Chicago City Council approves loan fund to help preserve single-room apartment buildings

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On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council took action to help stem the loss of single-occupancy buildings that, as one official said, “help people get off the streets.”

Aldermen approved Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to create a “Single Room Occupancy Preservation Loan Program” funded by a $5 million sinking fund administered by the Chicago Investment Corporation.

During a hearing last week before the Housing and Property Committee, Deputy Housing Commissioner Esther Sorrell said the city “learned a lot from the pandemic” after relying heavily on ORS to ” accommodate a very vulnerable population”.

“In return, these owners let us know about the issues they were having with the city and the support they needed to stay operational,” Sorrell said.

“We have lost 40 SRO buildings over the past few years. We don’t want to erode that number any further.

There are 40 single-occupancy buildings left in Chicago.

To qualify for city loans, SRO developers must first obtain private loans covering at least half of the amount they need. The construction financing would then be “converted into a permanent, long-term mortgage”, and the proceeds from the $5 million fund would help cut monthly mortgage payments in half.

Noting that “many” ORS landlords are keeping rents “at a level accessible to people on very, very low incomes,” Sorrell said: “We want to be able to preserve that so they can continue to offer lower rent while still continuing to work on the creation and rehabilitation of properties with other funds that we have in the department.

Ald town center. James Cappleman (46th) was a reluctant supporter of the measure. At the committee meeting, he had expressed concerns about the use of city loans to “help 250 square foot ORS” when city money could be used for “rehab studios and one-bedroom apartments for the same cost”.

SRO occupants “don’t have those kinds of options,” he said at the time. “And I believe those with very, very low incomes deserve better. So I will support it reluctantly. but I’m not happy with that.

Housing committee chairman Harry Osterman (48th) said the ordinance was crafted after housing advocates and SRO residents “demanded it”. Loans are desperately needed so that some SRO residents don’t live “in misery”, Osterman said.

“We have lost half of the ORS in our city since 2014. There are not many new ORS being built. They are places that help people get off the streets, out of tents and into homelessness. It’s important for all of us to really do what we can to help support them,” Osterman said.

West Side Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) applauded the Department of Housing for, as she put it, ‘deciding, for the first time, that ORS matters’. She called it “the step above homelessness”.

“These owners cannot maintain [their buildings] because the government gave them no funding. The city did nothing. And those buildings are deteriorating,” Mitts said last week.

“I really want to, at least, help provide assistance to them. They fight. But also, the people in the building are struggling. I always say, if we can’t help the least [fortunate]who are we going to help? »

Before departing early to attend a meeting of African-American mayors in Washington DC, Lightfoot introduced new concession agreements at O’Hare Airport, touted as the airport’s biggest transformation in catering, beverages and retail in a decade.

The deals bring 10,000 square feet of new shopping choices to Terminals 3 and 5 and pave the way for “door-side ordering and delivery” at O’Hare, courtesy of Grab Chicago. It is a joint venture between Hyde Park Hospitality, Cursus Technology and URW Airports.

Another ordinance introduced by the mayor would create a so-called “liquor license for outdoor entertainment venues.” The Morton Salt Shed, 1357 N. Elston Ave., was described as the “first potential site” to qualify. But City Hall says the new license – featuring live music and outdoor alcohol sales – will also be available to other entertainment venues on private property with an “outdoor capacity of at least 3,000 people.” “.

Sports stadiums are exempt.

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