On April 24 the ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! Campaign, alongside the Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation (BRC) organizing department, mobilized nearly 70 community residents and activists to collect 451 supportive signatures for the not-for-profit housing corporation’s Zapata Apartments in Logan Square, located along the Armitage Avenue Corridor. The petition drive included a day of conversation about the project, a door-knocking workshop, and two and a half hours of door-to-door canvassing from North to Central Park Avenues and Armitage to Kimball Avenues.
The massive petition drive was organized around the theme of supporting affordable housing in our community. As one volunteer, Ramón Sánchez, 18, stated: “I do support affordable housing. There are some people, like minorities, who need it because of the [bad] economy.”
Although, the ¡Humboldt Park NO SE VENDE! Campaign focuses primarily in the Humboldt Park community through the organizing of residents to support the development of Paseo Boricua, the organization holds onto the idea that an attack on affordable housing anywhere is an attack on affordable housing everywhere. Nowhere is this truer than in the recent onslaught of misinformation surrounding Zapata Apartments promoted by self-interest groups and individuals such as the so-called “Armitage Neighbors Together” (ANT).
In 2003 community-led planning sessions by the Logan Square New Communities Program identified a shortage of affordable rental housing near under-enrolled elementary and middle-schools. BRC was asked by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association to be the developer of this much needed housing. As Executive Director of BRC Joy Aruguete eloquently stated, “All of our projects are at the behest of community residents.” For 42 years, the aforementioned housing organization has done just that, building about 1,000 rental units of affordable housing in communities such as West Town, Hermosa, Logan Square and in Humboldt Park, where it recently completed its massive three-building La Estancia project on Paseo Boricua.
Zapata Apartments has been in the process for nearly five years and just when it was gaining steam, ANT emerged with a long-awaited attack, even going as far as suing the city of Chicago for supporting the project. Throughout the years BRC has met with thousands of community residents in the area, even those who initially opposed the project. “We have no reason not to meet those who are anti-affordable housing,” said Aruguete. However, it is not dialogue that this opposition is seeking. Many of ANT’s members are real-estate developers angry at the prospect of a community developing on its own terms without the need for the ridiculous profits of condos that have displaced thousands of working Puerto Rican and Latina/o families from Logan Square and Humboldt Park.
In a lawsuit filed just moments after ANT officially applied for a non-profit status, the group claimed that the Zapata was an “unconstitutional re-zoning of certain property” and includes “invidious spot zoning,” or in other words, complete disregard of the surrounding nature of the community. In actuality, the project itself will fill lots that have been vacant for two decades with 1-3 bedroom apartments and even a play lot for community youth. Furthermore, the possible tax revenue generated from the project could reach up to $72,000 a year, when there was once none.
Also, the units will be priced 50 percent below of the median area income. In response, BRC addressed the major concerns specified in the lawsuit and is still continuing with the zoning process. The petition that they have put out also seeks to gain some Tax Increment Financing (TIF), a rare occurrence for affordable housing in Chicago, for a project in the 35th Ward.
by Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos