Chicago backs construction of 250 new homes on the West Side – Crain's Chicago Business

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces the city’s backing of new home construction in North Lawndale.

Two hundred fifty new homes will soon fill vacant lots in North Lawndale, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced at a press conference this morning alongside U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, former State Sen. Heather Steans and Ald. Michael Scott Jr., 24th. The city will sell 250 lots for $1 each to the Reclaiming Communities Joint Venture, which plans to build and sell the single-family homes on the lots within the next five years. 
The city is greasing the development skids, promising to streamline the acquisition process and setting aside $5.3 million in tax increment financing funds for site remediation and lot preparation. The joint venture also secured $10 million in the state’s latest budget “to provide an average homebuyer subsidy of $30,000 to prospective buyers,” according to a release.
The joint venture is a partnership of United Power for Action & Justice, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation. UPAJ has “secured commitments” totaling $27.5 million to launch the joint venture. Of that total, $12 million comes “from private sector sources for a revolving construction fund from JP Morgan Chase, Steans Family Foundation, Owens Family Foundation, Pete Villim and Roche Family Foundation,” the release says. 
“In North Lawndale alone, 18 percent of the land is vacant, and the city owns approximately 950 vacant parcels,” Lightfoot said at today’s press conference in front of two model homes, celebrating the announcement as part of her Invest South/West initiative. “Through this campaign, we will turn this vacant land into opportunity. . . .This will put a dent in the overall objective of this initiative (to build) 1,000 new homes on the West Side.”
Chicago Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara said this is the first time Chicago has sold this many vacant lots in one neighborhood to a joint developer: “It’s not something the city has done before.”
Novara and others had to sometimes speak over a heckler with a microphone and speaker during her prepared remarks. Ald. Scott said the man on the microphone was not from the neighborhood and his statements were “nonsense.”
Novara continued: “We know that home ownership has been the foundation for many families to build generational wealth. We also know that that path has long been denied to Black people in this country, in this city and specifically in this neighborhood . . . race-neutral policies do not lead to race-neutral results. We will have to be intentional to actively repair the intergenerational harm of private and government wealth extraction from Black Chicagoans. That’s why we’re here today.”
It’s not the first time the city has unloaded some of its vacant lots to spur development. The city has already sold 1392 vacant $1 lots through Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2014 Large Lot program. It was designed to help homeowners and neighborhood associations buy and beautify vacant parcels on their block. Mayor Richard M. Daley also launched the “New Homes for Chicago” program, selling city lots to developers for $1, waiving certain permit and utility fees, and offering homes built on them to low- and middle-income buyers.
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