Committee defers Alderman Sposato’s proposal to downzone site of 48 planned affordable units at Lawrence-Austin
by BRIAN NADIG
An attempt by Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) to downzone the site of a planned 48-unit affordable housing complex at the southwest corner of Lawrence and Austin avenues may be dead after the City Council Zoning Committee at its Oct. 6 meeting deferred the matter.
Sposato has said that he hopes the downzoning would encourage the project’s developer, Full Circle Communities, to reduce the number of apartments from 48 to 32. However, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration supports the current housing plan for the site and has pushed back on Sposato’s downzoning efforts.
“I will continue to work with the community and the developer for a project that will benefit the entire neighborhood,” Sposato said late Tuesday morning. He added that his downzoning proposal is “probably” not getting out of committee but that he has not given up on the matter.
“My real goal was for 24, but I’m willing to compromise at 32 units … and 48 parking spaces,” Sposato said. “That would make the parking ratio at 1.5 spaces per unit.” He has said that 48 units is too dense given the “dangerous” configuration of the Lawrence-Austin intersection, where Lawrence becomes a side street to the west, and the thoroughfare switches over to Gunnison Street to the north.
The complex, which will consist of two four-story buildings, will be constructed on a vacant 48,000-square-foot parcel at 6001-11 W. Lawrence Ave.
The property was rezoned to RT-4 in 2016 for a 24-unit townhouse proposal which was never built. The RT-4 zoning allows for up to 48 residential units on the site.
Sposato said that he learned of the project about two weeks prior to the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s July 17 approval of $1.5 million in federal low-income housing tax credits for the development, arguing that the community needed more time to vet the project.
Full Circle sent Sposato an e-mail about the project in January, but Sposato said that he never saw the e-mail and that Full Circle could have followed up with phone calls.
Full Circle has offered to increase the number of planned parking spaces from 34 to 43 and reportedly is working on a plan for an additional 10 more parking spots, but any change in the number of apartments could put in jeopardy the tax credits which the developer is receiving for the project. The financing for low-income housing is often dependent on the issuance of government tax credits.
The Lawrence development will consist of three studio apartments, with rents ranging from $444 to $780 a month; 17 one-bedroom units, with $475 to $1,337 rents; 16 two-bedroom units, with $570 to $1,604 rents; and 12 three-bedroom units, with $660 to $1,854 rents.
Fifteen of the apartments will be for households with annual earnings of $20,000 to $28,000 (30 percent of the area’s median income), 14 units for those earning $35,000 to $55,000 (50 percent AMI) and 19 units for those earning $55,000 to $75,000 (80 percent AMI)
Sposato said that he likes the fact that veterans and those with disabilities will be given preference for the units but expressed concern whether all of the rents are “truly affordable.”
“To me $1,600, $1,800 is not an affordable unit,” he said.
Given that the complex could have a high number of tenants with disabilities, adequate parking is essential since some of them could have difficulty using public transportation or require someone to drive them, Sposato said.
Currently, Full Circle is building a 75-unit, mixed-income complex at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. The seven-story complex, which will include a church and nonprofit offices on the ground floor, will have units for homeless veterans and families from the Chicago Housing Authority wait list in addition to affordable and market-rate apartments.
The CHA is not subsidizing the development on Lawrence.