CHA commissioners hesitant over Lathrop Homes

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In the many Chicago Housing Authority board meetings I've been to, I've never seen a single split vote. Usually, anything that comes before the board is approved unanimously. Once, I've seen the commissioners threaten not to vote for something. And a friend told me once she saw a few vote no.

But last month, an unusual thing happened: three CHA  commissioners
chose to abstain rather than approve an agenda item. Today, it could
happen again at the CHA's regular board meeting.

That item was a redevelopment team for Lathrop Homes, a low-rise brick development in the Roscoe Village neighborhood, that's been waiting for 10 years to be redeveloped.

Commissioners Myra King, Sandra Young and Deverra Beverly,
all public housing residents themselves, chose not to vote when the
issue of Lathrop came up - which Lathrop residents hope is a sign that
they won't just rubber stamp any plan CHA puts across their desk.

Why
all the fuss about Lathrop? Well, Lathrop Homes is a very different
community than most of the public housing in Chicago. Built in the
1930s, it's a neighborhood of low-rise, beautifully designed brick
buildings. They're charming and quaint. The neighborhood around them is
thriving, with big stores, boutiques, transportation and jobs.

The
housing authority seems to want to do what they've done at other sites
like Cabrini-Green and Henry Horner - tear down and build something
new. But residents and area activists want Lathrop to be rehabbed, not
bulldozed. And they don't want mixed-income housing with market rate
units. Instead, they want Lathrop to remain public and affordable
housing.

Because three commissioners abstained from last
month's vote, it will come up again this morning.  Residents will be
there, ready to talk again about the future of their community.

"We
want to let all the commissioners know that we are continuing to watch
this very closely," said John McDermott, housing organizer with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
"We're looking to the commissioners to actually make this decision
themselves and not simply rubber stamp what comes in front of them from
CHA staff."

But a split vote happens pretty rarely from the CHA commissioners. Two in a row? The odds might be against it.

UPDATE: The measure to consider a development team for Lathrop Homes was passed by the CHA board, says Tami Love with LSNA. Lathrop leaders were there to share their opinions with the board. "More importantly for Lathrop is
that this team and the Board knows and considers the vitality of this
community, the importance of the diverse cultures already there, job
opportunities, and revitalize Lathrop with low/affordable housing," said Love.

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