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CHA Saves Seniors From Eviction After Buying 111 Apartments for $19 Million

By  Linze Rice and Ariel Cheung | January 19, 2016 6:54pm 

 Protesters and politicians spoke out against the upheaval of senior citizens from Presbyterian Home properties at the office of its CEO last fall.
Protesters and politicians spoke out against the upheaval of senior citizens from Presbyterian Home properties at the office of its CEO last fall.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

CHICAGO — In a $19 million sale, the Chicago Housing Authority acquired 111 apartments owned by Presbyterian Homes — potentially saving dozens of low-income senior citizens who were told last fall they would be evicted from the affordable housing properties on the North Side.

The CHA-owned buildings are Crowder Place, 3801 N. Pine Grove Ave. and Mulvey Place, 416 W. Barry Ave. in Lakeview; and Devon Place, 1950 W. Devon Ave. in West Ridge, but first a lawsuit filed by Presbyterian Homes tenants must be resolved.

Of the 111 units, 71 are currently still occupied (some residents already sought alternative housing and moved after getting notices last year) and the remaining 40 units will be put on the housing department's wait list. The sale is contingent upon the lawsuit, but, if a resolution is made, the sale will be made official.

“Lakeview’s strength is its diversity," Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said. "As with the CHA’s investment in senior housing through the Center on Halsted, today’s acquisition is an important step in keeping our vibrant community affordable and accessible."

Tunney has been a vocal opponent of the Presbyterian Homes private sale. 

Last fall, 112 protesters and organizers convened at Presbyterian CEO Tom Swortzel's Evanston office, hoping to plead with him to commit to selling the buildings to a developer who would promise to keep them affordable.

Presbyterian Homes told residents the rent-subsidized apartments were no longer financially sustainable. Anticipated maintenance and capital expenditures, "along with current operating deficits," would overwhelm its Geneva Foundation Outreach Fund, which supports the program, the organization said.

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) said people living in those properties depended on the continued housing. 

"Many residents well into their 80s and 90s were in fear of losing not just their homes, but their neighborhood health care providers, places of worship, the community they have known and called family all of their lives,” she said.

In West Ridge, seniors at Devon Place called the move to kick them out "disgusting," with residents worried about those with health ailments, lack of family, and lack of extra income to spend on smaller and more expensive apartments.

"It's not good because these are senior citizens who have no place to go," a Devon Place resident told DNAinfo in September. "Some people are elderly, most people are very ill and have health problems, but they want us out, so what can you do?"

The $19 million sale breaks down to about $175,000 per apartment, with another $2 million in repairs and renovations expected over the next year.

Rents will stay between $700-$1,600 a month for residents, depending on apartment size and income level — 30 percent of what residents make will go toward their rent.

Residents already living in the buildings won't be required to leave during repairs.

At the same time, the city approved another sale to CHA at 2138 W. Touhy Ave. in West Ridge. The six 2- and 3-bedroom apartments were bought for $257,000 each.

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