UPTOWN — Affordable housing advocates from ONE Northside gathered outside the Lorali Hotel Friday, asking the city to help provide residents of the single room occupancy (SRO) hotel with a stable place to live.
The group chanted, “When affordable housing is under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back,” before calling for more housing resources to be allocated to Uptown.
The Lorali, 1039 W. Lawrence Ave., and the Darlington, 4700 N. Racine Ave., are both SRO buildings, providing residents with bare-bones essentials. Many of the residents are on a fixed income or are elderly.
But the Lorali’s owner, Jim Stoller, is looking to rehab the building and the Darlington could be under new ownership as soon as Feb. 27. Tenants say they face homelessness if developers move forward without a plan to relocate residents.
Myk Snider, spokesperson for the Lorali Hotel LLC, defended the group’s decision to rebuild.
“The Lorali needs a complete rehab,” he said. “All of the core systems including HVAC, windows and plumbing are original to the building, which is nearly 100 years old.”
Snider said that once the building rehab is complete, the Lorali is “committed” to providing affordable and low-income housing.
The number of units that would be set aside for affordable housing has “yet to be determined,” Snider said, but the number would be “significant.”
Multiple Lorali tenants told Block Club Chicago that the building has fallen into disrepair.
Tenant James Stanci said there is a rodent problem and he hasn’t seen repairs being made.
“I think it’s a scare tactic to get people to move out,” he said.
But Snider vehemently denied that repairs were not being made to the building, saying that repair requests were still being honored.
“I think the building has a good track record of being responsive to residents,” Snider said.
ONE Northside organizers, a group that advocates for affordable housing in the area, said affordable housing is becoming harder to find in Uptown as developers seek to convert older buildings into luxury apartments.
ONE Northside organizers met with the city’s Department of Planning and Development on Tuesday. They were told, for now, residents of the Darlington and the Lorali will not have to move. But their situation is precarious. The reason they are currently able to stay put is because neither building owner has produced an approved relocation plan.
Under a city SRO ordinance, owners who wish to rebuild must create a relocation plan, which must include a lottery to invite some residents back to the property.
Mike Breckenridge lives at the Darlington and said he fears he will soon be forced out of his home.
“We are losing SROs at an alarming rate in Uptown and across the city,” he said. “A lot of us have nowhere to go and face homelessness if we are pushed out.”
Breckenridge blamed Ald. James Cappleman (46th), claiming the alderman has not fought hard enough to expand or maintain affordable housing in the ward.
Aldermanic challengers Erika Wozniak, Marianne Lalonde, Angela Clay and Jon-Robert McDowell were at the press conference Friday. All four pledged to make preserving SROs a priority if elected.
Cappleman has been accused by his opponents of being tied to developers. They have all pointed to the “Eight Eleven Uptown” luxury building as an example of misused TIF funds. Instead of providing on-site affordable housing, the developer paid into a city fund instead.
But Cappleman defended his record at a January candidate forum, saying many Uptown residents wouldn’t qualify for the affordable housing’s required income. Instead, he insisted that paying into the citywide fund was a better way to help Uptown’s most struggling residents.
“We are way, way, way above all the community areas in providing affordable housing and I am still asking for more,” he said at in January.
Jon Adams used to live at the Wilson Men’s Hotel nearby, before the building was bought by a luxury developer and he was displaced.
“Finding an affordable housing solution in Uptown is nearly impossible these days,” he said. “That needs to change.”
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