I ventured out for breakfast today, and decided to take tour of my neighborhood, Bronzeville before I went back home. As I sat in Starbucks, reading the Sun-Times, I saw an ad for the opening of a waiting list for subsidized apartments in the neighborhood. A few months ago at a ward meeting, it was announced that the CHA wanted to build about a thousand units of low-income housing in the area. Many residents were not happy. Over the last ten or so years, 6,000 units of public housing were torn down, still leaving just over 1,000 units still occupied.
Bronzeville is in an exceptional location and has a historical background. It is close to the lake, downtown and to the area’s expressways. Many residents feel the area has been a dumping ground for low-income families for decades and want the area to be a destination for tourism and retail development instead. I have just recently discovered this sentiment regarding low income housing and residents are vehemently passionate about their feelings. A post on everyblock.com generated over two hundred posts on the topic of more low-income housing coming to the area.
I have been a resident here for six years and I do see its potential for more mid-level retail development. I live in theLakeMeadowscomplex which has its own shopping center. Four years ago, Draper and Kramer presented to residents their ideas for redevelopment of the area. The shopping center was to be the first phase of redevelopment. Unfortunately, the housing bubble burst and nothing more came of the plans. The demand for nicer retail already exists, and the land is already in place for this to happen
The method used in several new mixed-income developments has been a third low income, a third affordable and a third market rate. From reading neighbor comments on neighborhood message boards and comments at ward meetings, this formula has not been working.
Bronzeville is quite mixed, economically, so why is this formula not successful? Should we look at mixing incomes neighborhood-wide, not just within buildings? But if we went this route, wouldn’t we go back to apartment buildings being stigmatized as “project” buildings, even if they were identical in appearance to market rate buildings? There are several privately-owned subsidized apartment buildings in the city. Some are on the south side like the south loop,Washington Park, and Hyde Park. Others are on the north side like the Clybourn corridor and Uptown. Is this the answer perhaps? Should the “low-income” component be abandoned and somehow encourage the creation of a subsidized building that is privately owned and managed? Housing subsidies vary by the situation of the resident. Some have subsidies that cover a small amount of rent and some subsidies cover a large portion of the rent. Perhaps, the subsidies themselves will allow enough variation of incomes in one building.
I believe Bronzeville can provide affordable housing and still become a major attraction for tourism and retail.