Lathrop Homes residents say the typical mixed-income public housing revitalization just isn’t going to work in their neighborhood.
“We don’t need any market rate. Look around us – we don’t have nothing but market rate,” says Juanita Stevenson, Local Advisory Council president. “They’re tearing down the factories and building more and more condos.”
Since the Plan for Transformation begin in 2000, the Chicago Housing Authority has been demolishing and rehabbing public housing units across the city, replacing many with mixed income housing developments. In these new developments, a third of the number of units are split between public housing, affordable housing and market rate housing.
Lathrop residents and community leaders oppose a mixed income development being put in at Lathrop. They say the surrounding communities already have a plethora of market rate homes and condos, and that putting them in at Lathrop will only push public housing residents out.
“It no longer will be a community of middle class families. It’s just going to be for the rich,” Stevenson says.
Stevenson and others with the Lathrop Leadership team want their community rehabilitated, but want it to remain as public and affordable housing.
The status of Lathrop Homes has been listed as “to be determined” since the Plan for Transformation began. In 2003, CHA formed a Working Group to plan for the future of Lathrop, and in 2005, they released a report with Camiros Limited, an urban planning company, presenting three possible scenarios, one of which was a 1,200 mixed income housing development, according to the Lathrop Leadership team.
Since then, the Lathrop Leadership team says they have been told by CHA that mixed-income is the future for their homes. Leaders like Stevenson and resident Robert Davidson say that would ruin the community they love.
“Lathrop has a wonderful history as an affordable, diverse community in Chicago. Are we going to allow Lathrop to be erased?” Davidson says.
Lathrop Homes defies the stereotype for public housing.
There are no high rises. The low-rise buildings stretch across 35 acres in the Hamlin Park and Roscoe Village neighborhoods. The buildings aren’t cookie cutter copies either. Built in the 1930s, each one is has unique architectural details and house between six and eight families.
The community is also ethnically and racially diverse – the neighborhood is about 50 percent African American, 35 percent Latino and 15 percent white, says John McDermott of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
The 2004 study by Camiros showed the median income of the communities surrounding Lathrop is well above the city average - $51,847 compared with $38,625 for the city. The study also listed the average home price in 2004 as $426,000. In 2008, the median home price in nearby Roscoe Village is $477,000, according to trulia.com.
The high prices of homes in the area make residents nervous that redevelopment could push out lower income people.
Sandra Cromwell moved to Lathrop for 22 years after living in several homeless shelters across the city while pregnant with her son. Cromwell doesn’t think there’s enough housing in the city for people who need it.
“Everybody needs a chance, everybody needs a second chance,” Cromwell says.
CHA did not confirm plans for mixed-income housing at Lathrop.
“We are now in the assessment process, which is why nothing has been set in stone yet,” says Matt Aguilar, CHA spokesperson. “The CHA is committed to moving forward with redevelopment, or rehab, or whatever the final recommendation may be.”
Audio: Listen to resident Amy Santiago talk about the situation at Lathrop Homes.