Last night, the Board of Jefferson Park Forward met with Alderman Arena and the developer of 5150 North Northwest Highway, the 100-unit affordable housing development proposed by the non-profit developer Full Circle Communities. We were invited by Alderman Arena and Full Circle Communities to ask questions of the development in advance of the public meeting and to share concerns that we have. Alderman Arena told us that this advance outreach is happening with several community groups around Jefferson Park including the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association and the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce. A public meeting will be held by Alderman Arena and Full Circle Communities on Thursday, February 9 at the 16th District Police Station at 7:00 PM.
This post will share with you what we have learned and answer some common questions.
Q: How big is the development really?
A: The building, as proposed, will contain 100-units. Of the 100 units, approximately 51 will be 3 bedroom units, and an equal split of studio, 1 and 2 bedroom units comprising the rest of the units. The building is a seven story building, with one floor of parking and six floors of residential. The height of the building, as designed, should be between 70-80 feet tall.
Q: What kind of amenities are in the building?
A: The developers are aiming to build an environmentally friendly building in pursuit of LEED certification. The building will have a community room, library, and business center on the first floor; outdoor play area for children, a grill/picnic area, community garden and dog run, located on a second floor outdoor garden level. The building will also contain retail space fronting Northwest Highway. A parking garage on the first floor will contain 62 parking spaces for the units. The units themselves with contain “condo quality” finishes with dishwashers and in-unit laundry in many of the units. The units will be designed with disability access (universal design).
Q: Who will manage the building? What about security?
A: The building will be directly managed by Full Circle Communities, a non-profit developer and property manager. They will have on-site management including a property manager and building maintenance. Management will not be on site 24 hours a day, but will be on site for at least 12 hours per day. Security is provided via cameras at all entrance and exit points connected to Full Circle’s central office as well as private security firm hired by Full Circle. The building will have electronic keycard access for residents to maintain security. Other staff include a on site case manager and service coordinator to assist residents.
Q: What will this cost?
A: The capital cost of the development is approximately $30 million. The property will generate approximately $80,000 in property taxes annually over 30 years. The property will also generate $75,000 annually over 30 years which Full Circle Communities uses to fund various social services for its residents as well as an on site case manager.
Q: What sort of services will be provided for residents?
A: Service providers may include assistance for veterans, job placement and educational assistance, social workers and other services as needed. Thresholds and A Safe Haven are examples of veterans service providers as well as Hands to Help Ministries (a local non-profit who has presented at a JPF meeting).
Q: We’ve heard the building will be all Section 8 housing. Why does this developer want to come to Jefferson Park?
A: Section 8 housing, also known as housing choice vouchers, is housing that is provided by private landlords with rental assistance covered by the federal government and local housing authorities (like the Chicago Housing Authority). It would be a mistake to assume this building is public housing. The development is privately owned by Full Circle Communities, who is responsible for owning and operating the building. Of the 100 units proposed, only 20 units will be set aside for residents with housing choice vouchers. See who is eligible for housing choice vouchers here. Note that it is illegal for any landlord to turn away tenants possessing a housing choice voucher.
In addition to the 20 units set aside for residents with housing choice vouchers, 60 units will be provided based on a sliding income scale to residents earning below the average income level in Jefferson Park (currently $62,000 for a family of four). These rents will be subsidized by federal and state tax credits available to the developer for providing low-income and disability accessible housing. Another 20 units will be provided at market rate rents, which for a 3-bedroom apartment may be up to $1,500 per month. The developer is prioritizing veteran tenants for 50% of the units.
Full Circle Communities has been interested in Jefferson Park because of a number of factors including availability of a suitable site, proximity to transportation options and need. Using publicly available Census figures, Full Circle Communities has identified a large segment of renters in Jefferson Park that are rent burdened, which is defined as spending more than 30% of take-home income on housing. It has also identified several hundred veterans living in the area.
Q: How will Full Circle Communities screen tenants? What happens if there are problem tenants?
A: Full Circle Communities has a lengthy application process and tenant screening process. According to Full Circle Communities, they have prospective tenants sign up for the project interest list either via website or via phone. The interest list opens during construction. Approximately 120 days before construction is completed, Full Circle Communities will issue an application and send it to everyone on the interest list, make it available on their website, and in other physical locations throughout the community. They file applications in the order they are received (since there is a veterans’ preference in this project, applications from veterans go to the top of the list).
Next, all household members (not just the head of household) must fill out the rental application and attend an in person interview with Full Circle’s property management staff. They review the application and supplementary information, performing a rental history reference check (5 year look back), credit check, and criminal background check for each applicant. Full Circle Communities will automatically reject on all felonies, property crime, violent crime, drug offenses, prior eviction, and are obligated to document reasonable credit and sufficient income to pay rent (for all rent levels). The criteria applies to every single household regardless of income level, referral source, etc. For instance, a referral from the Chicago Housing Authority is subject to the same process and screening criteria as a market rate applicant. Also important to note, unlike most market rate landlords, Full Circle Communities’ funding requires that they re-certify their tenants annually.
For tenants that become problematic, Full Circle Communities will work with the tenant to resolve issues directly through an on site case manager and/or on site service providers. If problems cannot be resolved, a tenant will be evicted.
Q: What about the schools? Beaubien is already overcrowded.
This is an issue that we raised and was addressed by Alderman Arena. He noted that in the next couple years, some $36 million in capital funding will be coming into the 45th Ward including an addition at Prussing and turning St. Cornelius School into a CPS preschool serving a number of schools in the ward, including Beaubien. Additionally, Taft High School is planning a second campus to be occupied by its academic center (7th and 8th grade) and freshman class. By moving the preschool out of Beaubien and expanding the academic center at Taft, this will free up some capacity at Beaubien. Alderman Arena acknowledged that school overcrowding on the northwest side is a larger issue and that there are no easy answers. Arena also acknowledged that he supports increased density around transit in his ward for economic development reasons and that, yes there may be some children that will need to be accommodated. He also pointed out that this issue occurs more frequently when an elderly occupant of a single family home sells to a family with school aged children, which is happening all over the ward.
Q: Crime. Mixed income housing creates crime right?
A: Full Circle claims that crime is not an issue, particularly at its two locations in Chicago in Avondale and Logan Square. We’re unable to verify that statement. Full Circle will be meeting with the 16th District to discuss the project and has met with the police in advance of its other projects. Villagebrook Apartments in Carol Stream, a property owned by Full Circle Communities, has had some issues as people have pointed out on social media. Full Circle Communities provided us with the following information regarding crime at Villagebrook:
- For the 189 units at Villagebrook, total calls for service (that includes fire, ambulance, police, lockouts, wellness checks) have reduced from 181 in 2014 to 131 in 2016.
- Calls related to suspected criminal conduct declined by 33% over that same period, from 29 in 2014 to 19 in 2016. In 2016, only three calls resulted in an ongoing investigation.
- Villagebrook had only two drug-related complaints at the property over a three-year period from 2014-2016, both in 2015, both for possession of marijuana.
Full Circle Communities notes that this development is over 80% housing choice vouchers – not a mixed income community as proposed in Jefferson Park. Full Circle Communities also noted that having the police involved makes their job easier to help residents deal with issues and evict residents if necessary.
JPF does not have the resources to examine whether there is causation or correlation between mixed income properties and increases in crime. Thus, in the absence of evidence, we are unable to substantiate or support such claims.
Q: Will this development really support economic development in our community? How?
A: We posed this question to Full Circle Communities and their answer was a bit enlightening. They noted that because they cap their rent at 30% of take-home income, this frees up additional household income for spending. They say they have identified a large number of renters in Jefferson Park paying 50% or more of their income on housing. Should these residents or similar ones move in, they could save up to 20% of income. Even poor people spend money on things like groceries, medicine and other daily goods.
Q: Is the project a done deal? What’s the purpose of the community meeting?
The project is still in conceptual stages right now. The purpose of the public meeting is to apprise the community on the development and solicit feedback. Alderman Arena told us he uses community feedback to help him make informed decisions and to help the developers provide a product that fits in with the wishes of the community while also serving economic development and other goals. The community meeting is also being held because it’s legally required when a zoning change is involved.
Q: Is this upzoning? What zoning change is being requested?
A: Upzoning is a more intensive use of land. This property, once a food processing plant owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Chicago for its schools, is zoned M1-1 manufacturing. The developer is seeking zoning under the PD Planned Development zone. For a primer on zoning, what it is and an interactive zoning map, we recommend checking out Second City Zoning.
Given that the land has a vacant building on it, one can argue that virtually any new development under any other zoning constitutes a more intensive use of land and thus an upzoning.
Q: If the development is approved, when can we expect it to be built and open?
A: Full Circle Communities expects to have their financing in place by August of 2017. They expect several months to go through permitting and anticipate breaking ground in spring of 2018. Tenants should be able to move in by early 2019.
Q: Has JPF taken a position on the development?
A: The JPF Board has decided since the founding of our organization that we will not take a resolution in favor or against any specific development proposal. We believe that doing so is divisive and disruptive as well as making it difficult for us to accomplish our goals. Individual Board directors and officers, as well as our associate, regular and business members likely have their own opinions on this development, but do not speak for JPF as an organization.