Officials for Town Hall Apartments, 3600 N. Halsted St., say that they are aiming for a mid-September opening date for the residences, which are intended to be an LGBT-friendly housing option for seniors.
"We're hoping to have 79 people moved into Town Hall by Sept. 15," said Kandyse McCoy Cunningham, director of property management for Heartland Housing. "I'm saying that with my fingers, and everything else on me, crossed."
The project is the result of a collaboration between Heartland Housing and Center on Halsted. While the project was conceived of in response to growing concerns over safe and affordable housing options for LGBT seniors, the complex will be LGBT-friendly, not LGBT-exclusive. Such a building is known as "affinity housing."
Being a member of the LGBT community "is not a requirement to be an applicant or resident at Town Hall Apartments," noted Cunningham. "[The] Fair Housing [Act] would not allow you to ask those questions of an applicant. … This building was marketed to a certain extent to let people know that it was LGBT-friendly. We don't distinguish because of sexual orientation."
A number of residents will be individuals on Chicago Housing Authority's ( CHA's ) waiting lists, but Cunningham was did not yet know how many. A CHA contract, which was capped at $970,800 a year and $29,124,000 over 30 years, was awarded to the project under the city's Housing Choice Voucher Program in September, 2013.
That program assists Chicagoans in renting privately owned housing and means that those on CHA wait lists can opt to live at 3600 N. Halsted St. if they are 55 and older and qualify for the voucher program. When the contract was awarded, officials estimated that half the building would also be filled through community referrals.
Cunningham said that Heartland and Center on Halsted "outreached to various organizations in the Lake View community and CHA participants as well. Whether they were on the CHA waiting list, or individuals from the community, they were asked to attend a session where they did what we call pre-application, when they get their 'ranking' and are pre-approved at that process for Town Hall Apartments. That pre-approval was just age requirements. If weren't 55 at the time you submitted the application, the system wouldn't let you go further."
About 440 people showed up to that session, which took place last May.
Some individuals have maintained that the pre-approval process for the apartments lacked transparency, among them Chicagoan Patricia Skora. A former building manager in Lake View, she had to leave the neighborhood when the cost of housing there became too expensive. She is currently in CHA housing and began checking on availability at Town Hall soon after it was announced. Her name was taken at Center on Halsted as what officials called " a person of interest," but she was not put on an official waiting list.
Skora said she arrived an hour after the session began, and that she was the 92nd person there. "They gave us a number to call when we were there, but nobody ever called us back. The process was the complete opposite of transparent," she added.
Cunningham, when informed of Skora's situation, said she was surprised. "Someone should have called her back," Cunningham said.
Heartland will manage and operate the facility, but the Center on Halsted will provide wraparound and support services.
"That's something many of our buildings offer," Cunningham noted. "Our residents often face economic challenges and Town Hall offer services that help with finding employment, or helping spruce up your resume. It's not mandatory, but more of an amenity."