5150 project not on preliminary agenda for low-income housing tax credits
by BRIAN NADIG
The proposed 75-unit housing development at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. is not among the 26 projects which the Illinois Housing Development Authority plans to approve for low-income housing tax credits, according to a tentative agenda for the authority’s May 18 meeting.
The preliminary agenda was posted on the authority’s Web site on Tuesday morning, May 15. Barring any late changes to the agenda, it is not clear what impact the lack of tax credits would have on the feasibility of the Northwest Highway plan.
The applicant, Full Circle Communities, also sought tax credits last year, but the proposal was not one of the winning projects. Earlier this year the proposal was scaled back from 100 to 75 apartments to make it more financially feasible, with the current cost of the project estimated at about $26 million.
Alderman John Arena (45th) and project officials have said that the tax credit application process is highly competitive and that it is not unusual for a project to wait several attempts for approval. Full Circle also has sought grants, including one which would require some of the units to be reserved for veterans.
The tax program is a dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit for affordable housing investments, giving incentives for the use of private equity in the development of housing aimed at low-income families, according to the authority. Low-income housing developments often require tax credits or other subsidies in order to be feasible.
Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park expressed disappointment that the Full Circle proposal was not on the agenda.
“We understand that the project earned a very high score in IHDA’s scoring system. This building represents everything that the state of Illinois claims to support in its funding decisions, and we have serious questions about the neutrality of an organization that can award a project with a high score based on objective measures while simultaneously denying that project the chance to move forward,” the group’s statement said.
Northwest Side Unite, which opposes the proposal, issued the following statement: “We look forward to the board meeting’s final results. We hope that the projects that are awarded this funding have community support and input to ensure their success. We welcome community meetings to address outstanding concerns about 5150 going forward.”
The mixed-income housing proposal, which would include a mix of market-rate, affordable and Chicago Housing Authority-subsidized units, has been controversial since plans were first announced in early 2017. About 6,500 people have signed a petition against the proposal, according to Northwest Side Unite, the petition’s sponsor.
Arena has signed a pledge calling for 50 new CHA units in the ward as part of an effort to desegregate the area and has sought tougher affordable housing requirements in Jefferson Park and Portage Park in an effort to halt gentrification in those neighborhoods. Housing advocates have said that too many residents are spending a disproportionate amount of their income on housing costs.
Project opponents have argued that the development’s seven-story height violates a Gladstone Park commercial corridor study which recommends that new construction in the area be limited to four stories. Concerns also have been raised that the development’s density would further burden the area’s overcrowded schools.
Initial plans for the 1.54-acre site had called for the former Archdiocese of Chicago food processing plant there to be retrofitted into a self-storage facility, but Arena had the property downzoned to halt the project. The city issued a construction permit for the retrofitting in April of 2016 but revoked it a day later, and the site’s owner, LSC Development, then sued the city.
LSC dropped its lawsuit in January of 2017 after a settlement agreement with the city was reached. The agreement called for the property to be rezoned to allow a five-story warehouse on the north end an unspecified housing development on the south end. The food processing plant has since been demolished, and construction of the warehouse is starting this spring.
Northwest Side Unite raised about $40,000 for a lawsuit challenging the settlement agreement, but the lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year. The lawsuit claimed that the agreement violated the zoning code because the agreement required Arena and the zoning administrator to support the development ordinance for the site prior to public notification of the zoning application and public hearings.
A zoning application which would finalize the housing portion of the development ordinance was filed earlier this year and is pending.