LAKEVIEW — Activists looking to keep Lakeview housing affordable and accessible were largely disappointed after a meeting with a prominent developer who's bought up many independent housing buildings.
On Friday, the Lakeview Action Coalition met with Jamie Purcell, the owner of BJB Properties and a member of a trust that bought the Chateau Hotel, after trying to speak with him for a year. Activists and Chateau Hotel residents left the long-awaiting meeting disappointed.
"It's a pinpoint," said Norman Kaeseberg, a resident of Chateau Hotel, one of the last independent affordable housing options in Lakeview. "I'm not optimistic."
Purcell is behind the purchase of five single resident occupancy (SRO) buildings in Lakeview and the Astor House in Rogers Park — accounting for more than 700 units that are being renovated into market-rate housing.
The coalition aimed to negotiate with Purcell, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) to find ways for current tenants to stay in their homes once the building is renovated. Rents at the units are expected to more than double once renovation is complete, and current tenants say they'll be priced out.
Purcell agreed to look at potential housing subsidies such as the low-income housing trust fund or tax breaks, and meet again in a few weeks. Tunney told reporters that Purcell and the aldermen are committed to "keep working" on the issue and find potential resources Purcell could use.
But nine other ideas activists and residents offered were met with a flat "no" from the developer, said people who attended the meeting. They suggested that Purcell waive credit checks for returning tenants, allow people with nonviolent felonies to live in the building, and to keep all the units at the Abbot Hotel and Chateau Hotel affordable — defining "affordable" as a tenant paying 30 percent of their income or $500 a month including utilities.
"We would love to negotiate with Mr. Purcell," said Mary Tarullo, a coalition organizer. "We just heard a blanket statement 'no' to all of our questions today."
SROs offer accessible housing to people who may not qualify for other low-income housing options. But over the years, SRO buildings in Lakeview fell into disrepair, violated building codes and prompted complaints of pan-handling and drug dealing from the neighborhood.
Chateau Hotel is the last SRO left in Lakeview after the rest have either been converted to specialty housing or been bought up by developers. Between 50 and 60 residents still live at the hotel.
A meeting with Catholic Charities was scheduled for later Friday to continue finding alternatives for residents, and tenants are contesting eviction notices in hopes of buying more time.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th), whose ward includes the Chateau, was not invited to the meeting because he has told coalition members that he no longer wants to work with them, activists and residents said. They added they would still like to work with the alderman on the larger issue of housing on the North Side, if he is willing.
For now, people like Keith Burnett, a Chateau Hotel resident who attended the meeting, will keep looking for housing until Purcell meets with them again.
"It's just a waiting game now," he said.