Obama Center project spurs affordable housing development measure

City officials would require residential developers in parts of Woodlawn to set aside 30% of units as affordable, under a proposed deal aimed at addressing gentrification

Chicago /
Jul.July 23, 2020 10:00 AM
Alderman Jeanette Taylor and a rendering of Obama Presidential Center

Alderman Jeanette Taylor and a rendering of Obama Presidential Center

Though still under federal review, the $500 million Obama Presidential Center project promises to draw thousands of visitors a year, along with multifamily investors to the area surrounding Jackson Park. The project, however, has drawn pushback from Woodlawn residents who fear it will contribute to gentrification of the area, with rising home prices making the neighborhood increasingly unaffordable.

Now, Chicago officials have hammered out an agreement with Woodlawn residents and the local alderman, which will require developers to include affordable housing components for projects on city-owned property, according to Crain’s. It will also provide up to $20,000 in funding for home improvement work to some homeowners. The measure — expected to be introduced in the City Council this week — came after months of negotiations and meetings.

The money will go to some homeowners who have lived in the neighborhood for at least five years, and will include home safety overhauls, along with exterior remodelings and energy efficiency work, according to the report.

For future developers, it means any residential construction on dozens of Chicago-owned lots in that area must have at least 30 percent of the units as affordable for people earning 30 to 50 percent of the area median income, the report noted.

The measure follows a proposed ordinance in late February, in which Chicago would use about $4.5 million for the program.

The neighborhood has already seen a significant rise in home prices over the years, from around $92,000 a decade ago to about $175,00 in 2019.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is hopeful the measure can pass in September. Alderman Jeanette Taylor, who represents the area, said the agreement is a start. Taylor has pushed for larger measures to keep housing affordable and create greater economic benefits for the neighborhood.

“It’ll only create 45 units of affordable housing and it will only help 60 homeowners,” she said, according to Crain’s. “We just need more.” [Crain’s] — Alexi Friedman


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