JEFFERSON PARK — A 75-unit complex in Jefferson Park at the heart of the furious debate over affordable housing is poised for final approval Thursday by the Chicago City Council.
The City Council’s Committee on Zoning swiftly endorsed the project Wednesday at a hearing where supporters outnumbered critics who said the five-story building was too tall and would worsen school crowding and traffic.
Wednesday’s hearing was a marked contrast from meetings of the Zoning Committee and Plan Commission last year about plans for a five-story, 27,000-square-foot storage warehouse also planned for 5150 N. Northwest Highway.
Ald. John Arena (45th) has repeatedly said the project is needed in an area where rents are rising.
At the hearings in 2017, opponents testified for hours that the development would change the character of Jefferson Park, where some residents value the neighborhood as a suburban-like haven while others want to add new residents near the transit center to add vibrancy to a business district pockmarked with empty storefronts.
Members of the Zoning Committee heaped praise on Arena for continuing to push the project and bring affordable housing to the Far Northwest Side.
“No neighborhood belongs to one kind of people,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th). “Change can be hard but it is a fact of life.”
Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) said Arena was now part of a new City Council affordable housing caucus that he said he was forming with Ald. Walter Burnett (27th).
After the unanimous Zoning Committee vote, supporters broke out into sustained cheers and applause, which Arena joined in.
Even though the full Chicago City Council is expected to give the project final approval on Thursday, the project faces another hurdle to get off the ground — Full Circle Communities must win tax credits from the Illinois Housing Development Authority to make the project financially feasible.
“We expect the next round for those tax credits to be awarded in early 2019,” said Owen Brugh, Ald. Arena’s chief of staff. “If they get approved by the city and get the credits they’ll be breaking ground sometime next year.”
Full Circle Communities was not immediately available to answer questions about the project’s timeline now that it has won zoning approval.
In May, the project was rejected by the state agency, with officials citing the lack of zoning approval by the Chicago City Council as the reason.
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