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Jeff Park Housing Activists Vow To Escalate Fight Amid Setbacks

By  Alex Nitkin and Heather Cherone | October 11, 2017 3:04pm 

 About 40 members of Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park attended Wednesday's City Council meeting in a rededication of their effort to support affordable housing across the region.
About 40 members of Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park attended Wednesday's City Council meeting in a rededication of their effort to support affordable housing across the region.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CITY HALL — Jefferson Park's burgeoning team of affordable housing activists lost a key battle this week, but they're digging in for war.

City leaders announced Monday that they'll withhold tax credits for a controversial 100-unit mixed-income apartment complex proposed in the neighborhood, pushing developer Full Circle Communities further from its goal of breaking ground on the building at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. next year.

After a state agency denied the development low-income housing tax credits last month, the city's decision further narrows its chances of being funded.

But Full Circle President Joshua Wilmoth and his team are still "committed" to the project and "reviewing our options for future funding rounds and alternative funding mechanisms," he wrote in a statement Wednesday.

Since its unveiling at a raucous public meeting in February, the proposal has sent shockwaves across the Northwest Side, drawing ire from hundreds of residents who said the new neighbors would ramp up crime and drag down property values across the neighborhood.

But on Wednesday, dozens of activists with the group Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park vowed before the City Council to keep charging against the backlash.

"We promise to push our elected officials, from the ward offices to City Hall to Springfield, to make affordable housing a priority," group co-founder Andrea Mitchell said during the meeting's public comment period.

"Some of our wards have zero affordable housing units," Mitchell continued. "That is unacceptable, and we rededicate ourselves today to changing that fact.”

If built, 80 of the proposed building's 100 units would be rented below market rate, including 30 reserved for CHA voucher holders. It would roughly double the number of affordable units in Jefferson Park, a neighborhood of about 27,000 residents.

Supporting the proposal was the foundational cause for Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park, but the activists kick-started a new recruiting drive Wednesday with eyes far beyond their own neighborhood, according to group co-founder Michael Rabbitt.

"We're looking to add hundreds more people so we can rededicate ourselves with an even greater force to expanding affordable housing on the Northwest Side through all available means," Rabbitt said. "Other parts of the city have led the way on this and met an unfair burden, and it's time for the Northwest Side to lead in this area."

The group released a recruitment video Wednesday focusing on the fight over the Jefferson Park development.

Rabbit and other group members spoke last month in support of a 297-unit apartment complex near O'Hare Airport. Its approval was deferred at the urging of 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano.

The Council earlier this year approved construction of a 27,000-square-foot storage warehouse as a companion to the apartments on the same property.

But members of Northwest Side Unite, a community group founded this year in opposition to the new apartments, are funding a lawsuit aimed at holding up the project, alleging that it was approved on illegal grounds.

Leaders of Northwest Side Unite did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.