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A million dollar single family box comes to our block.
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It was thirty-one years ago we bought our little brick workingman’s cottage in Logan Square.
Although we had been living in the neighborhood since 1975, we always figured we would be renters.
The house, built around 1890, was for sale and was just two block from where we were renting. The guy who was selling it had only lived there a couple of years. His job was moving him to San Francisco. We asked if he would consider renting. At first he said yes and then his accountant told him no. We made an offer to buy it and suddenly without much warning we were home owners.
Calling the house a fixer-upper is an understatement. However, we were in no hurry and three decades later we do a little each year.
This year it was water-proofing the basement.
Meanwhile Logan Square has gone through several gentrification cycles. The sad part is that so many affordable housing units have been destroyed and replaced by what I think are ugly glass and cinder block boxes. Many of the single family boxes are on lots that once had two and three unity multi-family beautiful hundred year-old gray stones.
Anyone walking down the street in these areas may notice recently constructed houses, especially the glass and cinder-block boxes that stand in stark contrast to the older gable-roofed houses in the neighborhood. To gather quantitative data about how the housing stock is changing in these areas, the Chicago Workers Cottage Initiative analyzed the available city demolition permit data from 2006 to 2020. Using historic Streetview and satellite imagery as well as historic insurance maps as references, we categorized the structures which were demolished in Logan Square and Avondale by building use or type.
During these 15 years, 420 demolition permits were issued in Logan Square. There are roughly 8900 structures in the neighborhood, meaning that a little less than 5% of the existing buildings in Logan Square were demolished during this time period. Almost half of the buildings demolished were workers cottages. Combined with frame 2-flats — mostly the gable-roofed cottage-style two-flats which are closely related to workers cottages — these two house types account for over three-quarters of all structures lost in the neighborhood during this time period.
In May a two-flat on our block was demolished and soon construction began on a million dollar cinder block.
It was our block’s first. It won’t be the last, I fear.
It is almost done and it looks pretty much like you would expect.
I wouldn’t call it charming. And it certainly isn’t affordable for most working families.
The good news is that 100 units of all affordable housing in new construction is about to open its doors a few steps from the Logan Square Blue Line station.
I was an early supporter of the project that has been built on a rarely used city-owned parking lot.
My main frustration is that it took ten years for the project to go from an idea to completion. Meanwhile thousands of working families, predominantly Latinx, have been priced out of our neighborhood.
We need more like this and faster.
There are examples of good news coming out of City Hall where Mayor Lightfoot has made affordable housing a priority.
Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Lightfoot’s administration is rolling out the largest package of affordable housing in Chicago’s history including 2,400 units of rental housing in neighborhoods across the city.
While the Department of Housing resurfaced in former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2019 budget, it was Mayor Lori Lightfoot who appointed its first commissioner: housing policy expert Marisa Novara.
Novara and Lightfoot won a big affordable housing victory a couple of days ago when the Chicago City Council broke with the tradition of aldermanic prerogative and approved an affordable housing project over the objections of 41st Ward Alder Anthony Napolitano.
Napolitano is not the sort of alder who would welcome affordable housing to his far north side ward even though there is a huge need.
Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara said the project would support workers at O’Hare Airport as a transit-oriented development located adjacent to the Blue Line and fulfills an “undeniable need” for affordable housing on the Far Northwest Side.