflect the fair market value of homes that since the housing crash are worth less than what homeowners owe would prevent foreclosures, stabilize the housing market, and boost the economy.

DeMarco has been “the biggest roadblock to our country’s economic recovery,” said Tracy Van Slyke of the New Bottom Line coalition, which has spearheaded a “Dump DeMarco” campaign.

At last week’s action, as 500 people from National Peoples Action gathered at DeMarco’s Washington D.C. home,  Reverend Cliff Parks of Illinois Peoples Action noted that Fannie and Freddie control over half the mortgages in the nation, including those of nearly 14 million  underwater homeowners.  (See video below.)

Elizabeth Scrafford, a DePaul student and leader with IIRON Student Network, read a resignation letter drafted for DeMarco, holding him responsible for 1,800 families facing unnecessary new foreclosures every day that he has delayed approval of principal reduction.

Watt is known as an early advocate for action against predatory lending, Buitrago said.

Noting that he faces an uphill battle to win confirmation from the Senate, Buitrago said Obama should consider installing Watt with a recess appointment.  The administration’s previous nominee for the post withdrew in 2011 after Senate Republicans refused to act on his nomination.

Republicans say they want a plan from the administration for eliminating Fannie and Freddie before they consider an FHFA appointment.  But IIRON and other groups are calling on Watt to “support the vital role [the agencies] play in ensuring housing opportunities.”

Check out “NPA knocks on Ed DeMarco’s door,” from April 22:

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