Lathrop Homes – 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=4.4.13 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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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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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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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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Lathrop Homes highlight CHA vacancy boondoggle http://www.newstips.org/2012/07/lathrop-homes-highlight-cha-vacancy-boondoggle/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/07/lathrop-homes-highlight-cha-vacancy-boondoggle/#comments Sat, 14 Jul 2012 01:10:14 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6443 With controversy growing over CHA’s huge stock of unleased apartments – and the federal operating subsidies the agency receives for vacant units – residents will rally Saturday at Lathrop Homes, the development with the highest vacancy rate in the system.

They’ll be barbecuing and celebrating Lathrop Home’s recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places – a “stunning reversal of fortune” for a development that was slated for demolition a few years ago, according to Lee Bey – on Saturday, July 14 at noon on Hoyne south of Diversy.

And they’ll be demanding the residents be allowed to stay at Lathrop during renovations under a plan that is still to be determined.  CHA has long promised that residents could stay, organizers say, but at a June 27 meeting, an agency official said they may instead be forced to leave ahead of construction.

CHA chief Charles Woodyard hasn’t responded to a letter from the Lathrop Leadership Team and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association seeking clarification, said John McDermott of LSNA.

He said some residents moved to the southern portion of Lathrop when the northern section was closed last year based on the promise.  And he worries that it’s a ploy to weaken residents’ voices at a crucial point.

Help from HUD?

Lathrop residents went to Washington recently as part of a delegation from the Chicago Housing Initiative that met with Sandra Henriquez, HUD assistant secretary for public housing.  Leah Levinger of CHI reports that Henriquez was “very interested” in the group’s research on vacancies in CHA – including significantly higher costs for housing families in under-leased developments.

One result: HUD staff members are expected in Chicago this week to tour vacant properties and meet with residents at Lathrop and elsewhere.  CHI is hoping to work with HUD and congressional staff members to find ways to increase CHA’s accountability for the federal funds it receives.

Earlier CHI had revealed that while the agency boasts of nearly full occupancy, in fact almost 20 percent of CHA units are unoccupied, including nearly a third of family units.  And an agreement with HUD under its Moving To Work program allows CHA (unlike most housing authorities) to collect operating subsidies for housing units whether they are occupied or not.

Not only is CHA collecting federal funding for housing it isn’t providing, but because overhead remains basically the same in underleased developments, the agency is now spending $11,000 more per family in Lathrop than it did six years ago, Levinger said.

“They could house three families for the funding they’re using to house one” in Lathrop, she said, calling it “a waste of taxpayer money” that denies housing to families that need it.

Breaking the rules

A new Chicago Reporter investigation shows that CHA has failed to produce the documentation required by HUD regulations to take units offline.  Levinger says the HUD-CHA agreement contains no significant consequences for violating its terms.

According to the Reporter, offline units include apartments at Lathrop and Cabrini Green Rowhouses that passed federal inspections last year.  As Newstips noted last year, an earlier CHI report showed that hundreds of CHA units have remained offline years after rehab was completed on them.

Lathrop is “an exact case study of the type of problem we’re talking about with vacancies at CHA overall,” Levinger said.  “They started vacating [Lathrop] in 2000 and they still don’t have a plan.”  (With 925 units, Lathrop is currently 82 percent vacant, and residents have long called for leasing vacant apartments.  Some 40,000 families are on CHA’s waiting list.)

Instead of maintaining occupancy levels and maintaining properties, “they vacate first and figure out what they’re going to do later.”  Then they use subsequent deterioration as an excuse to reduce the amount of public housing.

“We’re saying keep the units occupied until you’ve figured out what you’re doing with them,” she said.  “They’re getting federal money to provide housing – they should be providing housing with it.”

More delays

Meanwhile the planning process for Lathrop’s “revitalization” continues its long history of delays.  A supposedly open planning process consisted of three workshops in December – where, as the Reporter points out, planners refused to discuss resident’s number-one concern, the income mix of the redevelopment – and since then a series of postponements, McDermott said.  A planning team is now expected to present a set of scenarios sometime later this year.

Residents want the historic riverside development preserved and redeveloped as a mix of public and affordable housing.  What they don’t want is market-rate housing, which would require demolition and new construction.

Residents and their supporters have emphasized the glut of market-rate housing in the area – and the long-growing shortage of affordable housing throughout the city.

They got some hope for flexibility recently when Woodyard said the rigid formula guiding the CHA’s Plan For Transformation – one-third market-rate, one-third affordable, one-third public housing – needs to be reexamined in light of the crash of the housing market.  CHA is currently undertaking a “recalibration” of the transformation plan.

But talking with the Reporter, an executive of Related Midwest, the lead for-profit developer on the Lathrop planning team, insisted that market-rate housing must be part of the mix in the new Lathrop.  He gave two reasons: to attract retail development, and to qualify for TIF financing, if it’s needed to make the deal work.

But would TIF financing be necessary if market-rate housing wasn’t included?  And is more market-rate housing really what we should be subsidizing with TIF funds right now?

Meanwhile, Related Midwest has asked CHA to change the income mix at Roosevelt Square, the redevelopment of the Near West Side ABLA homes (which is also far behind schedule), to 80 percent market-rate and 20 percent public housing.  That is, a third less public housing than previously agreed to, and no affordable housing at all.

Over the past decade, CHA’s plans for Lathrop have been a series of constantly changing schemes; Related Midwest has had delays, financial difficulties, and shifting targets. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the vision of Lathrop residents and their supporters.

On Saturday, Lathrop residents will launch a letter-writing campaign urging CHA to adjust the income goals for Lathrop as part of the recalibration effort.  McDermott notes that on the CHA’s website for public input, preserving and rehabbing Lathrop with no market-rate housing is the most popular proposal.

 

Note: Sandra Henriquez’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.

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Lathrop residents pray for preservation http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/lathrop-residents-pray-for-preservation/ Thu, 06 Oct 2011 20:14:31 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4782 Residents of Lathrop Homes, joined by religious leaders, are planning to march through the threatened CHA development Thursday night, stopping to pray for the preservation of their historic neighborhood.

They’re concerned that as CHA seals off sections of the development, buildings will deteriorate.  They’re calling on CHA to maintain the condition of vacant units.

CHA recently signed a $1.1 million loan agreement with a development team selected last year over the objections of Lathrop resident leadership.  The contract has not yet been made public, said John McDermott of Logan Square Neighborhood Association, which is working with residents in the Lathrop Leadership Team.

CHA was recently challenged for its high rate of vacant units, at a time when its Plan For Transformation is stalled.  The agency responded that “off-line” units are not to be counted as vacant, though some have been off-line for years, in some cases following rehab.

Insistence on including market-rate housing in Lathrop’s redevelopment would hold up work for years in the current climate, McDermott said.  And it would be “missing the forest for the trees,” he said.

In its approach to developing mixed-income housing, CHA focuses “on a micro scale within their developments” but misses “the real historical barriers to breaking down poverty tied to Chicago’s history of racial segregation,” he said.

“Are we really breaking up concentrations of poverty if we insist on sharply limiting the number of low- and moderate-income families that can access jobs, schools, and shopping in an economically thriving North Side community?” he asked.  “Or are we really reinforcing larger patterns of segregation and patterns of gentrification and displacement?”

He points out that Lathrop is located “in a part of the city that has seen tremendous displacement of African American and Latino families and a dramatic loss of affordable housing.”

In his first press conference last month, new CHA chieef Charles Woodyard said that “given the bare reality of this real estate market” CHA would have to “be outside-the-box thinkers” to turn “our current assets…into real housing opportunities.”

He was asked what “outside the box” meant, but Mayor Emanuel stepped to the microphone in front of him before he could answer, the Sun Times reported.

But the CHA’s biggest “box” – particularly given a housing market that shows no signs of recovery – is the agency’s strict insistence on a formula of one-third market, one-third affordable, and one-third public housing in redevelopments.

Lathrop residents say it isn’t appropriate there.  Their prayers will be heard – but will their plan ever be considered?

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Thousands of rehabbed units vacant in CHA http://www.newstips.org/2011/09/thousands-of-rehabbed-units-vacant-in-cha/ http://www.newstips.org/2011/09/thousands-of-rehabbed-units-vacant-in-cha/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2011 23:10:25 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4750 The Chicago Housing Authority has thousands of vacant units of housing, much of it rehabbed but left unoccupied, according to a citywide housing coalition.

The Chicago Housing Initiative will release data showing “a growing epidemic of vacant public housing units” outside the CHA board meeting, 2915 N Leavitt, at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, September 20.

Calling it “a senseless waste of desperately needed housing,” the coalition is calling on CHA to immediately begin leasing all rehabbed and habitable public housing units.  The group is seeking a meeting with CHA interim chief Carlos Ponce.

According to the Housing Initiative, the CHA has over 6,000 vacant units in family and senior housing, including more than 3,300 rehabbed units. The group’s figures show that only 68 percent of CHA’s family housing is occupied.

Meanwhile there are over 47,000 families on CHA’s waiting list, in addition to thousands of seniors.

The vacancies raises questions about CHA’s claims of progress on its Plan For Transformation.  Thousands of units reported as “delivered” by the agency have apparently sat unoccupied for years.

The group points to developments like Lake Parc Place on the southeast lakefront, with 280 units fully rehabbed in 2004, half of which are now vacant; and Altgeld Gardens on the far South Side, where 268 rehabbed units are vacant.

They’ve found scattered-site developments on the South and West Sides that were rehabbed several years ago but remain vacant, and they continue to hear of such cases, said Leah Levinger of the Housing Initiative.  CHA “seems to have just forgotten about them,” she said.

In West Garfield Park, 181 units of senior housing in the Parkview Apartments have been vacant since the building was closed for repairs in 2007, despite $725,000 in federal stimulus funds spent on plumbing and boiler repairs since then.

Part of the problem is that “CHA ends leasing and vacates developments before they have a plan for what to do with it,” Levinger said.

In cases like Lathrop Homes and Cabrini Rowhouses, CHA stopped leasing units in 2000 and 2001, promising that rehab was imminent.  But a spurt of rehab at Cabrini stopped in 2009 after 146 units were completed, and a decade later, nothing’s been done at Lathrop.

Lathrop residents called on CHA to lease vacant apartments three years ago, and in 2005 resident groups at Cabrini and Lathrop called on CHA to open vacant rehabbed units for  Hurrican Katrina survivors.

Once a development is below 50 percent occupancy, CHA can move to have it declared obsolete and get approval to demolish it, Levinger said.  By not leasing, CHA “can create situations where developments that are structurally sound meet the criteria for that designation.”  HUD generally rubber-stamps such applications, she said.

While federal funding for mixed-income redevelopment is increasingly competitive – and private financing for such projects is hard to come by – HUD’s public housing capital fund provides money for rehab and major repairs.  CHA has gets over $100 million of such funds yearly, but much of it is diverted to a mixed-income redevelopment program that has stalled, Levinger said.

The Chicago Housing Initiative is a coalition of community organizations working to preserve low-income rental housing.  Its member groups work with residents in 58 federally-subsidized developments in the city.

Residents from Cabrini, Lathrop, Lake Parc and several scattered site developments will speak Tuesday.

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Reunion at Lathrop Homes http://www.newstips.org/2009/10/reunion-at-lathrop-homes/ Fri, 16 Oct 2009 21:08:45 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=773 What started last fall as a few old friends talking about getting together has snowballed (with the help of a Facebook page) into a reunion of hundreds of former residents of Lathrop Homes this weekend – and connections with current residents who are working to preserve the historic CHA development as affordable housing.

Six hundred former residents are expected for a dinner dance tomorrow night at the White Eagle Banquet Hall in Niles (October 17, 6 to 11 p.m.). The event will raise funds for the Daniel Cotter Boys and Girls Club, where many participants belonged while growing up in the low-rise development along the Chicago River. During the day they’ll gather for tours of Lathrop Homes and nearby Schneider School and an open house at the Cotter Club, starting at noon.

“It was very positive growing up there,” said Jose Zayas, whose family lived at Lathrop from the 1950s to the ’70s, and who still lives nearby. “It still is for the families that are still there.”

“It was a neighborhood; everyone knew each other,” he recalled. “There was all the green space. And there were these anchor institutions, the boys’ club, the Crane Childcare Center, the churches….Looking back, it was the families and it was the institutions that are still there.”

The high rate of vacancies, as CHA has refused to rent out vacated units, “impacts the residents in not really having a neighborhood,” he said. Currently only about 200 units out of a total of 925 are occupied.

“It’s really sad,” said Scott Shaffer, a Humboldt Park resident who cochairs Lathrop Homes Alumini Chicago, of the vacancies. When he visits now, he says, “it really hits you…It’s something so great that they want to take away.”

While CHA’s final plans for Lathrop are still under discussion — it’s the only remaining development listed as “to be determined” in the tenth year of the agency’s ten-year plan for transformation — the current parameters would require replacing existing buildings with new construction at much greater density.

As they’ve learned of the threat to Lathrop Homes — listed as endanged by Preservation Chicago (pdf) and Landmarks Illinois – Shaffer and several other alumni have joined Zayas, who was working with residents and community groups on the Lathrop Leadership Team to preserve the buildings.

They say the current scale and setting is ideal — low-rise brick buildings in a “garden city” design, with landscaping (designed by the lengendary Jens Jensen) now mature and lush — and top-notch supportive nonprofits are on-site. (The Crane Center, which moved to Lathrop Homes in 1963, was founded in 1907 by Jane Addams, who was a colleague of Julia Lathrop at Hull House; among other distinctions, Lathrop was appointed as the first director of the federal children’s bureau when it was founded in 1912.) Preservation would allow developers to make use of generous historical rehab tax credits.

And they say that focusing on public and affordable housing is appropriate in a neighborhood where a wave of high-end condo development has cost residents thousands of units of affordable rentals. CHA’s insistence on including market-rate housing in the redevelopment makes the plan dependent on volatile market conditions, and new construction would expose residents to even longer delays.

CHA’s request for qualifications should be recast so that it is open to nonprofit developers of affordable housing, they say.

“These buildings are good, solid, beautiful, historic buildings,” said reunion organizer Betty Howard. “There’s a dire need for low-income housing, and this area has been set aside for that purpose since the 1930s.”

(It was following protests organized by Howard and some friends in the mid-60s that the Lathrop Homes Boys Club began admitting girls. “We wanted access and we got it,” she said.)

Zayas says he agrees with residents’ demands (see Newstips 10-22-08) that vacant units be occupied. “It’s a moral issue, having 700 units shut when you have people who desperately need that housing right now,” he said.

Current residents will be among those speaking at tomorrow night’s event; the hope is to encourage more alumni to get involved in preservation efforts, organizers say.

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