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Uptown in the News  

August 27, 2003
Activists slam upscale housing
By Patrick Butler, Staff Writer

More than two dozen affordable-housing activists converged on a pair of new residential developments they said are typical of the kinds of upscale housing that has been driving hundreds of low- and moderate-income residents out of the neighborhood.

"This property, if you could afford it, would cost $215,000 to $240,000 for one bedroom, one bath," Organization of the NorthEast organizer and Uptown resident Amy Vance said during the protesters' first stop, at Jameson Realty Group's Cullom Avenue Condominiums, 4300 N. Clark ST.

Second stop on ONE's "We Can't Afford Your Homes" tour was Jameson's Graceland Rowhouses, 4103-4115 N. Southport, where the seven three-bedroom, 3.5 bath, 3,000-square-foot-plus units are going for between $850,000 and $995,000, said Vance.

Vance and other speakers blasted Jameson Realty, charging that it not only hasn't met the housing needs of the people who already live in Uptown but has refused to meet with ONE, a coalition of about 80 Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park groups and congregations.

According to Vance, Jameson has turned away developers interested in doing affordable-housing projects locally.

Not true, said Jameson Vice President Harry Huzenis, blaming the growing affordable-housing crunch at least as much on downzoning as anything else.

While groups like ONE have been pressing for more affordable units --- and the adoption of the 25 percent set-aside ordinance now in the City Council's Zoning Committee, the Graceland West Neighborhood Association and others have been equally adamant about downzoning, Huzenis said.

Huzenis, who said he planned to call ONE sometime this week, said such groups would be better off lobbying for upzoning and property-tax reform.

With most North Side residential neighborhoods zoned R3, the Graceland West area would need at least some "very high-density," R7 housing to make affordable housing feasible, Huzenis said.

Vance and ONE leaders Corey Muldoon and Tom Walsh, however, said Jameson turned away developers interested in building affordable housing in Uptown.

"Harry Huzenis told us early on that he saw no point in working with the community. We're here to say that rents keep climbing, property taxes are soaring, and long-term residents are being forced to leave the neighborhood," said Vance, adding that those reasons alone should be enough to meet with the community.

But Huzenis said he did meet with ONE, but was shouted down before he could make his case.

Nevertheless, Huzenis said he would be calling ONE sometime early this week to rebut ONE's allegations that Jameson Realty has been ignoring the community.

Several speakers emphasized, "It's not only Jameson," but the whole gentrification trend one man said has cost Uptown some 3,000 youngsters "between zero and 18" from 1990 to 2000 during a wrapup news conference at another Jameson-owned property --- a former Flash Cab garage at Leland and Clark.

"You think they wanted to leave? From what I can see, the schools are getting better… The parks are getting better in Uptown," he added.

Cecilia Salanis, a credit-union employee whose husband works at Truman College, fears that she may be next.

"We put so much energy into this community and want to stay here, but our (apartment) building has been sold, and if it goes condo, we don't know if we'll be able to buy it."

Lakefront SRO resident Claudia Reed said that while she already has good, affordable housing, "I'm here for my daughter… a hard-working single parent with two children, who lived in her building no more than nine months before she got a notice saying she could either buy her apartment for $220,000 or move in 90 days.

"At this point, she has to find new schools and affordable housing, and she can't," Reed said.

Part of the problem, Vance said, is that developers forget that Uptown is a community "where the median income is $32,000 --- not $100,000 and above."

"This is just another example of why we need a 25-percent mandatory set-aside ordinance," Vance said, referring to a proposal by South Side Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) that would require that 25 percent of the units in developments of over 10 units be allocated for low- and middle-income purchasers.

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