Chicago Rehab Network – 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 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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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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Stimulus for Lathrop? http://www.newstips.org/2009/02/stimulus-for-lathrop/ Wed, 18 Feb 2009 21:33:56 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=461 Kevin Jackson of the Chicago Rehab Network suggests that public housing capital improvement funds coming to the CHA from the stimulus bill be spent fixing up Lathrop Homes, according to Chitown Daily News.  Lathrop residents have called on CHA to lease vacant apartments (see last year’s Newstip).

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‘Housing is infrastructure’ http://www.newstips.org/2009/01/housing-is-infrastsructure/ Tue, 13 Jan 2009 21:42:52 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=381 With the still-growing housing crisis at the core of the sharpest economic downturn since the Great Depression, advocates called for affordable housing to be a key component of stimulus and recovery plans.

“Housing is infrastructure,” said Jack Markowski of the Community Investment Corporation, alluding to massive infrastructure investments planned in the forthcoming stimulus program. “It employs people. It provides the foundation to allow people to be part of the workforce.” And with a growing need for energy conservation, “it’s part of the green economy.

“We have proposals that are shovel-ready,” he added, speaking at a gathering of over 200 community housing practitioners convened by the Chicago Rehab Network at Roosevelt University yesterday.

Markowski called for tripling expenditures for the federal HOME Investment Partnership Program, which finances affordable housing production — at $2 billion a year, its budget has not been increased since 1990, he said — as well as for the $4 billion Community Development Block Grant Program.

U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky described efforts by congressional leadership to include $23 billion for affordable housing development in the stimulus package, including $10 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund to build or save 100,000 low-income rental homes over two years, as well as funds for more low-income rental subsidies, upgrading public housing units to green standards, and helping cities redevelop foreclosed properties.

Together the proposed spending would assist 800,000 hard-hit households and create 200,000 new jobs, she said.

Schakowsky also discussed efforts to require any further spending under the TARP financial bailout program to include at least $40 billion for foreclosure mitigation.

Participants in two panels expressed high hopes for the incoming Obama administration. “We need a HUD that wants to do housing,” said Andrew Geer of Heartland Housing.

Community Media Workshop president Thom Clark moderated the panel discussions.

Joy Aruguete of Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation emphasized the connection between affordable housing and a green jobs program, and Ted Wysocki of the LEED Council stressed the need for immediate training for green jobs.

Housing consultant Teresa Prim discussed the economic recovery plan proposed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Steven McCullough of Bethel New Life called for “holding financial institutions accountable and making sure capital is flowing to the people who really need it…. We’re at the point where a large number of multifamily buildings are in trouble because of [lack of] capital flow.”

McCullough said the worker sit-in at Republic Windows last month could be replicated in multifamily rental buildings, with families refusing to move when buildings go into foreclosure.

“In Chicago we’ve seen overinvestment in high-end housing causing displacement, and in Washington we’ve seen that a top-down housing policy allows the bottom to fall out,” said Pat Abrams of The Renaissance Collaborative. “But we who work at the community level have an alternative to the top-down approach.

“Affordable housing is a community anchor,” Abrams said. “We must ensure that affordable housing, and especially rental housing, is the centerpiece of any economy recovery.”

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Foreclosures and subsidized tenants http://www.newstips.org/2008/06/foreclosures-and-subsidized-tenants-2/ Fri, 20 Jun 2008 06:00:00 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=2983 Low-income tenants with Section 8 rental subsidies are increasingly facing eviction from properties going into foreclosure — often with no warning, and with fewer protections than other renters have.

Often they’ve been paying rent throughout the foreclosure process, with no knowledge that their tenancy was threatened, said Andrea Button of the Legal Assistance Foundation.

“In many cases they don’t know anything until a foreclosure notice is posted on the door, or they just get eviction papers,” she said. “In some cases the landlords have just skipped town.”

A new state law gives tenants up to 120 days from the time they receive notice of foreclosure (less if their lease expires earlier) before they have to vacate a foreclosed property. But they have to continue paying rent.

The problem is that Section 8 renters’ subsidies are provided through a contract with the building owner. When a bank or mortgage company takes possession, the subsidy ends, and the new owner has a right to demand market rent. “And there’s no way (tenants) can afford that,” Button said.

As foreclosures continue to increase, LAF is seeing more and more Sec. 8 tenants, most of them renting houses or duplexes, she said.

Button is one of the presenters at a South Side Consumer Rights and Responsibilities Workshop for Renters being held Saturday by Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors and the Chicago Rehab Network.

Woodlawn is seeing “tons and tons of foreclosures,” said Mattie Butler of WECAN. After a wave of condo conversions, there are now foreclosures on condos, including units bought by investors where renters are being forced out.

“They’ve been paying rent all along, without knowing anything about it,” Butler said. “It’s not a pretty picture.”

The neighborhood is also losing rental units as occupant owners of small multi-unit buildings are forced to sell in the face of rising taxes and utilities, she said.

WECAN was recently named a Housing Resource Center by the city, and the group helps older owners stabilize their situation with weatherization and utility assistance, Butler said.

Affordable housing was eaten up by the recent housing boom, and more is being lost during the current market crash, she points out. Already experiencing a major affordable housing deficit, Chicago faces the loss of thousands of subsidized units as project-based Sec. 8 contracts expire. Funding for affordable housing “has been cut by politicians for years and years,” Butler said. “It makes an impossible situation worse.”

Saturday’s workshop will feature sessions for market-rate and subsidized tenants with leaders of South Side community organizations and experts from legal nonprofits. It takes place June 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Jackson Park field house, 6401 S. Stony Island.

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MacArthur Honors Creative Nonprofits http://www.newstips.org/2006/08/macarthur-honors-creative-nonprofits/ Fri, 25 Aug 2006 06:00:00 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=2825 Two Chicago groups are among nine from around the world being honored by the MacArthur Foundation’s first annual Awards for Creative and Effective Organizations.

The Chicago Rehab Network and the North Lawndale Employment Network are being recognized as “highly creative and effective organizations that have demonstrated significant impact in their field,” with large cash awards from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Other awardees include groups in Nigeria, Mexico, Russia, Peru, and India. An awards ceremony will be held in Chicago on October 8.

The new award parallels the well-known MacArthur Fellowship Program, which recognizes individual creativity with large unrestricted grants.

“These awards recognize nine extraordinary organizations and, we hope, allow them to unleash their imagination and inspiration on a larger scale,” said MacArthur president Jonathan Fanton.

The groups, all with annual budgets under $2.5 million, will receive awards ranging from $250,000 to $500,000.

Chicago Rehab Network, now over 25 years old, is a coalition of neighborhood-based development groups in over 60 communities and “the leading voice for affordable housing in Chicagoland,” according to the foundation’s announcement. The group offers training programs for affordable housing developers and monitors the expiration fo federal housing assistance contracts to help tenants and advocates develop strategies to preserve affordable housing.

North Lawndale Employment Network, founded in 1999, works in a community where the poverty rate is three times as high as the city as a whole, and where it’s estimated that over half of adults have spent time in prison. Each year the Network places hundreds of residents – mainly ex-offenders – in jobs. NLEN’s urban bee-keeping program trains residents in retail sales and business development and management, and has launched its own product line, Beeline Honey.

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Preserving Affordable Housing – South Side, West Side http://www.newstips.org/2006/05/preserving-affordable-housing-south-side-west-side/ Tue, 30 May 2006 06:00:00 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=2809 As private and nonprofit developers on Chicago’s West Side undertake the largest rescue of troubled subsidized housing in the nation’s history, other community organizers are meeting to develop proactive strategies for low-income housing with subsidies nearing expiration.

[About 300 community activists – half of them tenants in buildings facing loss of their subsidies – attended the Chicago Rehab Network’s South Side Affordable Housing Summit on June 3 at King High School.]

Nearly three fourths of the 12,400 low-income units covered by rental subsidy contracts and mortgate assistance on the South Side could be lost in the next three years, said Leah Levinger of CRN.

The summit will focus on preservation tools including new state legislation which requires tenant notification when owners decide to end subsidies and gives tenant associations first option to purchase the property.

Logan Square Neighborhood Association organizers will discuss their recent victory using the law to save 54 units of project-based Section 8 housing.

In Woodlawn, the Student Tenant Organizing Project has blocked owners who sought to scare tenants into moving — counting on their ignorance of possible legal recourses — so they could convert subsidized buildings to condos “illegally,” said Della Moran. Tenants in several buildings there are now organizing so they can act to save affordability when contracts do expire.

Meanwhile the West Side’s Lawndale Restoration, the largest project-based Section 8 complex in the city, is being salvaged by a diverse group of developers, ranging from major nonprofits to local mom-and-pop landlords.

In late 2004 city inspectors found 1800 code violations in 100 buildings (with over a thousand Section 8 units) operated by Lawndale Restoration, after a car crash caused a partial cave-in at one building. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began foreclosure proceedings against Lawndale Restoration, planning to “voucher out” tenants by shifting subsidies from the housing units themselves to vouchers carried by tenants.

Housing advocates consider project-based subsidies to be more stable and note that many voucher holders end up in poor housing in segregated neighborhoods.

Lawndale tenants organized by ACORN and represented by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law sued HUD, demanding that project-based subsidies be maintained. ACORN also brought tenants to meet with top HUD officials in Washington.

“Tenants fought tooth and nail for long-term subsidies,” said Marty Shaloo of ACORN Housing.

They were helped when Congress passed the Shumer Amendment to last year’s HUD appropriation, requiring the agency to show that housing would be available for tenants vouchered out of Section 8 buildings.

Then the city stepped in, working with the Community Investment Corp., a nonprofit that helps independent landlords provide affordable housing, to assemble 23 developers and transfer title to them.

Developers agreed to keep housing affordable and are eligible for up to $40,000 per unit in HUD rehab grants. All the units will keep their project-based subsidies for two years, and 400 units will get 20-year Section 8 contracts. ACORN is co-developing about 250 of those units.

Tenants wanted more units covered by long-term contracts, but getting as many as they did was “a huge victory” given HUD’s policy of shifting subsidies from projects to vouchers, said Shaloo.

At this point many Lawndale tenants are taking a wait-and-see attitude, said Kaitlyn Johnson of ACORN, which has organized tenants throughout the developments.

“They’ve been screwed around so long they don’t know what to believe,” said developer Sel Dunlop. Dunlap is redeveloping an 8-unit building and is one of a number of Lawndale developers meeting together to coordinate efforts.

“The conditions are very bleak and they’ve been that way for years,” said Richard Townsell of Lawndale Christian Development Corp. LCDC is taking on 79 units in 13 buildings with plans to help some tenants purchase their homes.

Developers have been meeting with tenants, and one has organized a bus tour of her current properties. “We put a face on the company they’re dealing with and let them know how the buildings we own are maintained,” said Johnnie Heron, who is acquiring 69 units in three buildings.

“The idea is to provide a quality of housing residents have never enjoyed before,” said Dunlop, who hopes for a “spillover effect” improving the “culture of our community.”

They’ll also bring stability to a neighborhood increasingly beset by real estate speculation by providing a place for longtime low-income residents to remain — the goal of housing advocates across the city.

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