Committee sets aside aldermanic prerogative and approves 297-unit complex with 59 affordable apartments in 41st Ward despite concerns from Alderman Napolitano – Nadig Newspapers

by BRIAN NADIG

Putting aside the long-standing practice of the Alderman prerogative, the city council’s zoning committee at its December 14 meeting voted 12-5 in favor of a 297-unit apartment proposal that includes 59 housing units. affordable at 8535 W. Higgins Ave. despite the objections of Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st), whose neighborhood is the project.

Napolitano told committee members that their authority could then be taken away from them, leaving them and their neighborhood with a zoning development their residents don’t want.

“You and your community no longer have a say,” Napolitano told the committee. “You might be the next person to face it. “

Regarding zoning issues, the council almost always defers the decision to the alderman of the neighborhood where the project would be built, although some have said this unofficial practice has blocked the development of affordable housing in the wealthier neighborhoods. .

The committee in 2018 voted 7-5 against the proposal and earlier this year voted to file a similar proposal for the property until February of next year, but the committee voted to change its decision on the postponement and hold the hearing on its December 14th. Encounter. The number of affordable units has increased from seven in 2018 to 59 in the current proposal.

Several city councilors said the city is experiencing an affordable housing crisis and all communities must contribute to the solution.

“We have very big problems in this city which affect us all,” said Alderman Maria Hadden (49th).

In his comments at the hearing, Napolitano noted how Alderman Harry Osterman (48th) now supported Higgins’ proposal, even though he recently rejected a 20-unit housing proposal with four affordable units in his own neighborhood. . Osterman later responded that he was supporting an 80-unit “all-affordable” project across from this site in his neighborhood.

Another supporter of the project was Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th), who in 2016 rejected an affordable housing project of 55 units in his neighborhood by Full Circle Communities.

Full Circle is currently building a mixed-income housing project in the 45th arrondissement and an affordable housing project in the 38th arrondissement.

The seven-story apartment complex near Higgins Avenue and Cumberland Avenue would be built on an underused section of the Marriott O’Hare hotel parking lot, next to the CTA Cumberland Blue Line station. According to project lawyer Liz Butler, some of the low-rent, affordable units are said to be aimed at households earning as little as 40% of the region’s median income.

Chicago Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara said the development would help provide affordable housing for employees at nearby O’Hare International Airport, where she says the average salary is around $ 33,000. for many jobs. “We cannot make them travel 2 hours to get there,” she said.

Novara added that the project would not receive any grants from the city, as developer GlenStar would fund the affordable units. The city “cannot subsidize our way out” of the housing crisis, she said.

Novara also said city policy calls for denser developments near transit centers. “We have tripled that decision as a city,” she said.

Napolitano told the committee there were about 7,500 apartments within a “seven by seven block radius” of the development site, with at least 300 units vacant. “It’s a huge amount of apartments in this location,” he said. “Some are listed starting at $ 750 online. “

Napolitano said the region’s public primary school, Dirksen, is “almost already at maximum capacity” despite a recent addition. He added that the families at the school represent “100 different nations”.

“There is immense diversity in this field that not everyone claims to exist,” Napolitano said.

About 2,500 people have signed a petition against the proposal, Napolitano said. The Chicago Federation of Labor and the Metropolitan Planning Council were among the organizations that testified in support of the proposal.

It is expected that the development would house five to 16 school-aged children for public schools, Butler said.

The whole council could approve the project, which has been under construction for at least 4 years, at its meeting on December 15.


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