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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

$15 Million Fund To Help South Shore Condo, Co-Op Owners Fix Up Housing Up For Final City Council Vote

If passed, the fund would direct $5 million of affordable housing funds per year toward loans and grants for struggling homeowners associations and residents of shared-ownership housing.

An apartment building in the South Shore neighborhood on Dec. 6, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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SOUTH SHORE — A $15 million pilot program to support condo owners and cooperative housing residents in South Shore is set for a City Council vote this week.

The proposed South Shore Condo Preservation Pilot Program would provide grants and loans to South Shore residents living in shared-ownership housing, including condos and co-ops.

The fund would be capped at $5 million per year for three years, while grants and loans would be capped at $50,000 per housing unit. Funding would only be available to buildings where at least half the units are owner-occupied.

The preservation program would be supported by the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund, which provides funds to build, rehab and preserve affordable housing using fees paid by developers who don’t include affordable units in their projects.

An ordinance to create the program, introduced last month by Mayor Lori Lightfoot for the Department of Housing, passed the City Council’s housing committee last week and will likely be voted on by the full council Wednesday.

The South Shore program is set to be piloted at 6929-39 S. Crandon Ave., to repair the building and stabilize its homeowner association’s finances. Officials have not finalized how much money the property will receive, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said.

“The unique thing about South Shore is a lot of people moved in during the ’60s and raised their families here — they’re your nurses, teachers, plumbers and postal workers,” Hairston said. “These are our working-class people that are now on fixed incomes, and the cost to maintain their units and properties is out of pace with what their incomes are.”

With the Obama Presidential Center’s construction in Jackson Park, local leaders and residents have repeatedly said the city must support condos, co-ops and other forms of shared-ownership housing to prevent displacement in South Shore.

Carol Adams, founder of the neighborhood nonprofit South Shore Works, lives in the Crandon Avenue building that’s set to receive the first chunk of pilot program funding. She formerly served as its homeowners association’s president, she said.

Adams organized her neighbors, then pressed Hairston and Lightfoot for years to create a fund for condos and co-ops in the community, she said. Local leaders informally called the proposal “the Carol Adams ordinance” in recognition of her advocacy, she said.

Despite Adams’ push for the program’s creation, she “was surprised when the announcement was made that [her building was] selected,” she said.

City officials reviewed local properties that could benefit from the program and “didn’t discuss what they were going to decide with us,” Adams said.

Hairston declined to answer Block Club’s question about whether Adams worked with the 5th Ward office to ensure Adams’ building would be first in line for funding.

“That is not the question that I am going to answer,” Hairston said. “We have been working with that building, of which she is a resident, and that is the building that we decided to do the pilot program in.”

The condo and co-op program “is not about any one person,” Hairston said. “It is about the community as a whole, and the needs of the community as they have sought my assistance over the years.”

The Crandon Avenue property — which is about 90 years old, according to Chicago Cityscape — needs “a few million” dollars worth of renovations, including about $600,000 for tuckpointing, Adams said.

The potential loans and grants would help fund the “very costly” repairs, which are typically paid for through special assessments that are “problematic” for residents — particularly older people on fixed incomes, Adams said.

The fund would help in “protecting the architectural integrity of the community, protecting longtime homeowners, avoiding vulture capitalism and still building on homeownership — no matter the type — as an essential ingredient in wealth-building,” Adams said.

“We don’t need buildings to be compromised and taken by out-of-town and out-of-country investors … who are almost predatory in buying these buildings in South Shore and turning them into high-cost rental properties,” Adams said.

If the pilot is successful in South Shore and expands across Chicago, “it’s going to mean a lot for a lot of neighborhoods that have these vintage properties,” Adams said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) looks on at a City Council meeting on May 25, 2022.

Shared-ownership housing protections have been a priority for Hairston since the 2000s, she said. The proposal is moving forward because Lightfoot’s administration is “receptive” to the issue, unlike past mayors’, Hairston said.

Hairston has never introduced legislation on the subject, but she raised the issue in past years’ budget hearings, she said.

“This has been going on for more than a decade, trying to find ways to give some relief to working-class people in the neighborhood and those that have owned condominiums or cooperatives,” Hairston said.

Housing organizers with the Obama CBA Coalition pushed back on Hairston’s framing, saying the loan and grant fund is a direct response to their demands for housing protections ahead of the Obama Center’s opening.

“That’s not to say the issue didn’t exist before — I’m sure it did,” said Brandon Patterson, a coalition member and South Shore resident. “But why didn’t you do something before? I think the reason this is happening now is because we’ve been making so much noise and pushing for something to be done to support the folks in the neighborhood, including condo owners.”

Coalition members have criticized Hairston as the wide-ranging community benefits agreement she and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) introduced in 2019 failed to pass. The agreement would have enacted protections for a 2-mile radius around the planned Obama Center site, including parts of South Shore.

With the community benefits agreement stalled, affordable housing protections were secured for Woodlawn in 2020. Now, anti-displacement measures must immediately be passed for South Shore, members have said.

Though the coalition has advocated for helping South Shore condo and co-op owners to prevent displacement, its members are disheartened to see the pilot program would draw from the existing Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund, Patterson said.

“Everyone acknowledges [the pilot program] isn’t a comprehensive plan … they’re saying that there’s supposed to be more to come,” Patterson said. “But they’ve been saying that since the center was announced years ago.

“When the first thing announced for South Shore takes money from an affordable housing pot and gives it to condo owners, that doesn’t sound very promising in terms of their seriousness about doing something for the most vulnerable folks in the neighborhood,” he said.

Hairston said she stands “on [her] record.”

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Protesters hold a banner reading “Stop Displacement of Black Families” while standing in the intersection of Wrightwood and Kimball avenues during a June 11 demonstration for more housing protections on the South Side.

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