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Uptown in the News  

August 3, 2005
Ald. Smith proposes housing set-asides in 48th Ward
By Angela Caputo

More 48th Ward residents would have a shot at first time homeownership under a policy recently adopted by Ald. Mary Ann Smith requiring developers to set aside some new homes at discounted rates.

Among future residential projects with 10 or more units, where a zoning change is required, developers will be obligated to sell 10 percent of new homes at below the market rate, according to a top aldermanic staffer. In exchange for the discounted units, developers are eligible for getting fast tracked for city permits and write-downs on project costs.

Local affordable housing advocates, who have long been pushing for a set-aside policy, say that they are encouraged that 48th Ward is now in sync with neighboring lakefront wards where similar practices have already been adopted.

Edgewater resident Mimi Harris, a member of the alderman’s Zoning and Planning Committee, which endorsed the plan, said she sees the policy a “step in the right direction…in getting balanced development in our ward.”

Both the Uptown and Edgewater communities have experienced double digit percentage increases in median home prices in the last year alone, and affordable housing advocates say it is essential to carve out moderately priced houses before the neighborhood becomes out of reach for middle income earners.

“We’re talking about police, firefighters and teachers. People making a middle class salaries,” Harris said.

Under the city’s Chicago Partnership for Affordable Neighborhoods program, which the units will be leveraged through, eligible residents can buy condos starting at $155,000, according to the Housing Department.

But not everyone is sold on the idea that the CPAN set-asides are the best strategy for creating affordable housing.

Edgewater Development Corporation Executive Director Adam Burch questions the sustainability of the program. Considering that the units can eventually be resold at market rates, Burck doesn’t see the initiative having a long-term impact. “We wanted something more far reaching,” he said.

CPAN recipients are required to hold onto their property for 30 years or, if they sell, they have to pay the city back for the write-offs given to developers, according to a Housing Department spokeswoman.

In upcoming projects, 48th Ward residents will have first crack at half of the units created under the new affordable housing policy. The other 50 percent will be granted to qualified residents throughout the city. All of the units will be awarded based on a lottery system administered through the city’s Housing Department

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