- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

CHICAGO (AP) - Officials of a 30-year-old housing agency originally intended to stop white flight in northwest Chicago say it’s seeing renewed interest, partly due to anxiety about a proposed apartment complex.

The fight over the building project has resurfaced some of the same arguments over neighborhood character, integration and racial discrimination that occurred when the Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program launched in the late 1980s, the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2qHymwj ) reported. It allows members to get property appraisals and pays for shortfalls when owners sell their houses, as long as they continue living there for at least five years.

Agency director Robin Larson said 30 people have either signed up or asked to update their property’s value since November.

“We went from very little registration to oh my gosh,” Larson said.

The agency has stockpiled nearly $10 million because it only has guaranteed the value of residents’ houses a few times, thanks to increasing home values and a loophole that meant the housing collapse didn’t qualify homeowners for payments.

The proposed building project in Jefferson Park has drawn big crowds of irate neighbors to meetings at Ald. John Arena’s 45th Ward office as well as to City Hall hearings. The seven-story complex would have 80 units rented at below market rate, with 20 specifically for people with Chicago Housing Authority vouchers.

A group of homeowners called Northwest Side Unite say the building would be too tall for the neighborhood and that the alderman isn’t looking out for their best interests. The group has sued, saying Arena’s settlement with the developer violates city law.

The group has pushed back against accusations that opponents of the project are racist.

“We are not discriminatory people,” said Trisha Kannon, a member of the group, at a City Hall news conference Thursday. “We care deeply. We are not racists simply because we oppose a development.”

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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