public housing – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.14 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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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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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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A third date for Altgeld Gardens meeting http://www.newstips.org/2012/12/a-third-date-for-altgeld-gardens-meeting/ Tue, 04 Dec 2012 20:39:16 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6816 A promised CHA town hall meeting with residents of Altgeld Gardens – scheduled twice last month, and twice cancelled at the last minute – is now slated for Wednesday.

CHA budgeted $7.3 million for “planning for demolition” of one third of Altgeld’s units in its annual plan, but after scores of Altgeld residents turned out to object, CHA promised no decisions would be made without a “community planning process” to commence with a town hall meeting in November.

A meeting scheduled for November 14 was cancelled the day before, and a rescheduled meeting on November 29 was cancelled by CHA chief executive Charles Woodyard just hours before it was to take place.

Resident leaders were told the November 29 meeting was cancelled because Woodyard had an “emergency meeting” with the mayor, said Cheryl Johnson of People for Community Recovery.

“A lot of people showed up, and the doors were just closed,” she said.  There wasn’t even a sign announcing the cancellation, she added.  “People were angry.”

“Residents really want  to be engaged,” Johnson said.  “People really want to know what’s going to happen to the future to the future of housing at Altgeld.”

The meeting is now scheduled for Wednesday, December 5 at 6 p.m. at the CYC Community Building, 951 E. 132nd Place.

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New rules for CHA demolitions http://www.newstips.org/2012/11/new-rules-for-cha-demolitions/ Thu, 29 Nov 2012 00:21:48 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6787 New HUD regulations could make it much harder for CHA to get approval to demolish housing at Altgeld Gardens, Lathrop Homes, and Cabrini Row Houses, according to a veteran housing attorney who helped negotiate the change.

HUD issued a notice in February (PIH 2012-7) requiring public housing authorities claiming that units are “obsolete” must demonstrate that no reasonable program of repair is feasible, said Bill Wilen of the Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.  It also requires environmental and civil rights reviews, he said.

A HUD regulation governing the matter is expected to be issued early next year.

Previously, applications for demolition were routinely approved by HUD’s Special Application Center, located in Chicago, including applications that clearly failed to meet statutory requirements, Wilen said.  Rejections of demolition applications by the center have increased significantly in recent months, he said.

Five years ago Wilen successfully challenged HUD’s approval of demolition of public housing in Rockford, one of several legal battles that he said informed an effort by the national Housing Justice Network to get HUD to tighten up its regulations.

There are other possible legal grounds to challenge CHA demolitions. The agency’s annual contract with HUD requires CHA to maintain units that it plans to demolish eventually.  Instead, like many other public housing authorities, CHA allows housing to become deteriorated and then claims it must be demolished as “obsolete,” according to advocates.

Altgeld and Lathrop

At Altgeld Gardens, residents are gearing up for a CHA town hall meeting Thursday (November 29, 6 p.m., at the Community Building, 951 E. 132nd Place) to get community input on plans for their development.

In October, CHA submitted an annual plan with $7.3 million designated for “planning for demolition” of 648 units at Altgeld.  People For Community Recovery is organizing against demolition.

At Lathrop, six scholars of public housing policy, including Mary Patillo of Northwestern, published an opinion piece in the Skyline noting CHA’s “decade of indecision, occasional promises, conflicting information, organizational amnesia, and changing leadership.”

“It’s time to open up a real and transparent democratic and participatory process at Lathrop,” they write.

A development team selected by CHA recently proposed three scenarios for Lathrop, each including demolition of from half to all of the development’s public housing.  Lathrop Homes was listed on the National Register of Historic Places earlier this year.

CAC recommendations

On Friday morning, the Central Advisory Council of CHA, representing resident leaders from across the city, will present their recommendations for revising CHA’s Plan For Transformation, followed by discussion by a panel of stakeholders (Friday, November 20, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at UIC Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted, room 302).

Issued this summer, the CAC’s recommendations call on CHA to focus on preservation and rehabilitation of existing CHA units over more expensive new construction; redevelop housing such as Lathrop and Cabrini, located in areas with large inventories of market-rate housing, using a mix of affordable and public housing; and establish a long-term capital improvement plan.

They call for adjusting CHA’s work requirement to account for high unemployment; establishing an independent monitor over federal requirements that CHA contractors hire residents; and instituting a business development strategy to promote resident-owned businesses including worker-owned cooperatives.

The CAC also calls for reassessing of the role of Business and Professional People in the Public Interest in decision-making at Cabrini and Lathrop, where BPI has opposed redevelopment plans that don’t include market housing.  BPI’s involvement goes back to the Gautreaux case, first filed in 1966.

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Lathrop plans: little preservation, big TIF http://www.newstips.org/2012/11/lathrop-plans-little-preservation-big-tif/ Wed, 14 Nov 2012 23:25:13 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6751 Three new plans for redeveloping Lathrop Homes fall far short of the project’s stated goal of historic preservation – to the point that developers will pass up tens of millions of dollars in federal historic preservation tax credits.

Instead, they plan to ask for $30 million or more from a new TIF district.

The plans have garnered widespread local opposition due to heavy increases in density and congestion.

CHA and Lathrop Community Partners will present three scenarios at open houses (Thursday, November 15, 3 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, November 17, 12 to 4 p.m.) at New Life Community Church, 2958 N. Damen.

At 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, Lathrop residents and neighbors will hold a press conference to denounce all the scenarios and the lack of any meaningful community engagement.

Already thirteen neighborhood associations have signed onto a letter to CHA from Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) calling for rejection of all three plans due to excessive density and lack of public participation.

And Tuesday, Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) sent an e-mail blast announcing the open houses and saying, “I do not believe that any of the individual scenarios on the table are an acceptable plan to move Lathrop Homes forward.”

Total demolition

In fact, one of the scenarios would almost certainly fail to win regulatory approval.

Dubbed the “Delta Greenscapes” scenario, it calls for demolition of all of Lathrop’s low-rise, historic buildings.

But since Lathrop was named to the National Register of Historic Places in April, any demolition involving federal funds must be approved by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.  And CHA will use federal funds to cover the costs of rehabbing and operating public housing at Lathrop.

“Clearly, demolishing everything would not meet preservation guidelines and would rarely be an  approveable action under the federal program,” said Michael Jackson, chief architect for preservation services at IHPA, who notes that nothing has been submitted to his agency.

Approval might be forthcoming in cases involving extreme deterioration and functional obsolescence, but “I can’t see that logic applying here,” he said. “The essence of the Lathrop project is historic preservation.  It’s been identified as a historic property, and the development team has been given that direction.”

Indeed, the RFQ under which LCP was selected states that the developer “shall consider preservation one of the priorities of the revitalization.”

“What they’re pulling is a typical developer’s trick,” said Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago.  “We’re going to show you something so god-awful that when we walk it back to something slightly less god-awful, the community will think it’s won something.”

Developers prefer TIF

Despite the RFQ’s request for developers with experience using historic tax credits, none of the plans are likely to qualify for the credits, which cover 20 percent of a project’s costs – in this case, tens of millions of dollars.  That’s what developers told aldermen in August, said Paul Sajovek, Waguespack’s chief of staff.

Instead, they’ll be asking for a $30 million TIF subsidy.

“One of the scenarios could be eligible for [historic] tax credits,” said Kerry Dickson, senior vice president of Related Midwest, lead developer of LCP, on Tuesday.

Fine and Sajovek dispute that.  One scenario retains 480 historic units north of Diversy, but each building is marred by additions.  “To take a historic building and glom something onto it so you can generate more revenue for your project – it’s not going to pass muster,” said Fine.

In any case, “taking a historic site and demolishing half of it, that’s not our definition of historic preservation,” he added.

He points out that the historic tax credit is “a better option from a policy standpoint” than a TIF subsidy.  “It has the advantage that it’s not money that’s being diverted from our police and our schools,” he said.

There’s another factor at play, Fine says – maximizing preservation is the easiest way to maximize affordability.  One scenario that’s noticeably missing from this week’s presentations is the preservation plan developed five years ago by Landmarks Illinois working with Lathrop residents (more on that here).

Instead, LCP’s plan disregards the RFQ’s requirement that “approximately one third of [units] must be public housing.”  LCP bumps the proportion down to 25 percent – by bumping the proportion of high-end market housing to 50 percent.

A recent Crain’s report — on how the housing crash has “decimated” CHA’s mixed-income goals — reveals that Roosevelt Square on the near west side, another CHA redevelopment being done by Related Midwest, is years behind schedule, with less than 18 percent of for-sale units complete.

Density

Waguespack points out that neighborhood groups are split on the issues of preservation and affordable housing.  But they are unanimous that the density being proposed is wildly inappropriate.

The RFQ specifies a range of 800 to 1200 units.  When LCP presented its plans in closed sessions with the aldermen and the the working group that’s supposed to oversee redevelopment, unit counts began at 1350.  Since then they’ve said that all three scenarios will have 1600 units, Sajovek said.

That includes high-rises as tall as 28 stories, he said – far higher than anything north of North Street or west of the immediate lakefront.

“We just can’t understand how, in a neighborhood with the level of congestion we have, which isn’t served by mass transit, there’s any sort of justificiation for a massive increase in density, far above anything around it,” he said.

On top of the huge unit count, the developers are proposing 70,000 square feet of automobile-oriented, big box retail, including a 25,000 square-foot grocery store, with extensive surface parking and, in one scenario, several new curb cuts for drive-through retail at Diversy and Clybourn.

“Diversy is backed up all the time,” said Fine.  “That’s with Lathrop 80 percent vacant.”

More gridlock

“Look at what you’ve got in the area – Costco, Dominic’s and Aldi all within close walking distance, and Target and other big stores not much farther,” Sajovek said.  “This is not a retail desert or a food desert by any stretch of the imagination.”

The amount of retail with surface parking north on Clybourn “has turned all the streets in the area into gridlock,” with Whole Foods and other stories actually leaving the area because of it, he said.

“We don’t see any justification from a planning standpoint for anything near 70,000 square feet of retail,” he said.

The density and congestion – and the increase in surface parking – are also major reasons why none of the scenarios are likely to qualify for LEED certification, though the RFQ describes the redevelopment’s primary goal – in bold print at the very top of the first page – as creating “CHA’s first community to attain LEED-ND Gold or Platinum certification.”

Sajovek thinks that in the absence of any restraint from CHA, all the redevelopment goals at Lathrop have been thrown over for “a single consideration: what’s going to generate the highest profit from this site.”  Developer profit is a legitimate consideration, he said, “but it has to balanced against other factors” including “what’s best for the surrounding neighborhood.”

“The bottom line is, they want to maximize their profit and the way to do that is density,” said Fine.  “It’s density, density, density.  It’s all about taking profit from this publicly-owned historic site, even if it erases the site” – and drowns the neighborhood in congestion.

“It’s a land grab, that’s all it’s ever been or ever will be, until they start listening to what residents and neighbors want,” he said.

‘Fraudulent’

“We’re committed to a very engaged community planning process,” said Dickson.

That’s not how others see it.

“I told them straight to their face, they’re liars,” said long-time resident Mary Thomas, a leader of the Lathrop Leadership Team.

“They talk about community input,” she says.  “What it would be is, they would bring 20 or 30 pizzas and say, ‘This is what’s going to happen, this is what’s going to happen, this is what’s going to happen.’

“We were never involved,” she said.  “It’s fraudulent.”

According to Sajovek and John McDermott of Logan Square Neighborhood Association, LCP held three workshops late last year that were described as preparing members of the public to participate in a series of design charrettes.  But the charrettes were repeatedly postponed, and ultimately never happened.

Again, when LCP shared the three scenarios with the aldermen in August, they said an open house would be held “in a couple of weeks,” Sajovek said.  That too was repeatedly postponed.  Now it’s being touted as “the first of a series of community meetings.”

Dickson said the Lathrop Working Group – with representatives of CHA, residents, elected officials, and neighborhood groups – “has been involved in all phases of the planning.”

Sajovek, who represented Waguespack on the LWG, says LCP came to meetings to refute rumors residents were reporting or complain about LWG members’ public actions.  “There was never any discussion about preservation or about specific unit counts or anything substantive,” he said.

“Over the past ten months, there have been no opportunities for public input as LCP developed the three scenarios,” according to Waguespack’s letter to CHA, signed by the neighborhood groups.  “It follows that the scenarios are devoid of any evidence that key concerns of the surrounding residents were incorporated into the plan.”

“We had a collection of meetings and gathered information from the community, then we took that and spent time developing those ideas,” said Dickson.

“To understand the plans we’re proposing, and the reason and logic behind them – and the good planning behind them – people should come to the open house, where there will be continuous presentations about all three of the scenarios,” he said.

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‘Planning for demolition’ at Altgeld Gardens http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/planning-for-demolition-at-altgeld-gardens/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/planning-for-demolition-at-altgeld-gardens/#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 01:05:51 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6698 Over objections from residents – and despite assurances that residents will be consulted – CHA is submitting an annual plan to HUD that includes $7.3 million for “planning for demolition” of one-third of the public housing units at Altgeld Gardens.

The move comes as the citywide CHA resident leaders’ organization has called for a moratorium on demolition and for rehabbing unoccupied units at Altgeld and at other remaining traditional developments.

It comes as the need for low-income housing continues to grow, while CHA public housing production has slowed dramatically, and the city produces a handful of low-income units annually under its affordable housing plan.

And it comes as housing activists who’ve exposed CHA’s receipt of HUD operating funds for unoccupied housing units are revealing a new no-strings funding stream from HUD – capital subsidies which continue for years for units that have been demolished.

Plan first, talk later

On Tuesday, the CHA board approved the annual plan under HUD’s Moving To Work program.  According to the plan: “After reassessing future developments needs at [Altgeld Gardens and Murray Homes], CHA has determined that it will undertake planning for the demolition of the remaining 648 non-rehabilitated unoccupied units.”

CHA has budgeted $7.3 million for “planning for demolition” at Altgeld, according to the document.  Rehab of 1,300 units at the Far South Side development was completed in 2010.

Last week People for Community Recovery, an organization of Altgeld residents, received assurance from CHA chief Charles Woodyard that no demolition would occur prior to a community planning process, scheduled to kick off with a town hall meeting next month.  Woodyard responded after the group handed Mayor Emanuel a letter asking him to intervene to save Altgeld’s housing, said Cheryl Johnson, executive director of PCR.

“It would be more reassuring for us if they took [funding for demolition] out of the plan,” she said.

“It’s backwards,” said Leah Levinger of the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of community organizations working with tenants in federally-backed housing.  “Why not have the conversation first, before you submit a plan to HUD?”

“There’s no evidence these buildings are not structurally sound or that it’s not cost effective to rehab,” she added.  “Until there is, demolition seems senseless and wasteful.”

Moratorium

The CHA’s Central Advisory Council, comprising elected representatives of public housing developments, calls for a moratorium on demolition in a recent report outlining recommendations for the current “recalibration” of CHA’s Plan for Transformation.

Citing decreases in federal funding and a growing shortage of low-income housing, CAC calls on CHA to prioritize preservation of public housing, “specifically rehabilitation and reconfiguration of existing CHA units.”  Rehab is significantly more cost-effective and involves far fewer development hurdles, CAC notes.

CAC president Myra King was the only CHA commissioner to vote against the MTW plan Tuesday.

Among many other recommendations, CAC calls for completing rehabilitation of Altgeld Gardens, along with the Cabrini Rowhouses and Lathrop Homes.  Given the housing market crash, it calls for developing mixed-income communities consisting of affordable and public housing.

The report notes the growing need for affordable and low-income housing.  In 2009, 54 percent of Chicago tenants were rent-burdened, 19 percent more than in 1999, when CHA launched its Plan for Transformation.  With current trends, the proportion of rent-burdened households could be as high as 63 percent by 2020.

The majority of rent-burdened households, at risk of homelessness, are extremely low-income, making less than $20,000 a year, CAC notes.  These are the families CHA should be serving.

Huge housing shortage

Meanwhile, the shortage of affordable housing is growing. In 2009 it was estimated at 130,000 units, up 10 percent in just four years.  One new factor: between 2009 and 2011, 17,000 apartment buildings with 52,000 units went into foreclosed.

Of course, there’s the 60,000 on CHA waiting lists — and the many more who applied to the limited waiting list slots.

On top of that, as Steve Bogira has reported in the Chicago Reader, poverty rates continue to grow in Chicago.  Child poverty is up to 35.8 percent this year, and more than one in ten Chicagoans living in extreme poverty, with incomes less than half the federal poverty level.

The Tribune reports that low-wage sectors are growing while high-paying industries continue to shed jobs, and a recent report from the Action Now Institute and Women Employed found that nearly a third of Chicagoans work low-wage jobs, not paid enough to cover basic necessities.

Given all that, it’s not surprising that 97,000 Chicagoans, including some 15,000 CPS students, were homeless at some point last year, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.  And as the Chicago Reporter recently documented, Chicago’s homeless include people who are on CHA’s waiting list.

Still, Chicago can afford to sacrifice 648 units of low-income housing at Altgeld, and possibly hundreds more at Cabrini and Lathrop.  How do those numbers stack up against affordable housing production here – and against the shortfall of 130,000 affordable units?

Housing production has slowed to a trickle at CHA – in part because the agency has stopped rehabbing traditional developments.  Next year CHA projects adding 345 units to its portfolio; last year it planned for 200 new units.

(That doesn’t include project-based vouchers, which HUD has allowed CHA to count toward its housing production since 2010.  Advocates point out that public housing units guarantee decades of low-income housing, while vouchers involve shorter-term contracts with private landlords.)

Net loss

In 2011, the last year for which final numbers are available, CHA produced 432 new public housing units and demolished 909 units.

How about the city’s affordable housing plan?  Last year the city reported producing 2,054 new multifamily affordable housing units, separate from ongoing state rental subsidies.  But according to the Chicago Rehab Network’s analysis, very few of these were for low-income families.

Only 14 of those units were affordable for families with incomes below 30 percent of the area median income.  An additional 43 were affordable for families with incomes between 31 and 50 percent of AMI.

Under its plan to end homelessness, meanwhile, the city averaged about 325 units of permament supportive housing a year over the past decade.

With numbers like these, you’d need a compelling reason to tear down 648 potentially habitable units – especially when community members oppose the demolition, as scores of Altgeld residents made very clear at the CHA’s hearing on its annual plan last month.

CHI has charged that CHA has a deliberate policy of limiting and reducing public housing populations in order to reduce its legal obligation to provide replacement housing in communities slated for redevelopment.  Previously CHI revealed that thousands of habitable units are kept vacant by CHA — and under a special arrangement dating to the start of the Plan for Transformation, HUD operating subsidies continue to flow to units whether they’re occupied or not.

Now CHI has uncovered evidence that HUD continues to provide tens of millions of dollars in capital subsidies for units that have been demolished.  The money is supposed to fund replacement housing, but there are no reporting requirements and no requirements for specific numbers of units delivered in specific time periods, Levinger said.

“It’s yet another ill-defined funding stream,” she said.  “It’s a lot of dollars with no strings.”

According to CHI, in 2011 CHA received $39 million in capital funding for units that had been demolished, some years earlier.

“CHA could demolish 648 units at Altgeld and get [capital] dollars for the next ten years, at the same level they got while [the properties] were standing, and never spend that money – and nobody at HUD would bat an eye,” Levinger said.

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Altgeld residents oppose demolition plans http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/altgeld-residents-oppose-demolition-plans/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/altgeld-residents-oppose-demolition-plans/#comments Tue, 11 Sep 2012 00:54:05 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6624 Residents of Altgeld Gardens say they were blind-sided by a new CHA plan to demolish a third of their Far South Side public housing development, and they are organizing to oppose it.

Led by People for Community Recovery, they’ll call for reconsideration of the plan – and a community-led redevelopment plan – at a hearing on CHA’s annual redevelopment report, Tuesday, September 11, 6 p.m., at the Charles A. Hayes Center, 4859 S. Wabash.

In the agency’s 2000 Plan For Transformation, CHA committed to redeveloping all of Altgeld Garden’s 1,998 units as public housing.  But in an annual update just issued, CHA said it has budgeted $7.3 million to demolish 648 units at Altgeld that have yet to be rehabbed.

“At a time when there is a housing crisis in the city of Chicago, what are they thinking?” said Cheryl Johnson of PCR.  “This is not right.  They are not going to get away with this without a fight.”

According to the new CHA report, the agency is “exploring options” for Altgeld, including the possibility of “integrating other housing types.”  In the meantime, “CHA has determined that it will undertake planning for the demolition” of all vacant, non-rehabbed units there.

Deemed ‘viable,’ left vacant

The Plan For Transformation committed CHA to complete rehab of 5,000 public housing units in developments determined by building assessments to be “viable,” including Altgeld, Lathrop Homes, and Cabrini Row Houses.

But in subsequent years, even while some rehab was carried out, the agency stopped leasing out vacant units.  Now just 18 percent of Lathrop’s units are occupied, and 21 percent of the Cabrini Rowhouses, according to the Chicago Reporter.  Altgeld is nearly one-third vacant.

As revealed by the Chicago Housing Initiative, CHA exploits a legal loophole to get federal operating subsidies for unoccupied units.

In 2010, over residents’ objections, CHA hired a development team for Lathrop that included a major for-profit, luxury housing developer, and last year CHA put the Cabrini redevelopment on hold, citing outside groups opposing its renovation as 100-percent public housing.

The Reporter recently talked with homeless families who are among 40,000 families on CHA’s waiting list, noting that they have little hope “of ever hearing from CHA or getting an apartment.”

Johnson said she knows displaced Altgeld residents now residing in homeless shelters.

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