Aldermen Taylor and Hairston introduce Woodlawn housing ordinance

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Alderman Leslie Hairston, Alderman Jeanette Taylor

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Aldermen Jeanette B. Taylor (20th Ward) and Leslie J. Hairston (5th Ward) on July 22 introduced to the City Council an affordable housing preservation ordinance to protect existing residents of Woodlawn from displacement, expand homeownership opportunities and ensure inclusive economic growth for the historic South Side neighborhood.

The Woodlawn Housing Ordinance and other planned efforts by the city are designed to ensure the Woodlawn community and other Chicago residents can benefit from the unprecedented economic and cultural opportunities that will be created by the future Obama Presidential Center.

“Since day one, our efforts have been focused on building economic growth and cultural enrichment in the Woodlawn community while also ensuring that every neighborhood resident is able to stay in their homes and share the transformative promise by the Obama Presidential Center,” said Lightfoot.

“This groundbreaking ordinance is a testament to our partnership with Alderman Taylor, Alderman Hairston and Woodlawn’s residents in a collective effort to prevent displacement and further opportunity for this community.”

The ordinance earmarks an initial commitment of more than $4.5 million from the city, while leveraging at least another $5 million from banks and lenders, for new and expanded housing programs. It also includes a suite of initiatives that will protect existing residents from displacement while creating more opportunities for middle-class wealth building.

The ordinance includes new tenant protections, enhanced local hiring requirements and turns city-owned vacant land into affordable housing for both renters and homebuyers. “From the beginning, we have been committed to making residents the focal point of this legislation – bringing hundreds of renters, homeowners and other stakeholders to the table,” said Department of Housing (DOH) Commissioner Marisa Novara. “And together we have created an ordinance to ensure that everyone who lives in Woodlawn – both renters and homeowners – is able to stay and share in the unprecedented potential offered by the Obama Presidential Center.”

Key components of the ordinance include:

  • Affordability for Chicago’s lowest earners – On 25percent of city-owned vacant land, 30 percent of units in each project must be affordable at 30-50 percent AMI.
  • $1.5 million for the Preservation of Existing Affordable Rental (PEAR) – This apartment building refinance program will help existing owners refinance their property to keep tenants in place and rents affordable.
  • $1.175 million for Renew Woodlawn – $500,000 in city funding and a pending grant request for an additional $675,000 from HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. Renew Woodlawn is a rehab homeownership program tailored for low- to moderate-income households.
  • $1.52 million for the Woodlawn Loan Fund to supplement $5 million from banks and other lenders – This is a program to purchase and rehabilitate vacant units to create new affordable housing.
  • $1 million for the Woodlawn Long-term Homeowner Home Improvement Grant Program – The program will assist homeowners with five or more years of residency in their home with a grant of up to $20,000 for home repairs.
  • Enhanced local hiring requirements – Residential developments that receive city land for the development of rental housing would be required to meet enhanced local hiring requirements.
  • ‘Tenant Right of First Refusal’ pilot program for larger apartment buildings – Gives renters the right of first refusal if a landlord seeks to sell their building. Rather than tenants being automatically displaced from the sale of a building, tenants would have the right to form a tenant’s association and enter into an agreement with a not-for-profit affordable housing developer to purchase the building and maintain it as affordable. “It’s a bittersweet day,” said Taylor (20th Ward). “I’m glad we the city and community have agreed on the Woodlawn plan for housing. We have more work to do, and this is a big step in the right direction.” The Woodlawn Affordable Housing Preservation Ordinance marks the latest step by the Lightfoot administration to preserve and expand access to safe, decent and affordable housing across the City.

The ordinance was drafted after months of community engagement and input, including more than 20 Woodlawn community meetings with the DOH and a wide range of neighborhood stakeholders – renters, homeowners, elected officials, religious leaders, civic organizations, block club presidents and many more.

“This ordinance will go a long way in maintaining and developing a wide range of housing options for renters, homeowners and investors for our South Side neighborhoods,” said Hairston (5th Ward). “It feels good to be able to stand with Mayor Lightfoot, Alderwoman Taylor, and the Department of Housing on legislation that was drafted with the voice of all stakeholders.”

Lightfoot initiated a series of community engagement meetings with Woodlawn stakeholders last summer to begin a discussion around community priorities related to the Obama Presidential Center project and to inform legislation for a Woodlawn-specific housing ordinance.

Since then, city staff has worked closely with community leaders to craft a proactive, feasible housing and development ordinance that sets the foundation for equitable growth and development in the future.

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