UPTOWN — For the last two years, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and a host of neighborhood organizations have been working to preserve affordable housing at Magnolia Court Apartments in Uptown.
Last week, they became one step closer to securing that possibility for those occupying the 60-unit complex at 4878 N. Magnolia Ave. when the city announced it would support financial measures to preserve the affordable developments.
"The $4.3 million rehabilitation of Magnolia Court Apartments in Uptown would be supported by a $1.5 million City loan. The proposed project by Magnolia Court Apartments LLC would include a new roof, upgrades to kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and new energy efficient kitchen appliances," the city said on its website.
Despite the building's issues, the courtyard building, which was built in the 1920s, is an essential part of the neighborhood's fabric, which is very rapidly changing, Pawar said.
"Any building constructed in the 1920s will need maintenance work or capital improvements," Pawar said. "You're talking about 50 households that have been living in the area for a long time. If these apartments went market rate, they would've been priced out the neighborhood. That building is a community that is within a community."
Under the deal, 10 of the units would be offered at market rents, and the remaining units would be reserved for residents earning up 60 percent of area median income, the city said.
"The loan would be contingent upon the developer and HUD executing a minimum 15-year renewal to an expiring project-based Section 8 contract on 50 of the units," the city said, adding additional funding would include a private mortgage loan and a $500,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank.
The measure was introduced to the City Council by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last Tuesday, but "the bulk of the work and heavy lifting took place last year," when Jane Addams Senior Caucus and ONE Northside attended dozens of meetings "to make sure we could preserve the rent by providing city finances" and ensuring a contract for 15 years," Pawar said.
The issue must now be brought up to committee, then be approved by full vote of City Council in February, Pawar said.
Pawar decided this was an important topic, considering his ward is losing a lot of affordable housing, said Vivien Tsou, a housing organizer at ONE Northside, at 4648 N. Racine Ave.
"His job was to work with the city to negotiate a deal with the owner," who insisted there wasn't enough financing to preserve the building, said Tsou.
Those living in the building are predominantly senior citizens and people who speak English as a second language. Despite the hardships, which included short temporary renewals of the contract, they were able to voice their own concerns and no one was forced to move out of the apartments, so far, she said.
"The building is in really good condition, honestly. It's a beautiful building and a great location. They didn't want to move out. They were very clearly advocating for themselves, Tsou said.
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