The City of Chicago made some progress in adding more affordable housing on the West Side and elsewhere, but some concerns remain.
On March 8, the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate held a hearing on the affordable housing report prepared by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. This is something that happens every three months. Anthony Simpkins, the Chicago Deputy Housing Commissioner, summarized the report’s findings and answered aldermen’s questions.
According to the report, throughout 2016, DPD allocated $265 million to support 6,902 units. It wound up spending $205 million to either build or rehab a total of 5,600 units. That included several major West Side projects.
Last November, the City Council voted to spend $4.1 million in Tax Increment Financing funds to help build McCrory Senior Apartments, an affordable senior housing development that will be located at 1637-1659 W. Washington Blvd, near the former site of the Henry Horner Homes public housing development.
The apartment complex will have a total of 62 one- and two-bedroom units, along with amenities such as a community room, a fitness center and a “theater space.” In addition to TIF funds, the projects will get $12.2 million worth of state low-income housing tax credits and $840,000 in donation tax credits. The total construction cost is estimated to be $17.4 million.
During the same meeting, the aldermen voted to give $16.6 million in TIF funding to rehabilitation of East Garfield Park’s East Park Single Room Occupancy building (3300 W. Maypole Ave). All 153 units will remain affordable, and its on-site social service will remain in place.
At the March 8 meeting, aldermen authorized the Chicago Housing Authority to issue $8 million worth of bonds to cover the cost of the extensive exterior gut rehab of the Fannie Emanuel Apartments, a 181-unit affordable senior housing building located in West Garfield Park, at 3918 W. Washington Blvd.
The report also mentioned the ongoing rehab of 276-unit Midwest Apartments building, located in East Garfield Park at 6 N. Hamiln Ave.
According to the report, several affordable housing projects were completed on the West Side in 2016. The West Humboldt Park’s Nelson Mandela Apartments features 72 units split across 13 buildings, mostly on the stretch of Ohio Street between Albany and Central Park avenues.
Monlare senior housing added 120 units in North Lawndale. The report also mentions the rehab of Village of Westhaven, one of the several mixed-income complexes that replaced the Horner Homes. While the report lists 200 units, a May 18 city press release specifies that 95 units were reserved for CHA tenants, 50 had affordable rents and the rest had market-rate rents. So, the project actually resulted in 145 affordable housing units.
The report also touched on other DPD housing programs. The department spent $27 million on projects designed to help lower-income renters buy homes and help low-income home owners keep the homes they already have. It also spent $13 million to help homeowners repair a total of 1,662 units.
During a meeting last December, Simpkins mentioned that DPD has several strategies for providing housing for especially poor residents.
“Those units [for residents earning 0-15 percent] are supported exclusively by city funding, which limits the number of units we’re table to fund at those levels,” he said at the time. “The other units we’re able to acquire is through individual negotiations with individual landlords, which ebbs and flows.”
According to the report, the city’s Low Income Housing Trust Fund rental subsidies supported a total of 2,803 units for low-income residents.
The report also addressed the Troubled Building Initiative. Under this program, owners of properties that have been abandoned or neglected can give up their ownership to the city, which would then transfer the property to any individual or community group that can afford to pay off any back taxes the previous owner owned before rehabbing the building.
“We preserved about 60,000 units that, without TBI, would certainly be demolished,” Simpkins said.
Ald. Michael Scott (24th) said that he appreciated the program, but is looking to get more of his constituents involved with it.
“I talk about this often, about how we get individual contractors and developers who are in the community and who want to take that on,” he said. “How can we expand more so we can get more people involved in the Troubled Buildings Intuitive?”
Simpkins replied that DPD is working on it, but the city has ran into some issues.
“We’re trying to kind of work through some issues, not being successful as we’ve been in past in getting receivership appointed, and [getting] forfeitures in the court system,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to report that we at least get a pilot program up and running.”