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The County’s proposed 16-story, 152-unit Sherman building in 1900 raises questions about the affordable housing label

Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) officials last week got a step closer to obtaining approval for changes to a proposed 16-story senior adult apartment building on 1900 Sherman Avenue. The project was originally approved by Evanston City Council last year.

The project has sparked controversy: Is it about affordable housing or a market-driven development in order to justify the allowances that another government unit demands?

The city council’s planning and development committee presented both sides of the argument at their November 22nd meeting and eventually voted to approve the housing authority’s request to amend the project.

The changes included reducing the building height from 172.8 feet to 168.4 feet, the number of units from 168 to 152, and the number of underground parking spaces from 37 to 25.

A final vote on the HACC project is expected to take place at the council meeting on December 13th.

Cook County’s Housing Authority is proposing the construction of a 16-story 152-unit building on 1900 Sherman Avenue. (HACC rendering)

The housing authority announced major changes to its plan for the building in November last year, increasing the building’s height and substantial volume, and redistributing the number of affordable units to one-third affordable and two-thirds on the market, after it was originally 50. was aiming for% of everyone.

The developers said that after speaking with lenders, the changes were deemed necessary for the project to be financially feasible.

As part of the 152-unit plan, the developer is committed to delivering 16 studio units at an affordable price equal to 50% of the region’s median median income (AMI); and 18 one bedroom units affordable for 50% of the AMI. This exceeds the requirements of the city’s inclusive housing ordinance, emphasized the city administrations.

In addition, rents for 17 other units in development are expected to drop by between 80% and 120% from AMI. Tenants for units in this group can sign up for the city’s central inclusive living waiting list, which is preferred to Evanston residents.

Housing representative asks for support

In a citizen comment at the planning and development meeting, Sue Loellbach, advocacy manager for liaisons for the homeless, encouraged council members to support the proposal.

“I would like to urge you not to allow these new objections to the building to create even more obstacles and hurdles for the housing authority – it will already be a challenge to achieve this,” said Löllbach.

“And it’s such an important building, with a significant amount of affordable housing, that I hope you won’t let the small number of people living near the building overcome the support this building receives from residents become. “, including many who live here.”

But several speakers who followed Loellbach urged the committee on the lack of proposed on-site parking, as well as the inadequacy of the HACC’s proposal to rent parking spaces in other high-rise buildings nearby – the Link and E2 – to make up for the shortage.

“The new proposal only provides 25 spaces for a new building with 152 units,” said Claire Waistell. “This is 3% of the city’s needs, and applicants said they can provide the missing 62 spaces in a nearby building.”

She noted that the committee’s package contained documentation of the number of spaces available on the Link and E2, “but nothing about a long-term lease agreement”.

“Each parking lot is 1,500 feet away and requires a six- to seven-minute walk,” she said, highlighting safety concerns.

She also raised concerns about the 10- to 12-foot separation that HACC is proposing between its new building and the existing 11-story, 100-unit Jane R. Perlman Apartments at the 1900 Sherman location.

Not a priority for Evanstonians

Cecile McHugh, another speaker, noted that HACC “has been given large tolerances on the number of units, building height, FAR (floor ratio), and parking spaces in order to meet the requirements of Evanston’s Inclusive Housing Ordinance, which includes the basic requirement that Evanston den.” Residents are given priority for affordable housing. “

“HACC does not prioritize Evanston residents and is not legally allowed to do so,” she told committee members. McHugh said she recently reviewed a video in which Richard Monocchio, executive director of HACC, said 80% of HACC units go “to the immediate and adjacent communities.”

She requested that city officials get a written statement from HACC stating the number of Evanston residents who are expected to receive affordable units in the new development.

“The fact that HACC does not prioritize Evanston residents may not have been an issue in the past when HACC developments were 100% affordable units,” she said. “But this is a problem that starts with this development – HACC’s foray into for-profit, mostly luxury developments,” with potential parking and traffic problems.

In a presentation at the planning and development meeting, HACC officials addressed some of the concerns via a virtual link and also provided an overview of the project.

Since the project existed so long before the city, Monocchio felt it was important to discuss the basics of the new building.

“And the basics are that this downtown building will be more affordable, I think, by far than any other building of its kind – 51 apartments,” he told committee members. “And there will be 51 affordable apartments – 34 for very low-wage earners who will end up paying 30% of their income for rent, but just as important 17 apartments for people with moderate means.”

He said HACC planned to have a location based waiting list for the new building “like we do in each location and the location based waiting list will be in Evanston”.

“It is true,” he told committee members, “we cannot guarantee that 100% of the residents will be Evanstonians, but a large percentage will be.”

William James, a housing authority advisor, spoke about the 10- to 12-foot separation, saying the space needed was determined after engineers examined the foundation of the adjoining Perlman building.

Based on the findings, the underground car park had to be redesigned so that fewer parking spaces could be made available on the site. An alternative would have been to build the garage one level lower, which would have “incurred an astronomical cost that could seriously affect the project and make it impossible,” he said.

Addresses a “critical need”

In the committee discussion, Councilor Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward stated that she would support the plan, just as she did when the new draft was presented to members of the former city council in November 2020. A major reason, she said, “is the pressing need for affordable housing for seniors.”

“We’ve heard this many times and it really gives us the opportunity to have 51 affordable units all at once in our downtown area,” said Wynne.

“As far as I can remember, we haven’t had a project like this before,” said Wynne, who was first elected to the council in 1997 and is a third of the units in this project. “

She said the city is unable to produce these results on its own.

“HACC owns the property,” she said. “By financing with rental units in line with the market, you are able to make the 51 units affordable. That far outweighs any concerns about parking in the area, ”she said, admitting that community members who live nearby may have concerns.

Councilor Devon Reid, 8th Ward, made a similar statement, claiming that “the city council shouldn’t necessarily make parking spaces mandatory for developers.”

“I think, as Councilor Wynne pointed out, in many ways the private market has resolved on its own and people who need the parking lot will move there and people who don’t will choose elsewhere,” Reid said.

He has concerns if the project leads to a loss of public space.

Councilor Clare Kelly, in whose First Ward the site is located, expressed concern about the impact of the project on residents of the Jane Perlman building, which is already on the property. HACC officials had initially spoken of the new building as an “accompanying building” for Perlman, the buildings being adjacent to one another.

“I’m really worried – I must say, a little disgusted – about what I see as real disrespect for the residents of the Perlman Building,” said Kelly.

“I have the feeling that there is a lack of consideration and scope.”

She said someone should suggest that a small group of neighbors living in opposition are “insincere. … She [Perlman residents] moved into this building because they knew they had space, a parking lot, and trees. You lose that and nobody cares, ”Kelly said.

HACC advisor James said, “It is in the housing authority’s interest to meet the parking needs of all residents.” He said he anticipates that HACC could receive a multi-year commitment to rent space from E2. The situation was “more fluid” with link building, he told committee members, but said he believed that HACC would eventually get a commitment there too.

New project ‘Masquerade’

Members of the Design and Development Department voted 6-1 to move the matter to be introduced to the council, with Kelly giving the only dissenting vote.

During a public comment at the council meeting, a spokesman, Bruce Enenbach, urged council members to reject the project, which is due to be voted on in two weeks.

“I’m happy and happy that the county is developing affordable housing, and I’m happy to be paying taxes on it,” he told councilors. “But this is not the project – it just disguises itself as an affordable housing project.

“Originally it was a 30% market and 70% project at an affordable price. Now it’s the opposite: 30% affordable and 70% market. This project is primarily a market-driven luxury residential complex in which the district is not involved.

“Although I can support the county money loss projects that are in the interests of helping others who are in need, I cannot support the county with our taxpayers’ money that is invested in speculative housing at market prices,” he said.

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