I saw neighbors tell the painful stories of losing their homes, or telling us they were moving to the suburbs or beyond because their families could no longer afford to live in our beloved neighborhood. Then I got a call from my landlord.Read More
We are contacting you in regards to the proposed development for 3215 W. Lawrence Ave. Like many 33rd Ward residents, 33rd Ward Working Families is concerned about the rapid loss of affordable housing across the city and in our own neighborhoods. We appreciate your efforts to ensure that 15% of the building's units are designated as affordable; however, we believe this is insufficient to offset the inflationary pressure that the remaining 23 high-end units and trendy businesses will have on surrounding rents. The development will increase the share of higher-priced units in our ward- despite the fact that these are new units- allowing landlords to command higher rents and encouraging further high-end development. This is especially troubling considering the roughly thousand families and long-term working-class residents who have been displaced because of rent burden and profit-motivated eviction in the past two years alone.
At the community meeting held to discuss this development, many community members expressed a desire for a stronger commitment to affordability. You promised to go back to the developer, Spiro Arsenis, and ask him to ensure that more of the affordable units are 2-bedroom (family-friendly) units, and to even see if he could add some 3-bedroom units. We appreciate this commitment as a starting point, but ask for the following additional commitments to ensure the project encourages true affordability and transparency:
- That the rents for the affordable units are set to be less than the maximum specified by the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO). The ARO requires that rents are affordable to households earning 60% of the area median income (AMI), which would apply to a family of 4 making $47,400 a year and is therefore still out of reach for many of Albany Park's residents.
- That you keep the community well-informed of the results of your negotiations with Arsenis. If he is unwilling to make the above commitments to affordability, we ask that you hold another community meeting to ensure that neighbors have the opportunity to reassess the plans. We feel that the community deserves a second opportunity to voice their concerns about this development if Arsenis refuses to make the building more affordable - one meeting is not enough.
Combating the loss of affordable housing and increased displacement in Albany Park will require a firm commitment to housing as a human right rather than a commodity, and will require drastic solutions, not bare minimums.
We hope that you will join the community in demanding that Arsenis and other developers make
true commitments to affordable housing by respecting the above requests. We ask that you inform the community about the results of your discussions with Arsenis by February 16th.
33rd Ward Working Families
33rd Ward Working Families is pleased to issue solidarity endorsements to Delia Ramirez for State Representative (District 4) and Brandon Johnson for Cook County Commissioner (District 1), two movement-backed candidates seeking office in Chicago.
Delia Ramirez is a social service director, community leader, and coalition builder. A daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, Delia still resides on the same block where she grew up, in Humboldt Park. Delia served as board president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, co-founded the Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) legal clinic for immigrant families at her church in 2004, and is a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University.
Delia stands for fully-funded public schools, an elected school board, a Medicare-for-all healthcare system in Illinois, and a $15 minimum wage.
Brandon Johnson is a classroom teacher, organizer, and well-known face in Chicago's education justice movement. Brandon organized for the landmark teachers' strike, fought the onslaught of closings and privatization in Black and Latino schools, and led the 2015 political field campaigns that forced an historic mayoral runoff in the city of Chicago.
Brandon is fighting for an elected representative school board, stronger oversight of private charter operators, more funding for public schools to address trauma and health care services including mental health and an elimination of tax breaks and slush funds for the 1%.
Brandon and Delia have both been endorsed by the city-wide United Working Families.
Despite desperately underfunded schools and families struggling to pay heating bills as the winter rolls in, Ald. Deb Mell decided that what her communities and others around the city really needed was a $95 million police academy.
The $95 million in question would hardly fill the budget for needed services, but for neighborhoods hammered by austerity measures and bearing the brunt of mass incarceration and police violence, the project has come to symbolize much of what is wrong with the city's priorities. Illustrating this most cruelly is that the academy is to be built just blocks away from two shuttered elementary schools.
For critics, the message to communities like West Garfield Park couldn't be clearer: The city doesn't have the money to educate you, but it has the money to shoot you or lock you up.
As a member of the Housing and Real Estate committee, Mell was a sensible target to make the case to, and Working Families members and others from the ward stayed in contact with Mell to keep the pressure on and encourage her to oppose the project.
Earlier this week, Mell seemed to be able to grasp the outline of the argument, paraphrased by the Tribune:
Ald. Deb Mell, 33rd, said some residents tell her the money would be better spent on programs in neighborhoods to combat racism or used to hike budgets for education and mental health services.
But Mell, as usual, declined to translate these concerns into actual opposition to the project. The alderman, who racked up a 100% voting record with the mayor her first term and was rewarded with tens of thousands of dollars from his super PAC in the last election, again leapt to cast a vote for Rahm's position.
Despite a last-minute plea to the council by Chance the Rapper and a contingent of dozens of community groups, the measure sailed through, 48-1.
Following the vote, observers in the chamber bombarded the council with shouts of "Shame!" and "Vote them out!" according to the Daily Line.
We ought to understand who's not on our side, and take the instruction of those chanting yesterday. Today's a good time for the shaming. Tomorrow, let's start on the latter.
-Nick B, WF33
Albany Park tenants fighting eviction from their landlord have found strong support from neighbors, community organizations, and fellow renters.
But from 33rd Ward alderman Deb Mell, who’s collecting campaign cash from the property developer, support hasn’t flowed quite as freely.
"A concern of ours is not just the housing conditions and the evictions, but also the tenants' interactions with Deb Mell. We've asked her for help to protect tenants and residents of the ward, and she's expressed [instead] that her priority is to have a good relationship with the developer,” says Wendy Mironov of 33rd Ward Working Families.
Throughout the controversy, Mell has sidestepped using her influence to nudge the developer, Silver Property Group, into negotiations with the tenants.
For Working Families members, the reason is in political financial disclosures: Silver executives have given the alderman thousands in campaign contributions since she assumed office.
"Despite her claims that it's out of her hands, aldermen have plenty of tools to be effective facilitators in situations like these, if they so choose,” says Working Families’ Chris Poulos. “Unfortunately, Deb Mell has made clear that there's one situation she’d like to avoid at all costs—getting on the wrong side of someone who's handing her campaign donations."
Moreover, Mell has gone so far as to scold the tenants, suggesting that they were looking for a handout. During one discussion in August, Mell asked if the tenants were just complaining to get free rent, according to Poulos.
The Sunnyside tenants have a different take on their motivations.
"I've lived in Albany Park for 30 years. I've lived in this building for 12 years," said one tenant who attended a press conference outside the building last week. "I've always paid my rent on time and have never been short."
Now, like others who call the neighborhood home, he's worried that his days in the community are numbered.
"Maybe if the tenants came to her office with a stack of campaign checks, Mell would act on their concerns,” says Poulos. “But that's not a reality for people struggling to make rent."