WBEZ | low-income housing http://www.wbez.org/tags/low-income-housing Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en FLATS Chicago developer weighs in on housing affordability debate http://www.wbez.org/news/flats-chicago-developer-weighs-housing-affordability-debate-110475 <p><p>The City of Chicago continues to work on an ordinance to address the phenomenon of fast-disappearing single-room and residential hotels. In recent years, many of these traditionally affordable housing options, particularly along the lakefront on the city&rsquo;s North Side, have been bought and converted into high-end rentals. Hundreds of low-income tenants have been displaced, and with the help of community organizers, have turned the attention of city policy makers to the issue.</p><p>Developers, some of whom have been accused of accelerating the loss of residential hotels, have been quieter. But Jay Michael, co-founder of Cedar Street Properties and FLATS Chicago, recently shared his take on the efforts, and responded to criticism that he&rsquo;s one of the reasons that low-income residents can no longer afford to live on the North Side.</p><p>&ldquo;This is our favorite space. This may have been what really sold us,&rdquo; he said, standing in the basement of his most significant acquisition to date: the Lawrence House. He&rsquo;s looking at a 60-foot swimming pool, covered with wooden slats, but extending 8-feet deep on one end. The floors and walls are lined with beautiful aquamarine blue tiles.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s totally destroyed, but in the back there are these hamams -- these men and women steam facilities,&rdquo; he continued. &ldquo;We were like, &lsquo;Oh my God,&rsquo; my business partner and I, this is just like out of a movie -- &nbsp;it is out of a movie - this could be a movie, right?&rdquo;</p><p>Michael&rsquo;s company, FLATS Chicago, closed on the Lawrence House last year. It&rsquo;s a 13-story residential hotel in the heart of Uptown. When it opened in the late 1920s, it was the pinnacle of glitz and glam: it had an all-glass atrium entrance, porters at the doors, and hosted fashionable visitors who came in town to catch shows at the Aragon Theater and other mainstays of the then-bustling entertainment district.</p><p>When FLATS acquired it, however, the building was under two receiverships, home to about 100 residents who endured slum-like conditions. Delinquent owners allowed the structure to fall badly into disrepair. It was ridden with bed bugs, mice and crime and the utilities would sometimes even shut off. Despite the problems, some residents still paid as much as $700 per month to live there.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FLATS 2.JPG" style="height: 240px; width: 320px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Michael’s gut rehab of the Lawrence House Hotel will include a restoration of a 60-foot swimming pool. Ultimately, some rentals in the building could cost more than $2000. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />Michael&rsquo;s total gut rehab and historic restoration is expected to cost around $18 million. In the end, rentals will start above $800 and go beyond $2000. While nobody believed the building&rsquo;s previous living conditions were acceptable, these prices have made him the new target of criticism.</p><p>&ldquo;The track record has shown that the units that he (Michael) has converted really has affected residents in a negative way,&rdquo; said D&rsquo;Angelo Boyland, an organizer with ONE Northside. The group holds FLATS Chicago responsible for the loss of more than 800 affordable units on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side within the last three years, contained in six FLATS-branded buildings.</p><p>Last year, ONE Northside made the fight against Michael a personal one. They rallied outside his Gold Coast home to protest the displacement of hundreds of North Side residents. Michael has refused to speak with them ever since.</p><p>Others agree that there&rsquo;s a growing housing crisis for low-income residents on the North Side. Many say single-room and residential hotels traditionally offered crucial transitional housing for people who otherwise would face homelessness. Social service agencies typically keep a list of these buildings on hand for when clients need them.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I&rsquo;d have to update my list and say this one&rsquo;s not here anymore, and this one&rsquo;s closing, and so if anybody has any clients who live there, we&rsquo;re going to need to work with them and help them relocate,&rdquo; said Jennifer Cushman, who was a housing coordinator for Trilogy Health Services in Rogers Park.</p><p>But Cushman said she doesn&rsquo;t blame Michael -- or any other particular developer -- for the problem. She said the city needs to support more affordable housing. Michael agreed, and pointed out that he has preserved -- and improved -- some affordable housing. To prove it, he points out The Windale, an 81-unit building in Edgewater. It&rsquo;s one of two single-room occupancy hotels that Cedar St. Properties has acquired.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FLATS%203.JPG" style="height: 240px; width: 320px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Michael’s holding company, Cedar St. Properties, has bought two single-room occupancy hotels on the North Side. It is refurbishing the units in one of those, and keeping the rents below $700. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />&ldquo;This one, we&rsquo;re planning on restoring and keeping as an SRO,&rdquo; said Michael. &ldquo;One of the things that I thought would be great, and this came from feedback from social service agencies, there&rsquo;ll be two case worker rooms at the end.&rdquo;</p><p>Michael has kept rents at the property under $700, all while renovating it to look cleaner and more pleasant. His company has pulled out the carpet, laid down wood flooring, and repainted the hallways. He said he plans to build a common kitchen on the ground floor.</p><p>Still, about half the previous tenants of the building opted to leave the building once Michael acquired it. He said they weren&rsquo;t interested in abiding by the new rules his company has set down: visitors only between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., no overnight guests, and monthly room inspections.</p><p>Michael said he, himself, would not agree to live in a building that had rules like that.</p><p>&ldquo;But I think that if I had to live in 6019 (The Windale), I would probably prefer to live in (a building) with rules that looked clean and was safe like that, than the ones that didn&rsquo;t have rules and were nasty,&rdquo; he said. He added that he&rsquo;s awaiting federal approval for his first Section 8 housing voucher tenants to live in one of the pricier, FLATS-branded properties. He said once that goes through, he looks forward to having more government-subsidized tenants living in his upscale buildings.</p><p>Michael is working with the city and other housing advocates now on the SRO preservation ordinance, which would apply both to single-room occupancy buildings, and to residential hotels. They&rsquo;re thinking about how to preserve these buildings as affordable. But he worries about restrictions on owners.</p><p>&ldquo;My opinion is, if you&rsquo;re going to take someone&rsquo;s rights away from them, that&rsquo;s in exchange for an incentive,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So if you choose to renovate your building, and if you choose to renovate it with affordability, there should be some sort of incentive offered.&rdquo;</p><p>Ultimately, Michael said the city will have to come up with a big pot of money as incentive for developers to keep affordable housing in their plans.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/flats-chicago-developer-weighs-housing-affordability-debate-110475 Inside Room 317: counting down the last days of the Chateau Hotel http://www.wbez.org/news/inside-room-317-counting-down-last-days-chateau-hotel-107793 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Chateau Hotel 1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Tonight at midnight the last tenants of the Chateau Hotel will have to vacate their building, per court order.&nbsp;</p><p>The Chateau is one of several North Side single-room occupancy buildings that developers have bought recently, to turn into upmarket rental housing.</p><p>This has displaced hundreds of low-income residents of the North Side. Robert Rohdenburg will soon be among them.</p><p dir="ltr">Rohdenburg fought his eviction from the Chateau Hotel until the very end. In recent weeks, the new owners started gutting the building, even as he and a few others lived there. In the video below, crews decked out in hazardous materials suits are seen tossing carpets from the building&rsquo;s back windows.</p><p dir="ltr">WBEZ&rsquo;s Odette Yousef asked Rohdenburg to record his last week at the Chateau amidst this chaos. This is what he gave us.</p><iframe width="620" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/4M0UcouVdBg?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a> and <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 21 Jun 2013 07:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/inside-room-317-counting-down-last-days-chateau-hotel-107793 Joliet lashes back at federal prosecutors over housing suit http://www.wbez.org/story/joliet-lashes-back-federal-prosecutors-over-housing-suit-90203 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-05/Thanas.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A top Joliet official is lashing back at federal prosecutors for suing his city to block condemnation of a low-income housing complex called Evergreen Terrace.<br> <br> The suit, a civil complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, accuses Joliet of violating the Fair Housing Act, trying to “perpetuate segregation,” and attempting to “limit or reduce the number of Black or African-American residents residing within the city.”<br> <br> City Manager Tom Thanas called the suit a legal maneuver to “wear us down” by lengthening Joliet’s six-year legal battle for authority to condemn the complex. “This is at a time when Joliet doesn’t have the financial resources to take on big litigation,” Thanas said Friday afternoon. “We, like other municipalities around the country, are suffering with declining revenues and increasing expenses.”<br> <br> Thanas stuck by the city’s claim that Evergreen Terrace, a privately owned 356-unit development, has too many police and fire calls. But whether to keep fighting for condemnation authority is up to Joliet elected officials, Thanas added. “That’s something we’ll be reviewing with the mayor and city council,” he said.<br> <br> The complex houses about 765 low-income residents, nearly all African-American, and abuts the Des Plaines River across from downtown Joliet.<br> <br> Joliet’s attempts to close Evergreen Terrace stretch back more than a decade. The city tried to block refinancing for the complex but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sunk in millions of dollars.<br> <br> In 2005, Joliet asked a state court for condemnation authority. The HUD stake sent the condemnation bid into the federal court system, where it remains.<br> <br> The property’s owners, New West Limited Partnership and New Bluff Limited Partnership, filed a federal suit against the condemnation. A group of residents filed another federal suit against it. One of those residents, Teresa Davis, also filed a complaint with HUD, which led to Thursday’s U.S. Department of Justice suit.<br> <br> Joliet officials say the city for years has planned to redevelop the site for affordable housing and help relocate the residents.<br> <br> But Thursday’s suit claims “the city has no meaningful plan” for those aims.<br> <br> Patrick Johnson, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said Friday afternoon that prosecutors held discussions with Joliet officials before filing the suit. Johnson called those talks unsuccessful and said the sides have scheduled no other settlement negotiations. Next week, he added, the government will motion for its suit to be joined with the other federal suits aimed at preserving Evergreen Terrace. Johnson said the case’s discovery phase could last at least a year.<br> <br> Asked whether the government was just trying to wear down Joliet, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said prosecutors would have no further comment.<br> <br> An Evergreen Terrace resident, for his part, said the federal suit was already having an effect — bringing some positive attention to the complex. “I don’t see much wrong with the place,” said Elvis Foster, 53, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment and serves on the tenant council. “You’re close to downtown. You got the Joliet Junior College just two blocks away. And [the complex] is not feared as much as people would say.”</p></p> Fri, 05 Aug 2011 21:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/joliet-lashes-back-federal-prosecutors-over-housing-suit-90203 Exhibition highlights history of public housing http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/exhibition-highlights-history-public-housing <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/IMG_1262.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The high rises may come down and residents may be relocated but for some, the longing for the communities that public housing created never goes away. An effort to preserve those ties is now underway thanks to the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.publichousingmuseum.org/">National Public Housing Museum</a> and the City of Chicago. The exhibition is called &quot;<a target="_blank" href="http://www.publichousingmuseum.org/site/files/663/84998/306966/503482/HCH_reopeningflier.pdf">History Coming Home</a>.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Eight Forty-Eight&quot; host Alison Cuddy toured the exhibition with <a target="_blank" href="http://www.keithmagee.com/">Keith Magee</a>, the executive director of the National Public Housing Museum. They began in a replica of 1950s-era public housing apartment.</p></p> Mon, 13 Dec 2010 14:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/exhibition-highlights-history-public-housing