City seeks to build affordable housing in Garfield Park

Interested developers should submit applications by Feb. 18

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

The Chicago Department of Housing is looking for developers who can build affordable housing on city-owned lots in several communities, including the northern portions of East and West Garfield Parks.

The request for applications is part of the department's City Lots for Working Families (CL4WF) program. The idea is to sell city-owned lots to developers on the condition that they build single-family homes and/or two-flats that are affordable to residents earning at least 120 percent of the area median income. This particular proposal covers the area between Huron Street to the north, Homan Street to the east, Harding Avenue to the west, and the portions of Kinzie Street and Lake Street along the edges of Garfield Park to the south. 

Both the developers and the home buyers would get city incentives to decrease the costs, and the homebuyers would have their mortgages increasingly reduced the longer they live on the property. The developer will be responsible for building the homes and marketing them, but their plans will need to be approved by the city. The developer applications are due by Feb. 18. 

According to the program's web page and the application guidelines, each developer will be able to build up to 20 units, with single-family homes counting as one unit and two-flats counting as two units. 

Only up to 25 percent of those units can be priced at market rate. The rest must be affordable based on the median income within the Chicagoland region. Under the most recent figures provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, that is $74,880 for single-person households and $85,560 for two-person households, with the figures going higher the more members of the household there are.

The city will also offer grants to help prospective homeowners cover the difference between the appraised value and the sales price of homes, with neighborhood residents able to get up to $20,000 and homebuyers from outside the neighborhood able to get up to $15,000.

Since the city only allocated $60,000 for the grant, there are only so many homebuyers who would qualify for it and the application documents state that the grants will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The developers will be evaluated based on their' "ability to expeditiously construct and sell quality affordable single family homes in an urban market." They would need to show they have the funding and experience to build the projects, as well as "demonstrated community input and support."

The city works with the developers to figure out which lots the housing will be built on. The project map included in the application documents shows that most of the lots are located west of Central Park Boulevard, but there are also multiple lots in the northeastern and southeastern corners of the project area. The size of the lots varies a great deal, as well. The application documents include every single eligible address along with the map. 

In terms of design, the application suggests that the developers use plans developed by the finalists of the Chicago Housing Policy Task Force's Disruptive Design competition, though that isn't required. The plan does require that the houses either be suitable for people with disabilities or have plans that would allow them to be converted into disability-friendly housing further down the line. Developers are also encouraged to use "quality construction materials to minimize energy and maintenance expenses" and have designs that "respect the context of the block and surrounding community."

Once the applications are submitted, they will be reviewed by the city and sent to the Chicago Plan Commission for consideration. If the commission approves the application, it will then be sent to the City Council's Committee on Housing and Real Estate. If it clears the committee stage, it will be sent before the full City Council for final approval. While the application documents make no mention of local aldermen having any say in the process, the committees still tend to defer to local aldermen on housing and development issues.

Once the construction plans are approved, the developer will have up to 24 months to actually build it. 

For more information, visit www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/doh/supp_info/request-for-applications---city-lots-for-working-families-.html. 

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com  

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