By AARON GETTINGER
Lake Village East, a 218-unit apartment community consisting of a 26-story high rise apartment and two three-story buildings at 4700 S. Lake Park Ave., has received an award for the preservation of affordable housing.
The Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award was given at a meeting of the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards on April 5.
The over 40-year-old buildings were completely modernized while keeping all the tenants in the building. The Developers, Ansonia Properties LLC, took the renovation unit-by-unit, allowing tenants to stay in a “hospitality suite,” a furnished but otherwise unoccupied apartment as their work was done on their unit. With the work done, the tenant moved back into their original home.
Built originally with now expiring federal governement special mortgage arrangements to provide affordable rents, the building was now free to be almost a completely market rate rental buildimg. The new owners chose to make a mixed unit building and found a financing way to preserve 70 percent of the units affordable and 30 per cent market rate.
The ownership has a history of providing affordable and mixed-income housing. “We looked at this as an irreplaceable asset,” said Ansonia’s Robert Kaplan. With all the upward changes in Kenwood since it was built, he did not think developers would build that much affordable housing again at the site.
“We think mixed-income housing has better outcomes for people of limited means,” he said.
Kaplan said that they wanted to be sure that the moderate income units would survive for many years.
Kaplan pointed out that the federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) has housing voucher programs for those income-eligible. Such vouchers help their recipients, but they do nothing to address long-term affordability of a unit involved. Once the voucher holder vacates , they leave behind a non-rent-restricted apartment which could become market rate, he said.
Ansonia found a way to preserve Lake Village East’s moderate income apartments and keep its mixed-income housing. They found a little used section of housing regulations where the rent help vouchers could be attached to the units. Thus keeping the units moderate priced if vacated.
Working closely with the Tenant’s Association in the buildings and Chicago’s Shriver Center, Ansonia pursuaded HUD and the Chicago Housing Authority to permit vouchers to be tied to this property for up to 30 years, thus preserving the affordability at this desireable location. Under the agreement tenants will pay 30 percent of their income for rent. The voucher subsidy will pay for the balance of usual rent.
Lake Village East displaced no residents during construction, according Kaplan. The renovation included an entirely new domestic water system throughout the buildings, also adding boilers and hot water heaters with green equipment. They modernized elevators, new windows in low-rises, new entries and first floors, new roofs and a fitness center.
“We worked really closely with the tenants’ association,” said Kaplan. “They were great partners, and we’ve heard from a number of tenants about the positive impact that our work has had for them and the community at the property.”
Kaplan stressed that Ansonia is not a non-profit and expects to make an appropriate economic return. “We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do, and we found that it was economic and possible,” he said.
(Herald Publisher Bruce Sagan is a partner of Ansonia in real estate ventures. He has no ownership in East Lake Village LLC.)