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CHA maneuvering on Lathrop Homes

An effort by the Chicago Housing Authority to advance plans to redevelop historic Lathrop Homes is causing a stir with opponents who say they were blindsided by the move.

CHA officials say there’s no reason for alarm and that they will continue to work with residents and community groups still seeking to shape final plans for the site.

But those reassurances sound uncomfortably familiar to those who have been on the receiving end of the city’s public housing disappearing act over the past decade.

“My concern is that they are not being very candid,” said Titus Kerby, vice president of Lathrop’s Local Advisory Council and a 23-year resident of the development.

The CHA less than candid? Surely he jests.

At issue is one of the biggest pieces of unfinished business in the CHA’s controversial Plan for Transformation, renamed the Plan Forward under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Located at Damen and Clybourn on 35 acres of prime riverfront property bordered by increasingly gentrified upscale neighborhoods, Lathrop Homes is the sweetest piece of real estate left in the CHA’s North Side holdings–and therefore an object of dispute between low-income housing advocates and development interests.

Before the CHA stopped issuing new leases more than a decade ago, most of Lathrop’s 925 apartments were occupied. Now only 147 families remain, all of them relocated south of Diversey Avenue.

Efforts to redevelop the property have been stalled for several years as residents, neighbors and advocates argued with the CHA over what the new development would look like—in particular what should be the proper mix of public housing, affordable and market rate units, or whether it should be mixed at all. The real estate downturn didn’t speed matters along either.