Affordable Housing for Humboldt Park

by  Editorial Assistant

On April 26, the Latino community and several legislators came out to Humboldt Park to hold a press conference in front of Shakespeare Apartments, 2141 N. Humboldt Blvd., a building where 36 families lost their homes three years ago. Many residents were forced to move with only three months notice because the Section 8 building was turned into condominiums. Residents were forced to leave despite the fact that they had lived in the building for years, some for decades. This type of scenario is happening more and more often, as the loss of affordable housing causes Latino families to become homeless.

Local Latino tenants joined state Sen. Iris Martinez (D-20), Ald. Rey Colon (35th), Ald. Manny Flores (1st), the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Humboldt Park Social Services and other groups to talk about two bills in Springfield currently under consideration.

A Project-Based Section 8 building, not to be confused with the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a building with specific units designated as affordable housing units. These buildings are scattered throughout the city. Some are designated for the elderly and some are for people with disabilities, while others are just for people who need assistance. When an owner’s contract of a Project-Based Section 8 building expires, the owner can choose to renew the contract or sell it.

This is where the Federally Assisted Housing Preservation Act (SB2329) comes in. The bill would allow a couple of things to happen: First, it would require the owner to give 12 months instead of 6 months notice to tenants and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) that the owner is going to sell the building. Second, it would allow residents of Section 8 buildings to form Tenant Associations to partner with a developer and purchase the building they reside in at fair market price, preserving it as affordable housing. According to the Chicago Rehab Network, over 30,000 Project-Based Section 8 units are at risk of loss in the next five years.

“This is a pretty significant piece of legislation because it gives the opportunity to preserve the units,” said Rachel Johnson, Director of Operations for the Chicago Rehab Network.

Charles Daas, the Executive Director of the Chicago Mutual Housing Network, said, “This new bill gives people an opportunity to be homeowners or stakeholders in neighborhoods, where they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.” He then went on to explain cooperative shares.

“The problem is, people are buying houses they can’t afford. They can afford the mortgage, but, after taxes, repairs and the upkeeping of the home, they can’t afford them,” said Daas.

When residents purchase a building together, everyone involved receives cooperative shares. There is only one mortgage and everyone pays their share of it. Therefore, residents in a cooperative building will eventually own the entire building together. This preserves the units and keeps them affordable in neighborhoods where values are appreciating at a fast rate. By participating in a cooperative building, families do not have to qualify for a loan and worry about financing which is great for individuals who have bad credit. The down payments are low because everyone is sharing. Corren Evans is the Director of Membership for the Chicago Mutual Housing Network and is also a resident of the Lakeview East Cooperative. In 1993, the tenants of this building were given notice that the building was going to be sold. The tenants formed a tenant association with the help of LIHPRHA, the Low Income Housing Preservation Resident Homeownership Act. They put in a first right of refusal, which means that the owner was not allowed to sell the building to anyone else; it gave them the opportunity to purchase the building. The request was accepted. Also, the tenant association received a federal grant through LIHPRHA from HUD for the amount of $19 million. $65 thousand went to rehabbing the units. The common areas were also rehabbed. There is an exercise room, computer lab, community space used for parties, meetings, etc. and there is also a patio. Purchasing the building cost a total of $11.2 million . In August, 1992, after a long wait and a lot of hard work, the purchase from the previous owner to the tenant association was made. In 2000, the building ownership was switched to the Lakeview East Cooperative, the resident who originally started the tenant association. Lakeview East Cooperative is a separate entity.

The second bill that was discussed at the press conference was the Rental Housing Support Act (HB 4100). This bill has a majority of House members as co-sponsors. The bill will provide modest rent subsidies to 4,000 Illinois households. With the passage of this, more Latino families will be able to stay in their apartments as the cost of rent rapidly rises. The subsidies of the grant will go directly to the landlords, who then can charge less rent.

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