Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=215277
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North River Commission

North River Commission

The NRC works mainly in this area.


North River Commission tackles the housing crisis from a new angle

by Jonathan Greig
Feb 6, 2013



Jonathan Greig

Melissa Mcdaniel discusses the NRC landlord program.

 


The North River Commission celebrated its 50th anniversary Tuesday night and highlighted many of its goals for 2013.

The conglomerate of community organizations laid out a strategic plan for keeping the area vibrant through housing initiatives designed to preserve “a community in which a mix of income, ages and immigrant groups are welcome,” said Ron Duplack, president of the commission.

The NRC spent much of last year bargaining with landowners to keep the little senior housing there was in the area. They’ve preserved more than 1,000 rental units over the last five years for both seniors and families.

“We started working with property owners to identify how long their contracts were, and then partnering them with HUD to get longer term extensions to make sure that housing stays in our community for generations to come,” said Melissa Mcdaniel, housing director of the NRC.

They managed to get 20- to 40-year contract extensions for all six senior housing complexes in the area instead of the one- to five-year plans the buildings had been working on.

The group plans to continue attacking the housing issue head on with a number of measures aimed at creating more housing for low-income residents and seniors while preserving the quality of their neighborhoods.

“You can be far more effective in helping landlords keep a building and want to stay in the neighborhood and keep rents affordable if you go directly to them,” Mcdaniel said. “If you can help their bottom line, help reduce their operating costs, they don’t have to pass that on to their tenant.”

They are working with developers to build 50 more housing units to balance out an area that has seen a massive boom in condominium construction and a loss of 20 percent of the rental housing buildings.

Their program for landlords received the most attention because of its novelty and the overwhelmingly positive response from local landlords.

“We are planning to develop a groupwide purchasing program, where groups of landlords can come together, buy together and save money,” said Inchul Choi, the group’s former housing director. “This will enable them to not only keep their buildings well maintained, but also keep rents affordable in the neighborhood.”

They have already spoken to landlords who are interested in the group idea, hoping that by pooling efforts, they can negotiate lower rates for garbage removal, property insurance and other necessary services.

“You can organize and protest the landlord, but ultimately, if he wants to sell his building, he can,” Mcdaniel said. “So if you go directly to the source and build that relationship, show him why it’s of benefit for him to stay in the neighborhood and connect him to resources that will allow him to make improvements, instead of selling, he’ll say, ‘I can make this work.’”