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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

Englewood Apartment Development Gets Key City Approval — But Some Question If Residents Can Afford To Live There

The five-story development is planned for city-owned vacant land at 61st and Halsted streets near Englewood Square.

Developers are seeking to build 56 apartments at 61st and Halsted in Englewood. 40 of the units would be set aside as affordable.
City of Chicago
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ENGLEWOOD — The Chicago Plan Commission approved a proposal to develop affordable apartments in Englewood Thursday.

A new five-story apartment building is slated to be built on city-owned vacant land at Halsted and 61st streets, near the Englewood Square development. The 56-unit building will offer one – and two-bedroom affordable apartments to residents with 22 parking spaces.

According to the proposal, 40 apartments will be set aside as “affordable,” while 16 will be market-rate.

Ohio-based real estate firm Keith B. Key Enterprises will lead the development. Total costs are estimated to be around $21 million. Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the project.

Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) said the new apartments will enable Black residents to stay in the neighborhood and move to the neighborhood.  

“This is more than just a new building of affordable mixed rate,” Coleman said. “This will really stop the exodus of African Americans from not only leaving Englewood, but leaving the city of Chicago. Young people will now have an option of quality of housing, and they will come back to our city and their home community.”

Coleman said the new apartments, which first were proposed in March 2019, aligns with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West plan to bring new residential and retail development to Chicago’s West and South Side neighborhoods.

As part of Invest South/West, city officials announced in March that a century-old firehouse in at 63rd and Halsted would be repurposed into a culinary center, business hub and community center. 

“When Mayor Lightfoot envisioned INVEST South/West, little did she know that there were some folks working on it to really fulfill the vision,” Coleman said. 

Though the board ultimately endorsed the project, some commissioners scrutinized whether the “affordable” apartments would actually be within reach for the income levels of the neighborhood.

When setting benchmarks for affordable housing, the city uses the Chicago metropolitan area to calculate area median income. That means income levels from the suburbs and cities like Naperville are also included, driving up the total. The AMI for a one-income household under this framework is $62,400.

But in Englewood, the median income is considerably lower than the AMI, according to city figures: $21,275.

Of the 40 affordable units of the Englewood project:

  • 9 will be set aside as 30 percent of the area median income
  • 5 will be set aside as 50 percent of the AMI
  • 26 will be for 60 percent of the AMI.

More than half of Englewood households earn less than $25,000, according to CMAP. So that would mean only the nine units would be cheap enough for the majority of the neighborhood’s residents, Commissioner Sarah Lyons said.

“I’m curious about why we’re calling 40 units affordable if, in fact, only nine will be affordable to folks who make the area median income. I applaud it for being as affordable as it is. I just think we have to look at the context, particularly given that the AMI is based on a very large area. I’m concerned that it overlooks the specificity of the area,” Lyons said.

“It’s affordable, but who is it affordable to?” she added. 

Commissioner Deborah Moore said the variance in prices allows for more people to move to the community.

“The population of Englewood is in the low 20 [thousands], so I think there’s a lot of room for new people to come into the neighborhood as well as the existing residents to be occupants of the property,” Moore said. 

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said he agreed with Moore, and added that the addition of more affordable housing in the neighborhood encourages developers to set up shop in the community. 

“This is an area that has a lot of affordable housing, but what I try to express to my colleagues is that you need affordable development to happen in order to prime a community for more development to come,” Burnett said. “Most developers don’t look at what’s affordable, they look at what people are developing at.”  

Plans for the apartment complex are still unfolding, but Coleman said the new building will showcase Englewood excellence.

“Englewood should reflect Edgewater and Edison Park,” Coleman said. “Not only is it our time, but it’s our turn for a $21 million investment. As Commissioner Cox said, this will be the gateway of new moderate, sexy, sleek development right there on Halsted to complement all of the retail and everything that is going on in Englewood, Englewood excellence because it is going to be extraordinary.”

The proposal now goes to the city’s zoning committee before being presented before the full City Council.

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