ALBANY PARK — As Albany Park rents continue to rise, a Northbrook-based affordable housing developer is making plans to preserve hundreds of affordable units in the neighborhood.
Under a $57 million plan announced this week, developer Celadon Holdings aims to buy up and renovate 250 units in Albany Park — and then maintain them as longterm affordable apartments. The developer is receiving a mix of tax-increment financing (TIF) funds, tax credits and additional financing to make the plan happen, said Scott Henry, Celadon principal.
“If it wasn’t for an affordable housing developer buying these units, the likely outcome would be a market-rate developer buying them,” Henry said.
When a market-rate developer purchases an apartment building, they often decide to raise the rent or convert the building into rents in order to recoup their investment.
But Celadon specializes in affordable housing redevelopment, and the firm Albany Park initiative aims to upgrade the existing affordable housing units while keeping them affordable for the next 30 years.
To accomplish this, Celadon is partnering with Communities United, community organizers who focus on affordable and quality housing among other issues, and Ald. Deb Mell’s 33rd Ward office.
Celadon began buying units in seven courtyard buildings in 2017, and Henry doesn’t expect the sale to be complete until early next year. Because the deal hasn’t been finalized, he declined to answer questions about where the units are located in Albany Park.
Organizers with Communities United will be reaching out to tenants who live in the units Celadon purchases via its Renters Organizing Ourselves to Stay (ROOTS) initiative, which was created after the foreclosure crisis to address displacement as affordable rental housing was redeveloped into luxury units.
Juan Cruz, an organizer with Communities United, said they’ll work with tenants to craft a “value system” for the property management company that manages the apartments.
“We want to make sure we’re engaging the tenants in the process,” Cruz said.
Jason Hernandez, Mell’s chief of staff, said the apartment’s current residents will receive relocation assistance while their unit is being remodeled. After construction, the tenant will be able to move back into their unit, he said.
The city’s Department of Planning and Development has signed off on the project and the TIF task force has approved $1 million in TIF funds for the project, Hernandez said.
“There can be controversy around building a new five story affordable housing building,” Hernandez said. “But these are units that have existed as affordable in Albany Park, in some way, forever.”
Communities United recently published an analysis estimating the city needs to invest $25 billion over the next 10 years to prevent the displacement of 230,000 low-income households that are currently rent-burdened.
The analysis looked at households that make between 30 and 50 percent of area median income, which the study says make up three-quarters of the Chicago’s rent-burdened households.
Resident Merced Alday, who has called Albany Park home for 25 years, said her family of five — which includes her husband, brother and two children — live in a two-bedroom apartment that rents for $900 a month.
“Many families are paying way too much in housing. I want to be able to continue to live in Albany Park where my kids go to school,” Alday, a member of Communities United, said at a press conference Tuesday in front of Albany Park Multicultural Academy. “This initiative will help families that are struggling to be able to stay and thrive in our community.”
Mell said the 250 units that are part of Celadon’s preservation plan would add to 42 affordable units the city has already preserved via the Preservation of Existing Affordable Rental pilot program, which Communities United also helped create.
“We can replicate this success in every neighborhood throughout the city of Chicago and I’m calling on the next mayor to make this funding a top priority,” Mell said.
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