Roosevelt rentals right

08/08/2012 10:00 PM

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We’re happy to see that long-stalled Roosevelt Square is moving forward again. If there’s anything worse than a public housing project in bad shape, it’s vacant lots surrounding a public housing project in bad shape.

So we’re extremely heartened to hear that things are finally moving forward, and that the housing market has improved to the point that developer Related Midwest is starting to build things again on the Near West Side.

They’re starting, of course with rental apartments. The two new buildings on Roosevelt Road will be the first new developments to go up in the project in years, and if things go smoothly they could be ready in two years.

There are two issues here: First, that the new developments aren’t going to be an even split of market rate, affordable housing and public housing units. Instead, they’ll be made up of approximately 80 percent market rate units and only 20 percent public housing units, cutting the affordable segment out of the mix entirely.

This is curious because it amounts to a sea change in how developments that are a part of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan For Transformation. Previously, each development followed the rule of thirds.

Related says these new apartments aren’t going to really mess with that mixture, since the first phase they worked on was overwhelmingly public and subsidized housing. Fair enough — we’ll buy it.

The second issue is that Related is putting off construction of for-sale condos in favor of rentals, eschewing long-term homeowners for renters. This particularly riled residents at a meeting on the plan Tuesday night, who argued that renters were transient by nature and less committed to the community.

We can see the point there. With levels of crime as they currently are in the area around Roosevelt Square, a few shootings might just be enough to spook young renters and send them running.

But the rental market has changed drastically in recent years. The crash of the housing market has become the rental market’s boon, and demand is higher than ever for quality apartments. With Roosevelt Square’s close proximity to UIC, downtown, the West Loop and South Loop, these new apartments could well be in high demand.

The other side of the coin is that it’s just not a good idea to be building new for-sale housing right now. Very few new developments are commanding the prices they once were, and as a result the incentives and payoffs for developers are slim.

Related is in this for the long haul. Eventually, there will be more residential built in Roosevelt Square. The scope of the project demands it. But it simply makes sense for them — and the community — to follow the market right now.

We’re on board.

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