Ald. Arena pledges to bring 50 CHA units to the ward


Alderman John Arena (45th) has pledged to bring 50 Chicago Housing Authority-sponsored apartments to the 45th Ward by the end of his term in the spring of 2019.

Arena and six other aldermen recently signed the pledge as part of an effort that they say will help end segregation on the North and Northwest Side. The other aldermen signing the pledge were Joe Moreno, Deborah Mell, Ameya Pawar, Chris Taliaferro, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and Harry Osterman.

Arena has said on social media that opposition to a proposed affordable, low-income housing project at 5150 N. Northwest Highway is being fueled by “a desire to keep people from certain backgrounds out of our area.”

The project would include 20 units whose tenants would be selected from a CHA waiting list of low-income applicants.

These units would be part of a project-based housing program that is separate from the CHA’s Section 8 vouchers, which tenants can use throughout the Chicago area.

Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park, which supports the Northwest Highway proposal, has called for an end to “the shameful legacy of segregation on the Northwest Side.”

Community groups opposed to the Northwest Highway project have said that their concerns are related to the project’s density and seven-story height and that they have no objections to affordable housing. One hundred apartments are planned.

They also have said that it was wrong for city officials to sign legal documents in support of rezoning the property to B3-5 to accommodate a dense development before soliciting feedback from the community. The documents were part of a settlement agreement that resulted from a lawsuit in which the site’s owner, LSC Development, claims that the city improperly downzoned the site in an effort to stop the original plan, which called for only a self-storage warehouse there.

The pledge could spark debates about the existing racial and income makeup of neighborhoods.

The Northwest Highway building would be located in the Beaubien School attendance area. In 2014, the school’s racial makeup was reported as the following: 39 percent Hispanic, 38 percent white, 14 percent Asian, 6 percent multi-racial, 2 percent African-American and 1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native.

In addition, state records show that in 2015, 49.9 percent of the students’ families received public aid, lived in substitute care or qualified for the federal low-income free- or reduced-lunch program.

In other development news, there have been reports that developers have been looking into buying the former Citizens Bank/DiLeo’s Restaurant site at Elston and Central avenues. A lawsuit related to a dispute over who owned the property was settled last year.