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$1,595 For A Studio In Logan Square? New Normal Worries Longtime Residents

By  Mina Bloom and Tanveer Ali | January 9, 2017 6:06am 

 A cyclist rides down California Avenue near the twin towers development.
A cyclist rides down California Avenue near the twin towers development.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LOGAN SQUARE — It's no secret that Logan Square has become a developer's dream.

Over the last few years, the neighborhood has seen the start of several new projects that aim to bring in thousands of new residents.

But with those residents comes higher rents well above averages that send ripple effects throughout a neighborhood that was once considered affordable for renters.

"When we think about new developments, the question should be: Who are they for?," asked Lucy Gomez, the health outreach director for Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

Gomez, 49, has lived in Logan Square for about 20 years. She bought her home, an A-frame fixer-upper at Kedzie and Armitage avenues, for $110,000 in 1996.

In recent years, Gomez put her home up for sale and two things happened: She couldn't find any homes in Logan Square for less than $500,000 and real estate agents started breaking down her door.

"I'm not exaggerating. ... That morning, I got 5 calls within 3 hours," she said.

Since then, Gomez has decided to stay in her home — but it ultimately might not be up to her. The neighborhood's housing boom is continuing to drive up the cost of living for longtime residents like Gomez because of higher property taxes.

"This is my home. This is where my daughter calls home. This is where I know my neighbors. I can walk to the grocery store. If I'm pushed out, where will I go?"

The rents in new developments like the twin towers and the "L" complex are leaving longtime residents, including homeowners, concerned about the affordability of the neighborhood.

"I guess I'm confused. Those towers and all of these new developments .... maybe [they're] affordable for a certain demographic, but that's not the demographic that's being displaced," Gomez said.

Logan Square stands to get more than 1,000 new units in the coming years.

INTERACTIVE: What's Being Built In Logan Square?

Developers are renting new studios for anywhere between $1,200-$1,595. New one-bedrooms will go for $1,400-$2,000 and two-bedrooms for $2,250-$3,000.

Those units cost a lot more than existing rental housing stock, according to real estate experts. Different averages peg existing studio rents between $895-$1,200. One-bedrooms go for between $1,250-$1,500 and two-bedrooms between $1,495-$2,000.

Why are developers charging more?

The neighborhood has changed in recent years as more Hispanics have left the neighborhood more than any other part of Chicago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the place of that population, Logan Square is continuing to attract young folks who frequent the neighborhood's growing list of trendy bars, restaurants and shops. So perhaps the best and simplest explanation for developers charging higher rents is because demand is high.

"Logan Square is big and it's close to public transportation. A lot of the holdup in areas like Humboldt Park is while it's up-and-coming, it's what we call a transportation dead zone," said Jason Davis, branch manager for Chicago Apartment Finders in Wicker Park and River North.

Renters will pay big to live in Logan Square because it's actually a good value compared to other pricey neighborhoods, Davis said. In other words, someone who might've chosen to live in more expensive neighborhoods like River North or Wicker Park five years ago is now choosing Logan Square.

Real estate experts like Davis said the higher rents, while "significant," aren't out of step with the lavish amenities. In the MiCa towers, for example, the apartments offer all-new kitchens and bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies.

"They're delivering what the quality is worth," Davis said. "I don't think [developers] are trying to control the market. They're just trying to squeeze as much profit as they can from their developments. That's business."

According to Andrew Marsh, listing director for Apartment People, the demand for new construction apartments in Chicago "has never been higher than it has been in the last few years."

"We anticipate that it'll remain high. It's bragging rights. This generation likes to be the first one out of their friends to discover something first," Marsh said.

What do the higher rents mean for the rest of the neighborhood?

It depends on who you ask.

Affordable housing advocates like Daniel LaSpata, Logan Square Neighborhood Association's Housing and Land Use co-chairman, said high rents are already displacing longtime residents who can no longer afford the neighborhood.

"One of the big challenges is the way that it drives up potential landlords' expectations for what they should be asking for rents. It resets market expectations," he said.

Some of the developers' tactics, like using proximity to public transportation as a justification to charge higher rents, can also be problematic, LaSpata said.

"Then that kind of access to public services is commodified and I don't think that is healthy for the city as a whole," he said. "The 606 is supposed to be an equitably used amenity that we're all paying taxes to support."

Both Marsh and Davis, on the other hand, don't see a world in which all of the affordable, vintage apartments in Logan Square are erased.

"I think there's going to be rents for all tax brackets for a long time," Davis said. "There's so many old, vintage buildings. And the [developers] are delivering so much supply in that Milwaukee Avenue corridor that there's going to be a ton of competition so they'll be forced to bring rents down or offer concessions. You might even see some developments fail or flip over to condos."

Davis said leasing agents representing new developments in Logan Square are already starting to offer concessions, including incentives of up to three months rent free, to attract more renters.

"There's developments I'm currently working with that have priced themselves out of the market. They're just sitting there and refusing to drop in price because they promised their investors they're going to generate 'x' amount of dollars in revenue and they're not going to budge from that."

Davis said all of the new developments, particularly the cluster along Milwaukee Avenue, "can't all survive" because the supply has simply outweighed the demand.

"They're going to have to be willing to flex," he said.

What's being built in Logan Square?

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