Shifts seen for CHA, Roosevelt Square

(Crain’s) — The Chicago Housing Authority may relax a key rule determining the housing mix at its future residential projects, a major shift in policy necessitated by the housing crash.

The CHA’s top executive said Tuesday night that the agency may no longer require that its new projects include three types of housing in equal proportion: public housing for its poorest residents, affordable condominiums and townhomes, and residences offered at market prices.

Splitting the unit types into thirds at CHA redevelopment sites has been a hallmark of the agency’s Plan for Transformation, its 12-year-old plan to replace high-rise complexes like Cabrini-Green with mixed-income communities built by private developers.

“I can safely say that instead of having a blanket a third, a third, a third concept in place for all the transformation communities, we will decide what the income mix needs to be community by community, and sometimes building by building,” CHA CEO Charles Woodyard said at a meeting Tuesday night on the Near West Side.

Mr. Woodyard declined to comment further after the meeting, where developer Related Midwest LLC proposed changes to its Roosevelt Square project. The West Side project is replacing the former ABLA Homes in the area south of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Instead of adhering to the three-way housing mix, Related wants to follow an 80/20 percent rule, building two 60-unit rental buildings at 1255 W. Roosevelt Road and 1355 W. Roosevelt Road. The buildings, which would cost a total of $29 million, each would have 48 apartments rented out at market prices and 12 set aside for public-housing residents.

Related is seeking to forge ahead with the apartments though it has not built the for-sale units slated for the second phase of Roosevelt Square.

“The rest of phase two for sale would occur when it becomes fiscally viable to build town homes and condominiums and sell them,” Curt Bailey, Related’s CEO, said at the meeting. “Today, frankly, it’s not.”

The pace of constructing the replacement communities has varied among different CHA sites, and having additional flexibility could prove attractive to the private developers to carry out the Plan for Transformation. Some developers are already seeking to depart from previously laid plans, in part because the real estate market has made building for-sale housing all but impossible in recent years.

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