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Cabrini-Green Rowhouse Settlement: Everything You Need To Know

By Mina Bloom | September 15, 2015 6:20am | Updated on September 16, 2015 8:47am
 Two residents of the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses that were renovated watch a press conference from their balcony in 2013.
Two residents of the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses that were renovated watch a press conference from their balcony in 2013.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

NEAR NORTH SIDE — The Chicago Housing Authority and a tenant group recently reached a settlement agreement in the lawsuit over the future of Cabrini-Green rowhouses.

If approved by the courts, the agreement would mean the end of a 2013 federal lawsuit filed by the Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council. The tenant group claimed the CHA broke its promise to restore the final 440 rowhouses at Oak and Larrabee streets. 

Here are some answers to some common questions about the settlement, which was first reported by DNAinfo Chicago:

How did we get here?

When it was standing, the Cabrini-Green development offered 3,020 public housing apartments. Over the years, the housing projects fell into serious disrepair and were hotbeds of gang activity and crime.

In 1994, the Chicago Housing Authority obtained its first grant to begin redeveloping the area after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined that both the high-rise and mid-rise buildings were "no longer viable," according to court documents.

That led to the demolition of the entire site, except for 586 rowhouses. 

Mina Bloom discusses the future of the Near North site:

As part of the CHA's 2000 "Plan for Transformation," the row houses were to be spared from being replaced by "mixed-income communities" and would remain 100 percent public housing.

In 2008, the residents who lived in the row houses agreed to move so that their homes could be fixed up.

A year later, a quarter of the row houses — approximately 146 units — were rehabbed, while 440 units were left boarded up and have remained that way.

So in 2013, an organization representing the tenants who lived in the 440 boarded-up units filed a federal lawsuit, seeking to protect the row houses from destruction and to force the agency to hold up its end of the promise to renovate the units and make them 100-percent public housing again.

Within the last couple of weeks, the tenant group and the CHA reached a settlement agreement.

What are the key pieces of the settlement agreement? 

In future construction the 440 rowhouses will be:

• At least 40 percent public housing

• At least 15 percent affordable housing 

The CHA has agreed to create the following housing on the Near North Side:

• At least 1,800 public housing units

• At least 1,100 affordable housing units

• At least 2,500 market-rate units

In addition, the CHA has acquired and developed:

• About 400 low-income units on the Near North Side, but separate from Cabrini

To make this happen, a 2000 agreement to include 700 public housing units in certain buildings on the Cabrini site needs to be modified, according to the lawsuit.

Remaining properties that fall under that agreement will now be required to include: 

  • At least 33 percent public housing. That's an increase from 30 percent. 

(Parkside of Old Town, the largest of the Cabrini's mixed-income developments, would be exempt because it's already in the third stage of development, according to the suit.)

"We're at a very different point in time now, with thousands of units built and years of experience in developing mixed-income sites at Cabrini. ... CHA is convinced that developers can successfully be challenged to finance and build a higher percentage of public housing units in future developments," the settlement states.

According to the settlement, CHA will create incentives for developers if they include the higher percentage of public housing into their proposals

Does the settlement protect the rowhouses from being torn down?

No. The agreement does not determine whether the row houses will be torn down or not. That is likely to be left open to the developers, who are expected to bid on the properties and redevelop the area.

In other words, the settlement agreement sets future parameters for redevelopment.

So who won?

Though 40 percent falls short of 100-percent public housing that the advisory council wanted, a lawyer with the group said it is still a victory.

"We're pretty pleased with that. That was one of the key issues of the suit," said Elizabeth Rosenthal, an attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago who represents the advisory council.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) called it a "great compromise," saying the residents got more public housing than they otherwise would have. 

CHA will continue its plans to redevelop the Near North Side area as mixed-income and there will be more low-income housing to choose from. CHA didn't respond to multiple messages seeking comment.

Why is the settlement important? 

Throughout the legal struggle, CHA has pointed to the lawsuit as the main hurdle to redeveloping the Near North Side site.

Now that the two sides have reached an agreement, developers are expected to begin bidding on the properties.

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