Locals release housing study

Staff Writer and Herald Intern

A low-income family with two children will have a heck of a time finding an apartment to rent in Hyde Park.

The Coalition for Equitable Community Development released the “Hyde Park-South Kenwood Affordable Rental Housing Market Study” on Saturday at its annual meeting. The study highlights the gap between affordable rental units for very low-income people, families with more than two children and the disabled in the neighborhood.

“We don’t accommodate big families here,” said Pat Wilcoxen, vice president of CECD on Saturday.

The University of Chicago is increasing the number of dorms it provides, which may help some renters, but residents expressed concerns that those units may be out of reach for some.

“[That] might provide an opportunity for more family housing to be available. The problem is – is it going to be available for the high end? I’m really concerned about the middle,” said Robin Kaufman.

The study used U.S. Census American Community Survey data from 2006 to 2010 for the area from 47th Street to 59th Street on the north and south and Cottage Grove Avenue to the lakeshore on the east and west.

The study looked at the demographics of the 37,671 people that currently live within those boundaries and the housing stock available to them. “Affordability” was defined as a equivalent of 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), which for a family of four in Chicago is considered $45,480.

More than half, 62 percent, of the households in Hyde Park rent. Renters are generally under 44 years-old. About half of the neighborhood’s household incomes are at or below 60 percent of AMI. In 2010 58 percent of renters were putting more than one-third of their income towards housing.

“That 50 percent of Hyde Park renters are overburdened – that’s just mind boggling,” said George Rumsey, president of CECD.

A family with two or more children would be more likely to seek a three-bedroom apartment outside of Hyde Park to rent. The study found that only 17 percent of the neighborhood’s rental units have that many bedrooms. A larger portion of these is in west Hyde Park, which could prevent families from renting in units east of Woodlawn Avenue.

The median rental price in the neighborhood is $910, higher than on the city as a whole by $25. Renters looking to occupy a two-bedroom apartment are probably going to pay over $1000 per month.

Rental prices in buildings owned by the University of Chicago tend to be higher on average than those in the private market. They are generally dedicated to university faculty and staff, and often include utilities and amenities.

“We also noticed that the [university] units tend to have amenities and utilities included, which is why they’re higher … they also tended to be larger,” said Heather Parish, lead researcher on the study.

Only three buildings out of the 17 that house subsidized renters are considered accessible for people with disabilities. Only 8 percent of the rental units, or approximately 1,100 units, house subsidized tenants.
Approximately one-third of Hyde Park’s senior population lives on incomes of less than $35,000. Most senior housing tends to be in east Hyde Park where rents are the most expensive.

“There are very few … assisted living developments in our community that are affordable,” Wilcoxen said.
Senior organizations like Hyde Park Village have worked to help seniors age where they’ve lived their lives, without forcing them to move to senior housing in another neighborhood.

“We want to age in Hyde Park. This is our home. This is where we have lived. Finding a new place that we not only like but also can afford can be daunting, especially given our needs for accessibility. Usually these concerns need to be dealt with within our limited, fixed income,” said Susan Alitto, of Hyde Park Village.

To alleviate Hyde Park’s affordable housing woes CECD recommends installing programs that encourage landlords to create subsidized units, particularly for low-to-moderate income families and seniors or to create programs that would help seniors age where they are or in affordable senior-housing units.

“This of course is very important to us. We don’t want to see anyone pushed out of the community,” Wilcoxen said.