[remote or in person] Committee on Housing and Real Estate

Chicago City Council
Politics
Housing

Wednesday, May 15, 2024
1:00 p.m. — 3:30 p.m. CDT

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121 N LaSalle St Chicago, IL 60602 (Directions)

City Hall, 2nd floor, Council Chambers

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Reporting

Edited and summarized by the Chicago - IL Documenters Team

Note-taking by Zoe Alden Greenfield

City-owned land sales through ChiBlockBuilder and City Lots for Working Families (CL4WF)

Live reporting by Ayesha Riaz

Puerto Rican self-determination, Chicago Housing Authority

ayesha_offline @ayesha_offline
Afternoon, everyone. Covering the meeting for the Committee on Housing and Real Estate for @CHIdocumenters. Meeting is scheduled to begin at 1:00 PM.

01:06 PM May 15, 2024 CDT

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The Committee on Housing and Real Estate covers housing, redevelopment, and neighborhood conservation matters (with the exception of building codes, zoning, and land use planning).
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They have jurisdiction over acquisitions/dispositions of interest, as well as all real estate leases, including spaces within buildings that include City-affiliated parties.
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Quorum is established by Chair Byron Sigcho-Lopez and the meeting comes to order at 1:08 PM. The meeting begins with Public Commentary: there are 9 registered public speakers for today.
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Speaker 1, Jessica Jackson speaks on the real estate aspect of housing as it relates to low income, stating that the committee doesn’t talk enough about property that’s already owned.
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She has been coming to these meetings for a whole year and says that the City of Chicago and Cook County has been trying to take her mother’s property through probate.
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She’s not sure if it's due to lack of concern or competency that the committee has not responded yet. However, the city is involved with their own private properties with city equipment coming to do a driveway.
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Perhaps they ‘don't understand the importance of real estate and the ownership of real estate when it comes to Black people’.
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She voices another issue of hitching the black struggles into brown struggles, while Cook County and the city of Chicago continues to steal property from Black people.
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Speaker 2, Zoe Lee begins by holding their phone to the speaker and sharing a voicemail from the Law Dept on what to do in the case of demolished property. The recording cut out in barely ~20 seconds with someone shouting to get out of their office.
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Lee’s issue is directly with Chair Bryan Sigcho-Lopez, who spoke to them last summer, when they were protesting that the city of Chicago demolished their property illegally. Sigcho-Lopez promised to research and look into it, but since then, they have not heard anything.
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“City of Chicago w/help of Building Dept loves to demolish/take our properties.” The property was a commercial property with 4 apartments.
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“Black people are never going to be able to pass anything down if the city of Chicago keeps taking our property--or demolishing them without compensation--which is a violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
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Building demolitions for “emergencies” is not explicitly defined and is reminiscent of legislatures for slum clearance or ‘redevelopment’. Lee urges the committee to look up the Blighted Areas Redevelopment Act of 1947.
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Speaker 3, Tiwon Sims addresses that the convenience of cameras is to be heard. He brings up the recent House Bills 5314 and 5432 and IL Senate Bill 3680, ordinances penalizing tenants or threatening penalty for those who contact the police or other emergency services.
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Sims states that there is no housing stability, and most of the bill goes to new arrivals. He believes the new fight is against Black Americans.
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Speaker 4, Maria Sotelo, supports the ordinance for 500 lots for working families on behalf of United Power. She is a DACA recipient, graduate, daughter, sister, member of Back of the Yards for 10+ years.
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She shares her family’s struggle to obtain home ownership, which is due to lack of availability in housing, issues with supply and demand. Sotelo is tired of driving past empty lots and knowing there should be a home there.
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When it is obvious that home ownership improves stable conditions for youth to grow up in and better opportunities for generational wealth, how are they going to do that?
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“If there’s nowhere for us to go to achieve these home and these dreams…living where i’m living, theres a huge need for it. Theres not nearly enough inventory. No matter how educated we try to become, if theres nothing there for us, how do we achieve that?”
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Speaker 5, Switchblade, helps remind listeners that “the Black Americans of this country are he only group that built America and all the other groups has came here to help anyone other than themselves.”
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“I feel a sense of entitlement from non-Black Americans thinking they have a higher platform than the ones who were here and have been deprived for centuries. At this time, black representatives are showing us that they are not for uplifting their own people based on policies.”
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This reminds her of Black klansmen. When its time to vote, if there is no reparations check and anti-black crime bill, there will be no vote. The country has never provided justice for Black Americans, and that they should cut the reparations check.
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Speaker 6, Adjua Adejei-Danso of Reclaiming North Lawndale speaks in support of the ordinance for 500 lots for United Power. It’s about the impact for future generations to stabilize and revitalize. Thriving communities begins with affordable home ownership.
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Speaker 7, Ray Arroyo, recent homeowner in Back of the Yards due to support from United Power. He shares the value and impact that these projects have had on him as an immigrant working for decades and paying rent in black and brown communities.
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At this time, there is a pause with shouting offscreen and a security guard within the frame of the camera is motioning for someone offscreen to calm down.
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Arroyo resumes, and wants to acknowledge that although the city has become more responsive to them, there is more red tape to cut and processes to streamline.
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Speaker 8, Joseph Mapp of Precious Blood Ministry, a community based organization in Back of the Yards. Mapps is strongly in support of the 500 lots. They have worked with families and communities in the Back of the Yards and want to support.
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“It was not our purpose to enter into housing, but it was our purpose to support families and connect them to resources. Over the years, we’ve constantly witnessed the struggle that families have from housing instability and lack of resources.”
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They want to develop in the Back of the Yards community with the collaborative effort of United Power; they'd like to offer 500 homes to the community for home ownership. They’ve seen other projects in Chicago Lawn where it resulted in 70% reduction in violence.
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Last speaker is Ricardo Savala, from U of I studying strategic development. His mother bought a house in Back of the Yards 13 years ago, and felt it enabled him to succeed. He is in support of the 500 lots to survive and thrive in their own community.
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His mother and him have plans to start a restaurant. Small opportunities and small businesses start at home.
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This concludes public commentary. Committee has 3 written comments, from Grow Greater Englewood, Sustainable Englewoods Initiatives and Maria Savala, Back of the Yards resident.
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Today’s agenda has 12 items. Agenda has been made available to the public and can be accessed here: [ ]
chicago.documenters.org/documents/agen…
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First on the agenda is approval of the May 2024 Rule 45 Report, which refers to the recent May 8th 2024 subject matter hearing. This was covered by fellow Documenter @attypritchard here: []
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Item 1: Intergovernmental lease agreement with Chicago Park District for use of city-owned property at 5801 N. Pulaski in North Park for administrative offices. Park District wishes to include expansion in the admin building and Peterson Park Fieldhouse.
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This includes use of the back shed and access to the parking lot across from the field house. New lease will run into 2030. Item approved.
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Item 2 has a substitute ordinance to enter lease agreement with Northwestern Memorial Healthcare for use of the city-owned property at 4727-4759 S Cottage Grove Ave for contractor parking.
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The substitute does not have changes on the ordinance, just the addition of economic disclosure forms and addition of the word ‘substitute’. Item passes.
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Item 3: Fifth intergovernmental agreement with Chicago Housing Authority extending option to continue hearing tenant grievances for new three-year term plus option for one additional two-year term after.
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On behalf of this ordinance, Anthony Rizzo from Department of Administrative Hearings and Rachel Moguel from Chicago Housing Authority are present. Rizzo states that the CHA is required by various federal estate laws or regulations to provide a tenant grievance procedure.
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Rizzo explains policy “allows tenants to address their concerns at CHA/property management as they follow their leases or policies…Tenants may first address these issues via an informal hearing process internal to the CHA.”
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If the tenant wishes to pursue matters further, they have the right to a formal hearing, which is “currently performed by independent administrative law judges retained by the city’s Department of Administrative Hearings.”
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Rizzo adds that renewing the agreement would enable them to “provide these hearings to tenants in a timely and efficient manner.”
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A bar graph diagram is shown on screen with the total number of grievances heard in the last 10 years. ~Around 40 second-level formal grievance hearings have been heard by CHA in the last 10 years.
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Alder La Spata, asks if the number of grievances is accurate. Sounding shocked, they repeat that “In the last 10 years, there's been 40 formal second-level grievances.” LaSpata asks what happens at the first level of grievance?
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Rizzo responds that its an informal hearing internal to CHA, and that he is not familiar with them because he only sees the second-level.
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Rachel M, CHA, states that it is “rather informal process. If the resident requests this initial hearing, they appear before the property manager and are presented an opportunity to discuss whatever concerns have arisen.
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After that, a determination is made. If, at that point, the tenant or resident is still not content with the decision, they are given the opportunity to proceed with the Dept. of Administrative Hearings.”
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La Spata asks how many grievances is this final number out of? Rachel M does not know the total number and will provide it through the chair. Alder LaSpata states that “usually you would expect to see like, a zero or two next to some of these numbers..its a little bit jarring.”
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Alder Jeanette Taylor also can’t really believe it. Her office gets 40+ complaints a day and she is confused. She asks Rachel what the process for tenant grievance is because it seems like the process is flawed.
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Rachel M, CHA responds that "the tenant requests the meeting with property manager, which will then present evidence to counter the lease violation.”
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Alder Taylor requests a fact sheet on what to do and questions why the number is very low for 10 years. “Is it not true that the property managers are private managers? Or are they CHA employees?”
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Rachel confirms that the property managers are private managers.
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Alder Taylor claims this as one of the biggest issues with CHA: Private landlords don't know how to treat the tenants that work for CHA. Taylor requests a factsheet. They have constituents complaining about CHA and take it to the manager, but it never makes it into a system.
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Taylor asks what is the followup with CHA? How to ensure private property managers are doing what they're required. There is an obvious disconnect with CHA and private property managers. The companies change so often that it's confusing to tenants looking to dispute.
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Alder Taylor asks if the process is new because a tenant has never explained it to her that way. Apparently, this process has been in place since 2014, and has only worked through 40 complaints.
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“Math is not mathing.” CHA needs to take a look at processes, and be working with DOH and City Council. Data seems to be very flawed.
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Alder Quinn, with clarification regarding management companies: If they don't have a responsive management company, what does CHA have to enforce or cancel that contract?
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Since CHA Council was not able to attend, Quinn has an immediate recommendation: If there is no compliance, the recommendation would be to cut off the contract.
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Alder Fuentes asks if at the time of lease signing, are individuals explained what the grievance process is? CHA responds that they are informed at the end of the initial hearing with the property manager.
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Fuentes elaborates on the question: “Before an incident takes place, is the tenant educated that there is a grievance process that they can undergo, when, and if there are issues with the management company or the organization itself?”
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Rachel M of CHA is ‘not sure if they are given a packet or how that information is distributed to residents.’
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Alder Fuentes’ second question regards to the bilingual aspect: Who is on the other end of the Language Access Line? CHA responds that they contract the service out to interpreters.
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Like Taylor and LaSpata, Fuentes shares serious concerns with numbers and the process. Concern 1) On a daily basis, they have “tenants with grievances beyond internal capacity.
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To assume that these numbers are because we have satisfied our tenants grievances is absolutely mind-blowing” to her.
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Tenants have gone to regional meetings consistently who are raising the same concerns. “After 10+ times of attending a meeting raising the same exact concern, they’re still stuck in some internal process and haven’t got into this level for resolution: There is an issue here.”
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Concern 2:Tenants fear escalation because management has threatened retaliation. “The fact that we’re satisfied w/ these numbers and want to renew for another 3 years when we haven't even truly addressed the issues that our tenants are facing in some of these sites is egregious.”
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“Folks not only deserve to live with dignity and respect, they deserve a process that’s truly going to address the concerns that they raise.”
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Alder Manaa-Hoppenworth, shares concerns with Taylor, Fuentes and LaSpata. Fact sheets need to be situated around tenants and how to keep management accountable.
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“What does it take to cut off a contract with a property manager and how many have we discontinued over the last 10 years?"
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CHA does not respond to how many contracts have previously been discontinued, claiming “I’m not sure I understand your question.” Hoppenworth states people are frustrated by lack of information and how to advocate for themselves.
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CHA understands that this is an area of big concern. CHA is undergoing changes to improve the quality of service.
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“This item has been held up for 2 months already, we are denying the residents who live in affordable housing, their opportunity to have the ability to exercise due process...and further delay of this would be very harmful to the residents.”
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Alder Taylor: “It’s real disrespectful for you to get up here and say that we’re holding up a process that's been flawed from the very beginning. Had your boss did her job 5 years ago when we came to her about processes and whats going on in CHA, it would not be here.”
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“We take a lot of heat for what your boss does not do…I got people living in mold, and you all did nothing. Then the audacity to say that we’re holding tenants up from getting their just due...y’all never give them their just due, especially not in our senior buildings."
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"This is why people want Tracey Scott gone.” Alder Taylor lists out reasons why Tracey Scott should be gone: 1) sending Rachel to carry her water, 2) holding a fake meeting and evading questions, 3) not sure how they passed any inspections.
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“Who in the Stevie Wonder is doing these inspections?”
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Alder Taylor clarifies that its nothing against Rachel: “This is nothing against you, it's about the whole flawed down process, its disrespectful and wrong to ask us to pass on something y’all aint even cleared with us.”
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“Y’all have done absolutely nothing for decades, now all of a sudden, its like lets just get this over with? How many tenants have sued CHA? How many tenants are crawling in court with CHA grievances? You can get those numbers thru the chair. I'll wait.”
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Chair Sigcho-Lopez concludes commentary on this item, hearing the lack of accountability from management companies. They cannot be renewing contracts or worse, expanding contracts with people who are not doing their job.
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Alder Moore, states the necessity to be careful not to lump all property managers together and the need to be clear so that the media isn't reporting that the CHA management is doing a terrible job. (lol)
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Vice Chair Mitchell, has a request through the chair, Data required for first and second level grievances in all public housing facilities in all wards for the last 10 years.
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Chair Sigcho-Lopez shares frustrations, but asks directly and point blank: if this moves forward today, what assurances will be made?
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Alder Mitts wishes to hold this item for the next housing committee meeting. Item 3 does not pass and will be revisited at the next meeting.
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Item 4: Negotiated sale of 2 parcels of vacant city-owned property at 1314-1316 S Pulaski Rd to Work of His Hands Ministries, adjacent church property owner for development as a parking lot. Purchase price is $25,000 and development cost is $123,700.
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Lot will add to beautification efforts next to a community garden and provide additional parking on Pulaski. Item passes.
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Item 5: Negotiated sale of city-owned property at 8340 S Halsted St to adjacent property owner, Griffin Burress Holdings LLC (dba Ivory Dental) for development as a parking lot. Purchase price is $3887.00. Ivory Dental is a Woman and Black-owned business. Item passes.
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Item 6: Sale of 3 city-owned open space properties in 28th ward with aldermanic support. 4441 W Adams St to Tamekia Jenkins for $913, 352 S Kostner to Bryan Ramson for $882, and 4236 W Monroe St to Victoria Giddens for $915. Item passes.
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Item 7: Negotiated sale of vacant “as-is” city-owned property in 37th ward at 642 N Lockwood Ave to Myrtle Malone for $12,000. Item passes.
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Item 8: Sale of 11 side yard city-owned properties in 15th ward to adjacent neighbors under ChiBlockBuilder platform. Sale price is 10% of the appraised value, which range between $596 - $1348 for these properties. Item passes.
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Item 9: Amendment of Municipal Code Section 2-44-085 to clarify affordable requirements ordinance. Ricardo Lopez with DOH, to correct language to make it required 6+ onsite/offsite units have to select an option with a cap of no more than 80% of the AMI.
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Intention is not to make it optional, but mandatory. Since 2021 ARO changes, all developers have complied, but they wish to avoid a situation where developers choose to do the absolute least amount of affordable housing they can. Item passes.
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Item 10: Amendment to ERAP subscription-based software license agreement with Unqork, Inc, for past use of proprietary platform thru November 3 2023 and for projected use and access by Dept of Housing for April 30, 2023 through December 31, 2024.
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Unqork is a platform that was being used for emergency rental assistance. They are seeking to extend contract to close out programs and need access to report for audit requests, obligations and fraud investigations.
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Alder Hadden, asks if the gap in communication is fixed and if there is a plan for reevaluation for further. Flexible platform that could be used for future processes, which they will reassess in December. Item passes.
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Item 11: Execution of loan subordination agreement with Perlmark Realty Corporation for Lincoln Village Senior Apartments in 50th ward at 6057 N Lincoln Ave. Katrina Collins from Dept of Housing is present for questions.
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This seven story senior housing building is located at the southeast intersection of W Devon Ave and McCormick Blvd. There are 102 units that are 100% affordable for households earning no more than 60% of the area median income (AMI).
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There is no city money associated with this transaction, as it is a request to subordinate the existing second mortgage home loan, and refinance to the primary debt, creating a new first mortgage of $4.1 million.
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Alder Hadden and Alder La Spata both ask if the practice of changing mortgages will affect affordability? It does not affect the affordability of the units and that it is guaranteed for next 14 years.
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Vice Chair Mitchell, asks what the current variable rate is, and Collins responds that it is not decided until a week from closing. Item passes.
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There has been a substitution for Item 12 for the removal of 60 lots of the 500 original lots due to being sold, previously set aside for open space, or on the city’s Historical Boulevard system which is excluded from the Lots for Working Families program.
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Item 12: Sale of *440 lots of city-owned properties to United Power for Action and Justice under City Lots for Working Families Program in 20th and 21st wards. Sale price is $1 per city lot. *Original was 500 lots but some were removed.
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Developers include The Resurrection Project/Precious Blood Ministry, Lawndale Christian Development Corp, Sunshine Gospel Ministries, Hope Center Foundation, and Illinois Facilities Fund.
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The number of lots represents only 4.4% of the 11,000+ lots owned by the city. Over $18 million have been raised, development costs are approx $400,000. Depending on the builder, buyers can also apply for Affordable Home program grants from the city for up to $100,000.
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Developers will begin by constructing modular homes (by either Kinexx or Inherent Homes) at the rate of several per month. Dept of Housing will not restrict developers and will consider stick build or other modular builders if they will better meet the requirements.
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Developers will have 5 years to build housing on these parcels. Guacolda Reyes of The Resurrection Project and Whitney Smith of Lawndale Christian join for questions.
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Alder Mitts, asks about the Hope Center Foundation and Sunshine Gospel Ministry, which were affected by the substitute and lots were removed.
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Alder Hadden with some ?’s. First question regards the substitute and removal of lots due to lot restriction along the historic boulevard district.
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Lots are excluded in the enabling City Lots for Working Families Program. When creating the historic boulevard district in 2017 with the federal government, the City agreed to keep those lots out of the program.
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Hadden asks of the status and what exactly is happening with the historic boulevard program, “hearing that we’re gonna exclude lots on historic boulevards from programs for building housing for working families made me cringe a little bit.”
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Hadden asks about the projected rate of homes built this year and next year.
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Whitney Smith from Lawndale Christian states that the capacity looks different and for the past 2.5 years, they have been working with general contractors who can build at scale. The competitive price point is 20 homes for builders.
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Hadden asks if a previous challenge had been trying to contract for 1 or 2 homes, as opposed to several.
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Guacolda Reyes confirms that this had been an initial struggle. Most people started with their own personal lots and a main obstacle had been bureaucracy.
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In larger numbers, general contractors can be more competitive with pricing even if the lots are in different wards. It is hard negotiating with numbers smaller than that.
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Alder Beale, asking for a definitive answer on how many houses per week, per month, per year. Smith responds that the best estimate is the construction timeline which is given to them by developers.
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Modular moves especially quickly, and their current developers are pumping out several homes at a time and in a 6 month time-frame. Smith uses the example of Lawndale and how many lots were available at a given time and they built.
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Alder Beale interrupts the answer and demands to know how many homes can be built in a week, in a month, and in a year. Whitney responds that a developer is promising 40. Tartan says 40-50 a year, and they are also talking to Toro Construction, trying to get a competitive price.
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Beale asks how to determine the difference between the homes. The two categories are that below 80% AMI, they can get 100,000. Formula is based off of their income.
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Beale brings up that his ordinance was identical and wants his lots to also take advantage of the fee waiver and 100 subsidy. Beale is in support, but just curious why they couldn't reflect earlier to have amenities included in the RDA.
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Alder LaSpata, shares Hadden’s interest and concerns about the Historic Boulevards district and is concerned about the policy. Historic Boulevards belong to working class families just as much as everybody else.
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Alder Quinn, asks if there are any jobs for community members. The jobs will depend on the builder, if the home is being built in the factory. Smith responds yes, there are jobs, partnerships, and other opportunities they are building out for residents.
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They are also building out worker-owned construction co-ops to make sure that the labor of local residents and to train folks in the trades.
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Guacolda Reyes speaks about workforce development and that in Back of the Yards, they are working in conjunction with Precious Blood and talking with contractors about bringing in the carpentry union.
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Alder Scott, is hopeful that the lots will be conveyed, but have to be realistic and say ‘are we giving too many?’ She is asking can we actually do the 125 homes, commitment is made as the developer, not the alderwoman.
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Happy for 10, happy for 20, but 125 is what the developer is promising.
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Alder Taylor, agrees with Scott, stating “there's no clarity around how long there will it be.” Taylor is committing 400 lots with 4 different organizations who she believes in. Lots should not be held up. The RDA should be clear and specific that they will keep those lots clean.
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“If an organization is only asking for land and they're saying they want to build, I want to believe in that, but it would also be irresponsible for me not to say something in the RDA that says after 2-3 years, they should go back in the pot for somebody else to.”
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Alder Burnett, congratulates colleagues and organizations and wishes United Power would come to his ward as well. His particular challenge is that he doesn't know what he's getting by the ChiLots program. He wants affordable houses and not speculations.
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Guacolda Reyes, Kinexx changed ownership but continues to function as a modular builder. To Alder Taylor, we want to be held accountable. TRP started developing single family homes in Pilsen, and United Power has built 70 homes in the last 2 years.
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Besides workforce capacity, they work strongly with counseling and families to make sure families retain these homes.
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Alder Burnett mentions Sunshine Gospel Ministries, which started in Cabrini Green by Quakers and moved to the South Side, theyre not just builders of buildings, theyre builders of people. An additional challenge for lots on the West side are environmental hazards.
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Alder Taylor, conversations around red tape: selling lots that havent been environmentally cleared. In her ward, homes are sinking because land wasn't filled in correctly.
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She urges being smart and thorough about property and to just get the houses built. She is very supportive of these organizations, and thanks Alders Beale and Scott.
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Alder Beale asks once properties are conveyed, when does the property tax bill come? Depending on how many lots, property tax is paid in arrears, which comes out of the developers closing. Additionally, they are immediately responsible for landscaping.
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Whitney Smith of Lawndale Christian appreciates mutual accountability, they work with HUD- certified home counselors, are considering green energy, and workforce development. They wish to be honest and transparent.
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Reyes of the Resurrection Project confirms that they are already working with homeowners to resolve these issues.
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Meeting is adjourned at 3:41 PM.

Attachments

Agency Information

Chicago City Council

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Recordings of past City Council meetings may be found here: https://vimeo.com/user100351763/videos/sort:date.

See also: “What to Expect at a Meeting of Chicago’s City Council” via the Better Government Association.

Documents

5/15/2024
5/15/2024
5/15/2024

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