The Future of Housing in the Old Cabrini-Green Site

by Farren Washington

A new plan has been approved for the old Cabrini-Green site. What will be the impact on area housing?


The Cabrini-Green housing project, as it was being torn down

A recent court ruling has accelerated the new mixed-income housing development in Cabrini Green. Hundreds of public housing units will be constructed on the Near North Side over the next seven years as part of the settlement agreement between the Chicago Housing Authority and a tenant organization representing the low-income residents.

The agreement, filed back in September, settled a 2013 federal lawsuit from the Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council that sought to urge the CHA to fulfill their long-established pledge to renovate the Cabrini row houses and preserve them as public housing units. The settlement struck a balance between competing desires, allowing the CHA to continue with plans to build mixed-income housing at the site of the abandoned row houses while also guaranteeing more options for low-income residents in the area.

Public Housing at Cabrini-Green

One motivation for the lawsuit was that local advocates did not want to see poorer residents forced out of the neighborhood, which boasts close proximity to public transportation, grocery stores, schools and other amenities. The suit made the claim that the plans for mixed-income housing would have removed hundreds of low-income units, and that the agency would not have been able to substitute that housing with another cost-effective option anywhere on the North Side.

The site is widely known to most Chicago residents. It is the location of the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex, which was slowly dismantled starting in 1995. A total of 586 row houses remain, with 440 still sitting vacant.

The Original Cabrini-Green Plan

Back in April, the Chicago Housing Authority disclosed a development zone plan update for the 65 acres of unoccupied land remaining within the Cabrini area. It called for 2,330 to 2,830 new and restored housing units by 2025 (30 percent of which will be public housing).

The settlement revised the CHA’s plans for the vacant rowhouses and the land in general. It gives assurances that the 440 uninhabited townhouses in the Cabrini-Green area will have a mixed-income future. Forty percent (approximately 176 units) will be set aside for public housing, with another 15 percent designated as inexpensive housing for low-income families.

But it doesn’t mean that less market-rate housing will be built. In fact, much more work must be completed if the settlement’s public housing objective of 1,800 low-income units by 2022 (in the square mile from North to Chicago avenues and Halsted to State streets) is to be reached. The mandated public housing allotment for individual developments on land owned by the CHA will also increase to 33 percent, from 30 percent. The goal is to alleviate fears about the concentration of poverty and crime in the area.

Real Estate on the North Side

As for the units built closer to the public housing ones, the listings and rentals are expected to match comparable properties in the area. Take, for example, the new 240-unit rental from Gerding Edlen. The building (aptly named Xavier for St. Francis Xavier Cabrini), will be located at the corner of Division and House streets when it’s completed in October. Xavier will have 10 percent affordable housing units and 10 percent public housing units (since they willingly agreed to participate in the process, their threshold to meet requirements is lower). The remaining units in the building are market-rate, with rental prices for studios starting at $1,825.

Recent new construction communities in Chicago have sold very well. For instance, Basecamp River North from Ranquist Development Group sold out last year after just four months. The development has a total of 47 town houses. Priced between $529,900 and $915,900, the town houses are all priced at or lower than other recently sold properties in River North.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic, Joe M500, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cabrini_green_demolition_2.jpg

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