The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has approved a major contract for upcoming LGBT-friendly senior housing in Lakeview.
CHA's Board of Commissioners voted in favor of the Housing Assistance Payment contract at their public meeting downtown Sept. 18.
All but one of the commissioners, Myra King, voted in favor of the contract, which passed without discussion or argument.
"This is a really big deal," said 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, who added that the new development is historic.
The award goes to Heartland Housing and Center on Halsted, which are collaborating to bring 79 LGBT-affirming units to 3600 N. Halsted. The project has been years in the making and is expected to open in late Spring of 2014.
According to Tunney, the contract approval required some last-minute maneuvers because commissioners worried that the LGBT-affirming housing would be seen as discriminatory in favor of LGBT people. The housing is not LGBT-specific, which would be illegal. Rather, it is intended to provide housing able to serve LGBT seniors well, also known as "affinity" housing.
The CHA contract, capped at $970,800 a year and $29,124,000 over 30 years, was awarded under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which assists Chicagoans in renting privately owned housing. The contract means that those on CHA wait lists can opt to live at 3600 N. Halsted if they are 55 and older and qualify for the voucher program. Half the building will also be filled through community referrals.
Hume An, director of real estate development at Heartland Housing said the award is significant and will allow the project to house people of all incomes.
"It's a project we've been working on for a long time and having these subsidies will help us to house people in extreme poverty," An said.
Michael Goldberg, executive director of Heartland Housing, Inc., echoed those sentiments.
"It ensures the maximum number of units in this building are going to be affordable for a wide range of people," he said. "This is really a critical step for us."
Construction on the $21 million project is slated to begin this winter. The property houses the former historic 23rd Dist. Town Hall Police Station, which will be persevered.
The six-floor building will contain studio and one-bedroom apartments, with retail space, common areas and an outdoor patio. Seniors living in the building will be connected to services through Center on Halsted, which is located just next door.
The project is intended to curb feelings of isolation and lack of culturally-competent care among many of the city's LGBT seniors.
The housing has been a dream of Tunney's for at least seven years, he said. The alderman had pitched a similar project to federal funders years ago.
He noted that the CHA vote was not just significant for LGBT people or seniors but for supporters of affordable housing.
Also approved at the meeting was a contract for a 51-unit housing development for people at risk of homelessness or with mental illness in Lakeview. The building is an initiative by Thresholds, an organization that serves people with mental illness. That development is planned for 3208 N. Sheffield, formerly the site of single-room occupancy hotel, The Diplomat.