A development plan advanced by the city's Plan Commission in February calls for a mixed-income development with more than 1,100 total units, setting aside 400 for public housing, 222 for low-income working families and nearly 500 for market-rate tenants. Nineteen of the 31 buildings would get interior rehabs with modern amenities while the exteriors would be restored to their Depression-era design. New construction would adhere to the original aesthetic of the complex.
The housing authority hired Related Midwest, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. and Heartland Housing Inc. to overhaul the site.
The proposal, critics point out, eliminates 525 public housing units from the site. Lathrop now has 925 subsidized apartments, however all but 150 of those units sit empty.
Community leaders have said city officials, including Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno, reneged on a pledge to maintain public housing options on the North Side and have endorsed a plan that pushes full-scale gentrification of the area.
Moreno, whose 1st Ward includes Lathrop, has rejected the suggestion that he did not ensure CHA would commit to replacing the lost public housing units. Moreno pointed to a letter from Eugene Jones, CEO of the housing authority, written shortly before the proposal was presented to the Plan Commission.
"CHA is committed to producing 525 new housing opportunities, in general and opportunity areas in the North Side of the city, understanding that the timing will be based on the availability and price of properties, which must be in accordance with existing law," Jones wrote Feb. 17.
That isn't enough for the community members, who said CHA has yet to detail when and where those units would be constructed.
Opponents of the redevelopment long have criticized the CHA for failing to rehabilitate or rent hundreds of units vacated by former residents who used private vouchers to move to private housing. They say the units could be used to house people in need, but instead much of the complex is boarded up.
"It's a shame and a disgrace that the city — with all of these empty units and such a long waiting list of families that need housing — they do so little about it," said Miguel Suarez, 65, who has lived at Lathrop Homes for nearly three decades. "With all of the market-rate housing surrounding us, there's really no need for mixed-income housing."
"Whether it's here, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park or Humboldt Park, (developers) just further displace low-income and vulnerable residents," Rindfleisch said.