When Saith Wright heard she could lose her affordable housing at the Levy House she said a sense of dread set in, not just for her, but for her neighbors and her 85-year-old mother, who also lives at the home.
“The fear was palatable in this building. It was like a cancer making its way through the halls,” Wright, 60, said Thursday. “Half the people here have no place to go. It’s inconceivable for a lot of people to go anywhere else. They don’t want to be a burden and Levy has been an environment where you don’t have to be a burden.”
Thanks to a deal brokered with the help of Ald. Joe Moore (49th), Wright and the others may feel slightly more at ease.
Moore, in an announcement on his ward’s website said that, at his urging, the Chicago Housing Authority agreed to purchase the 56-unit, affordable housing building, at 1221 W. Sherwin.
CJE SeniorLife, the non-profit owner of the eight-story building, was considering selling to a for-profit developer who could legally force out the residents, Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote last week.
After Moore’s meeting with executives at CJE, he reached out to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Department of Planning and Development Cmsr. David Reifman, and CHA CEO Eugene Jones, to come up with a plan.
In a statement, Jones said the purchase of the building keeps in line with the CHA’s goal “to preserve and expand affordable housing opportunities.”
“The decision to purchase Levy House is an example of our continuing commitment to that effort,” the statement read. “This offer is subject to HUD and CHA Board approval, but this first step in the process of acquiring the property is an important one.”
Wright said she was “cautiously optimistic.”
“I feel they have thrown us a bone but it has no meat on it,” Wright said.
Lilly Lerner, with the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, expressed similiar feelings. She said the caucus is happy about the decision but wants more details.
“[We’re] happy that the building is going to be preserved and is remaining affordable,” Lerner said. “We are concerned that there are so few details being presented and very little information about the future of the building and how long the building will remain affordable, so we would like a lot more clarity in a practical sense so residents now and future know what’s going on.”
Moore said the release of more details depends on when the deal is “inked and approved” by the CHA and CJE boards –– a process that could take anywhere between “six weeks, to six months to six years.” However, a letter to Levy residents says both organizations will enter the negotiations with the intention of closing the sale sometime late this year or early 2019.
The speed of the closure also depends on how the CHA intends to fund the building. If the housing authority decides to use federal dollars, it would have to go through an application process which can be time consuming.
Regardless of the timeline, CJE will continue to hold onto the building until the CHA can take it off their hands, Moore said.
“I’m thrilled that we are preserving 56 units of housing in our ward for people who deserve to have the comfort of knowing they have a place to live for the rest of their lives,” Moore said.
Though Levy will continue as an affordable home, Wright says that she’d like for a Levy resident to be involved in the negotiations to make sure that seniors needs — and demands — are met.
“It’s a beginning but without specific commitments to our demands I believe we still have a long way to go,” Wright said. “I don’t mean to be skeptical but I have a lot at stake here.”