Protesters decry ‘broken promises’ by CHA, developers on affordable housing at Lathrop Homes

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Protesters walk outside boarded-up buildings Saturday on North Leavitt Street near the Lincoln Park neighborhood during the 10th annual “Las Posadas,” a procession that was organized by the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance, Lathrop leaders and Palenque LSNA to demand Chicago Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago Housing Authority rehabilitate Lathrop Homes and make it available for low-income, Black and Brown families.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

For the 10th straight year, the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance gathered Chicagoans Saturday morning to demonstrate against vacant buildings and a lack of affordable housing in the Lathrop Homes development on the North Side. 

This year’s march had more than 100 attendees following dramatists performing scripted acts between the biblical Joseph and Mary and a Chicago Housing Authority official. 

The act was part of Las Posadas, a 400-year-old Christian tradition of a days-long prayer that recreates the story of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging before Jesus was born. The annual protests at Lathrop Homes started in 2013. 

Orla Byrley, 15, who is dressed as Mary, and Zach Davis, 29, who is dressed as Joseph, walk with protesters along the Jimmy Thomas Nature Trail Saturday near the Lathrop Homes on the North Side.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The protesters say city officials and Related Midwest — the mega-developer that has partnered to overhaul the former public housing complex — aren’t moving quickly enough to provide reasonably priced housing for communities that need it most.

The developer has listed the Lathrop Homes as “completed” since 2019, referring to an early phase of the project which revamped 414 units in 16 existing buildings and a new structure. Of those 414 units, less than a quarter were marked affordable and about 36% were set aside for public housing. 

The next phase, which is slated to finish by the end of the year, would bring 31 market-rate, 15 affordable and 28 CHA-owned units to the property, city housing officials said in a statement to the Sun-Times. 

A Related Midwest spokesperson deferred comment to city officials, who declined to address concerns brought up at the demonstrations — but a CHA spokesperson insisted their plan ensures “quality, affordable housing continues to be available in the area.”

But Juan Pablo Herrera, a pastor at Urban Village Church’s Wicker Park location, said city plans have sputtered for more than a decade and simply don’t provide enough affordable housing units.

“I just get angry at the way people have been forgotten and moved out of the way to make room for people who already have power,” Herrera said at Saturday’s march. 

Rev. Juan Pablo Herrera of the Urban Village Church speaks Saturday near buildings that are part of Lathrop Homes.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Zenobia Sowell, a Chicago resident and parishioner on the Near West Side, said her church is near the ABLA Homes — one of the largest CHA projects in terms of size — so the struggle over public housing hits close to home. 

“This city, this mayor, they have the opportunity to do what’s right by the marginalized, they’re just closing their ears and their eyes to what they should be doing,” Sowell said.

Last month, Lightfoot and allies blocked a hearing on the Bring Chicago Home Ordinance, which would raise the tax on home sales of more than $1 million, which advocates say could help fund housing for thousands of Chicagoans. 

“No matter what, it is going to be spun as a property tax increase,” Lightfoot told reporters last month.

Sowell said she doesn’t expect action from the CHA, but that prayer and voting in the upcoming municipal elections — along with Saturday’s march — were the best actions she could take to ensure the city make up for “broken promises.”

“I don’t believe we’re going to see a change but I know it takes something on our part to stand together,” Sowell said. “Those who don’t turn a deaf ear to the cries of the people… it’ll show up at the ballot box.”

Vacant and boarded-up buildings on Saturday morning that are part of Lathrop Homes line North Hoyne Avenue in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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December 10, 2022 at 05:26PM

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