The Chatham Apartments has seen better days.
The 233-unit apartment building at 609 Abercorn St. obviously needs renovation. Just take a look at the north façade or the unused parking deck in the rear.
But for all its flaws, the 67-year-old building plays a vital role in the Historic District.
In our increasingly expensive and exclusive downtown, the building provides affordable housing to low-income residents, many of whom receive housing assistance.
Abercorn Apartments, LLC purchased the Chatham Apartments in October and began notifying residents that they have to move. The new owners are helping with the relocation process.
Major renovations could begin within a year, but so far the new owners have not detailed their plans.
Some of the current residents of the Chatham Apartments might find stable, affordable housing in good locations, but many will likely be living in places that are less convenient and more expensive.
Residents of the Chatham Apartments live on a bus line. They are just a few blocks from the downtown Kroger and just a block from Forsyth Park. It’s a great location for folks without cars.
Some residents will eventually relocate to homes with few amenities within walking distance.
I have written in this column before about the benefits of location efficiency as defined by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology. “For residents, living in location-efficient neighborhoods requires less time, money and greenhouse gas emissions to meet everyday travel needs,” says the CNT on their website. “Living in a connected community with access to jobs and transit can provide real savings, as transportation costs are typically a household’s second-highest expense after housing.”
If we had been working for the past decade or so on comprehensive housing policies, residential investors might be incentivized to ensure that some units remain affordable or might be required to contribute to an affordable housing fund.
Maybe we would even be requiring hotel developers to pay into an affordable housing fund.