Tensions and frustrations run high in the Woodlawn neighborhood as residents feel the effects of the arrival of the Obama Presidential Center.
At a housing plans meeting this week, the city presented what it calls a preliminary phase one proposal that would designate 13 city lots for the creation of deeply affordable housing. This means that 15% of a building created on the lots must be reserved for households earning between 30% and 50% of the region’s median income, and an additional 15% must be reserved for households earning 30% or less.
Area median income is calculated for the entire Chicago area. Therefore, a 30% to 50% AMI for a family of four ranges between $27,950 and $46,600. The median income in Woodlawn is $24,450, according to the data.
The restrictions are part of the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance which was put in place in 2020 to help protect residents from displacement and create new affordable rental and housing opportunities.
The Department of Housing shared a proposal with the Woodlawn Task Force on Tuesday, which it says is only preliminary and the first step in an ongoing process to deliver on its promise to designate a total of 52 lots for housing. very low income, but residents say they want to see more action now.
“The mayor needs to be responsible for the original deal and setting aside just 13 lots isn’t enough,” said Patricia Tatum, a Woodlawn resident and fellow Obama. Community Benefit Agreement Coalition, which prompted the order. “The original ordinance called for 52 lots, only a quarter of the city-owned lots in Woodland. Thirteen is not enough. We need all of this land along 63rd Street in the city, near the location of the Obama Center, for affordable housing.
Aldus. Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward), whose neighborhood includes Woodlawn, says residents are already feeling the effects of rising rental and housing costs.
“We need to protect the people who have weathered the storm and who want to live here. It’s not fair that we don’t get the investment,” Taylor said. “This community has been waiting for 20 or 30 years and now the very people we are supposed to protect are now displaced, it’s not fair and it’s not something I’m going to support or defend.”
Taylor says every day she helps families find places to move and live because landlords are pushing them out by raising rental costs or not taking care of properties.
“It’s not fair to my constituents,” Taylor said. “I get paid to represent all the people in the community and the majority of the people who live here want to be able to stay no matter what they earn, so shame on the city for not giving up those 52 lots. Let’s have a real conversation about them and there’s a pushback in the community because there’s a small percentage of people who live here who think low income housing or affordable housing comes with violence, which is simply not true. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not fair, just say you hate poor people.
The city uses federal social housing tax credits to fund affordable housing. Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara explained this process at Tuesday’s task force meeting.
“When we talk about the commitment in the order that a minimum of 10 higher density lots will have the 30-50% AMI, and 52 lots are set aside for that, it’s important to understand that we’re getting that level of affordability only when we We do rental housing and we get that level of affordability when we subsidize development, and our primary way of subsidizing development is through low income housing tax credits “said Novara. “We receive tax credits directly from the federal government and we do a funding round every two years.”
Members of the Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, however, believe the city should get creative with funding affordable housing, and not just rely on low-income housing tax credits.
“Right now we have University of Chicago students on our side demanding that the University of Chicago be involved in this,” Tatum said. “The University of Chicago could help by funding housing. They’re going to take advantage of the center and they’ve long been instrumental in moving the south side of Chicago, so they should be part of the rebuilding and helping the people who stay here who want to stay here.
Taylor agrees to find other methods of funding, including taking money out of the Chicago Housing Authority, and says the state should also fund developments in Woodlawn.
Last summer Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation to create a state-run COVID-19 affordable housing program using $75 million in federal funds from the U.S. bailout.