CHA Hearing on Senior Apartments Set for Wednesday Evening–Maybe You Should Go

CHA will hold a hearing on the lease, house rules, and tenant selection process (TSP) for the new Northtown Apartments on Wedneday, July 12, at 6:00 p.m. at the Budlong Woods Library, 5630 North Lincoln. This is the only opportunity for West Ridge residents to speak directly to CHA representatives about the project. The public comment period began on June 28 and ends on July 28 at 5:00 p.m. Beginning July 13, all comments will need to be submitted via the CHA Web site.

The lease is marked “Final,” so I don’t know what good comments will do. The House Rules seem to require some clarification. In my opinion, they are overly-restrictive and provide too many opportunities to terminate leases. The proposed rules would, for example, penalize a tenant who went across the hall in her housecoat to have coffee with a neighbor, or who had a visitor who brought a dog. The rules are clearly aimed at restricting criminal behaviors and gang activity–good things–but I understood the Northtown Apartments would be home to middle-class seniors. However, despite statements to the community that the Northtown Apartments will draw its resident pool from people currently living in West Ridge, the TSP indicates otherwise.

Under the CHA’s right-of-return policy, CHA residents who held housing vouchers on or before October 1, 1999, have the right to apply for housing at the Northtown Apartments. Further, such applicants will be given priority over new applicants. This is not what CHA or Evergreen officials said at community meetings discussing eligibility  for the West Ridge housing.  I raised the question at one meeting: why wouldn’t the next thirty people on the CHA waitlist not be selected? In response, Eugene Jones, CHA Director, asked the audience directly if they didn’t want the tenants to be selected from the neighborhood’s own seniors, which the audience overwhelmingly did. I have no objections to the race or ethnicity of any individual applicant or tenant, but I do object to being misled by City and Evergreen officials. We are a neighborhood which welcomes all people, so there’s no need for this kind of subterfuge.

Another housing project proposed by Evergreen, developer of the Northtown Apartments, recently folded because of Evergreen’s failure to submit a final application to the State for the necessary tax credits, for which it had already received preliminary approval. Ald. Arena’s office said Evergreen had not requested a zoning change for the property. The 43-unit building would have been built at Milwaukee and Wilson.

The news report on this building notes that Evergreen failed to obtain tax credits for a proposed senior housing complex in 2011. I wonder if the tax credits for Northtown Library have been solidified.

I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Good thing there’s one public meeting. Too bad it couldn’t be held on a night when the Northtown Library is open late. And it’s too bad the alderman didn’t see fit to announce the public comment period, provide info on where and when the CHA meeting would be held, and invite neighborhood residents to attend.

Click here to read the Final Lease and the house rules.

The TSP can be read here.

 

The New Year Begins

50th Ward Follies observed its second anniversary on December 31, 2016. Regular readers know that Follies was created to chronicle the 2015 aldermanic race.  I’ll be writing about the preparations for next year’s aldermanic campaign, which has already begun. If you saw the alderman’s final newsletter for 2016, you know what I mean.

This year Follies will be reporting more on the way the ward’s business is conducted, something that might be a tad easier than it’s been in the past, since City law now requires the alderman to stop using her private e-mail account and conduct ward business on the taxpayer-funded account provided to her by the City. It’s important because her private account was not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, while her City account is.

I’ll also be spending more time on news that’s omitted from the alderman’s weekly newsletter, such as the doings of the SSA that controls Devon Avenue, zoning matters, and news you can use, such as business openings and closings and matters like where the bus stops have been moved and whether or not the bus stop signs are in place–cops can’t ticket drivers parked in bus stops if there’s no sign present. You’d think that with all the free parking on Devon—there are no parking meters from Maplewood to Talman—there’d be no need to use clearly-marked bus stops as well. You’d be wrong.

I’ll also be tracking the alderman’s votes at City Council meetings.

Educating residents about the participatory budgeting process will be an important focus in 2017. See peopleofwestridge.org for more information.

I’ll be discussing the plan to make Devon Avenue even more tourist-oriented, in my opinion to the detriment of the wider community, and examining some of the important demographic changes that are sure to impact next year’s aldermanic race.

The alderman’s failure to address economic development over her six years in office is another topic that needs to be addressed, especially since she’s “hoping” the new library will spur development on Western Avenue, rather than working with the community to develop a sound economic plan. The library’s been scheduled to arrive just in time for the election. No connection between the two, of course.

By the way: The design competition for the new library-senior housing building started at the end of November, and designs were due on December 23. The promised community input? Shouldn’t that have come before the designs were requested? Does that suggest the community’s input isn’t all that important–or wanted? Personally, I’m still waiting for the alderman to publicly thank the LEARN Coalition by name for its hard work in putting together the petition-that-couldn’t-be-ignored.

Should be an interesting year.