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CHICAGO-Condominium developers might be feeling more pressure to get on board with a volunteer effort to provide more affordable units in their proposed projects. Or perhaps they should be, suggests plan commission chairman Peter Bynoe.

Impressed by MR Properties, LLC’s plans to write down the purchase price of 10 of its 101 units proposed for 31-39 S. Morgan St. in the West Loop, Bynoe wondered why 730 N. LaSalle St. LLC wasn’t doing the same for its River North project that includes 55 condominiums. Neither proposal calls for city subsidies, Bynoe notes.

MR Properties voluntarily set aside 10 units at the city’s “affordable” price of $155,000 per unit under the Chicago Partnership for Affordable Neighborhoods, writing down about $60,000 on each of those units, says Richard Monocchio, department of housing first deputy commissioner. That is in line with Mayor Richard M. Daley’s request for the development community to provide more affordable housing in a city where new projects have mostly catered to the upper echelons.

“The beauty of this is, the city isn’t contributing anything,” Monocchio says.

While prices at 31-39 S. Morgan will start at $189,000 for the 41 one-bedroom units and go as high as $439,000 for the 60 two-bedroom units, the price per sf at 730 and 740 N. LaSalle St. will range from $350 to $400, says attorney Jim Banks. That translates into $300,000 to $800,000 sales prices for most units, with a penthouse costing in the neighborhood of $1 million.

Meeting the city’s current affordable definition of $155,000 would require much steeper write-downs at the LaSalle St. project. However, Phil Levin of the department of planning and development explains that the project was further along that the West Loop proposal when Daley’s suggestion was made. And while planners will suggest an affordable component in condominium plans, Levin adds aldermanic support also will be solicited.

Given the city’s tradition of aldermanic prerogative over zoning issues in their wards, that could make or break plans for affordable housing, whether developers propose them voluntarily or at the suggestion of city hall.

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