Affordable Housing Development Plan Announced for Howard Street

Alderwoman Maria Hadden of the 49th Ward announced plans of an affordable housing project on Oct. 21.

Alderwoman Maria Hadden of the 49th Ward announced plans for two lots of affordable housing. The lots will span 7603-7619 N. Paulina St. and 1646-1660 W. Howard St, according to Hadden’s Oct. 21 newsletter. Out of the 110 units, there will be 16 studio, 24 one bedroom, 42 two bedroom and 28 three bedroom units.

For households earning 60% or less of the annual Area Median Income ($62,520 for a household of four), 88 units will be set aside. For those earning 30% or less ($31,250 for a household of four), 22 units will be designated. Each building will be six stories and contain 55 units, according to Hadden. 

She said even before becoming an alderwoman, she noticed high turnover in the housing market. As residents sold their spaces, investment groups often purchased and renovated the property, resulting in increased rents for the following residents, according to Hadden.

“Finding development partners who are mission-driven like the Housing For All team is actually pretty rare,” Hadden said. “Their goal is to provide family size units and good housing for working class people so that we can keep people in some of our neighborhoods in Chicago.”

During the previous development project, the Clark-Estes apartments on 1763 W Estes Ave,  Hadden said not all the diverse groups of residents were supported. 

“There was a long line of people who wanted to apply and live there,” Hadden said. “One of the challenges we noticed in that process was there wasn’t enough language access to help the wide variety of families at Rogers Park that were in need of this housing.”

Rogers Park is one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods, with its population most closely resembling Chicago’s overall racial and ethnic demographics, according to the Chicago Sun-Times

If over 30% of an income goes towards housing, the housing is considered unaffordable, according to Dr. Peter Rosenblatt, director of the urban studies program at Loyola University Chicago.

Rosenblatt said exclusionary zoning contributes to the lack of affordable housing. Exclusionary zoning laws restrict the type of housing permitted in specific neighborhoods, according to the White House

Suburban areas have historically required housing size to meet a minimum requirement, often of a large lot or apartment size. Restrictions on the number of bedrooms permitted in multifamily housing further add to exclusionary zoning.

“That also ends up furthering racial segregation because of the way race and income are correlated,” Rosenblatt said. 

The 2019 Federal Reserve Report states in America, the average white family is eight times as wealthy as the average Black family and five times as wealthy as the average Hispanic family. 

Other challenges to create affordable housing in the 49th Ward include the geography and infrastructure of the community.

There aren’t many empty spaces or commercial buildings like the one at West Howard and North Paulina streets, according to Hadden. At the end of last year, Hadden said she approved a zoning change at 1415 W. Morse Ave. which added 12 units of affordable housing and three affordable housing units were created this year. 

With the proposed development, benefits will extend beyond affordable housing, according to Hadden.

“Having more people in the area helps bring more spending and a stronger local economy,” Hadden said. “We’re really looking to build family size units, meaning more kids in the area for our schools and parks.”

More students in classrooms directly correlates with increased funding in classrooms, Hadden said.

Chicago Public Schools use student-based budgeting to determine funding for schools. The number of students enrolled in the school dictates the amount of funding received, according to Chicago Public Schools

Hadden said another possible benefit to the project is an increase in available restaurant space.

“We’ve got small businesses and entrepreneurs that are always asking for more restaurant space,” Hadden said. “In a lot of our existing buildings, the current owners don’t want to put in the money to build out a restaurant and a lot of our starting entrepreneurs don’t have the financing to do it themselves.”

However, not all residents are supportive of the project. 

Helen Long Carlock, has been a resident since 1960 and her concerns lie with poverty being concentrated in a single area.

“In 1979, Chicago’s Department of Development and Planning was on the verge of sending a proposal to [the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)] for financing for a proposal for 120 units of Section 8 housing in the Hermitage Haskins Triangle,” Carlock wrote in a statement to The Phoenix.

Section 8 refers to public housing’s voucher program, which allows low income families to rent in the private market, while receiving federal vouchers to supplement their income, according to Rosenblatt. 

In response, Carlock led a housing task force that collected 852 signatures petitioning against any proposals including new subsidized housing. Rather, Carlock was in favor of development projects rehabilitating existing spaces, with 20-30% of units receiving subsidies.

“I have always approved a balance of market rate and subsidized housing,” Carlock wrote. 

However, she said the area is currently out of balance.

“The last thing North of Howard needs is 110 more units of below market-rate housing further concentrating poverty in this small area at the edge of the city,” Carlock wrote. 

Carlock is referring to public HUD housing. Hadden said HUD housing is directly subsidized by the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The current development project with Housing For All is not HUD housing. These units will be at a different level of affordability and renters will not be applying to subsidized rents, according to Hadden.

Hadden also said this current project is not her decision. Housing For All did not need an alderman’s permission to purchase the buildings. 

Part of what is driving the affordable housing crisis in the United States is when taking into account inflation, wages have been stagnant for most of the population since the early 1980’s, according to Rosenblatt.

He said this means the price of goods are rising at a higher rate than wages are increasing. 

Fair market rent is a term set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This ranks the price of rent in Cook County from cheapest to most expensive, and the 40 percentile is deemed the fair market rent, said Rosenblatt.

When Rosenblatt calculated the housing wage for Chicago to afford a two bedroom apartment, the minimum wage that would deem fair market rent affordable, (no more than 30% of an income going towards rent) was around $23 per hour, Rosenblatt said.

According to the City of Chicago, the city’s minimum wage is $15.40 per hour for workplaces with 21 or more employees. 

Rosenblatt said there is no place in the U.S where someone could rent a two bedroom apartment while working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage and not be housing cost burdened. 

Serena Thakkar

Serena Thakkar