Oak Park Trustees Visit Housing Sites
Village officials eschew Comcast project concerns, focus on "learning and listening."
If you’re getting ready to make a big decision, you take to the streets to listen and learn as much as you can – even on the weekend.
That’s what Oak Park officials did Saturday, touring through two Chicago sites built by Interfaith Housing Development Corporation, the agency looking to convert the long-vacant Comcast building into a 51-unit affordable housing project.
Oak Park trustees Glenn Brewer, John Hedges and Village President David Pope and newly seated trustee Robert Tucker were accompanied by two other village officials, and as it was a public meeting, the tour attracted four residents and two members of the media.
The road tour visited Sanctuary Place, a 63-unit single-room-occupancy building at 642 N. Kedzie Ave., which serves women who are homeless, ex-offenders, or who are recovering substance abusers.
Six townhouses are also set aside for mothers working to reunite with their children. The building features a solar hot water system and an eco-friendly elevator. Services are provided by Facing Forward, a Chicago-based organization that provides support for the homeless.
The trip also toured Sankofa House, 4141 W. Roosevelt Road, 58 units of affordable housing of one to four bedrooms for kids aging out of the foster parent system and for low-income adults raising children of close family members. The building, which has wind turbines to help produce electricity, has separate computer labs for adults and children less than 17 years of age. The Sankofa Safe Child Initiative provides supportive services, offers intergenerational building activities and helps residents get connected with neighborhood resources.
The Oak Park representatives questioned IHDC officials Gladys Jordan and Perry Vietti about site operations, funding and about the social service programs provided to residents. But they purposefully avoided talking about the Oak Park project.
“We’re just learning and listening; we want to separate the two issues,” Pope said.
But John Murtaugh and Patricia O’Shea, Oak Park residents and vocal opponents of the project who tagged along on the tour, still had questions.
“Why are singles being targeted when families and seniors are more in need of housing,” Murtaugh said. “We don’t need this type of housing in Oak Park.”
A second tour will take place at Saturday at 3 p.m. The tour of Sanctuary Place will begin at 3 p.m. and the tour of Sankofa House will start at 4 p.m.
Trustees will begin debating May 16 on whether IDHC should be allowed to have a slightly taller building (by 5 feet), fewer parking spaces (32 instead of 73) and more units (51 instead of the allowed 40) than are allowed by current standards. A vote is expected by the end of the month.
Singles earning less than $26,300 – the area median income – who live and work in Oak Park will have first preference at renting the units. Rent will be $700 a month.