Rick Levin & Associates is selling 82 condominiums in several mixed-income housing developments around Old Town, some of the first projects built as part of the CHA’s Plan For Transformation. But the pitch comes with a hitch: The CHA leases the condos, occupied by public housing residents, under agreements that don’t expire for 17 years or more, and it doesn’t pay any rent.
It’s an investment that requires a leap of faith, a big bet on the future of the North Side condo market without generating any income until the leases expire.
The early projects included three types of housing: market-rate units, mostly condos; units affordable to people with moderate incomes; and public-housing units set aside for poor residents.
Under McLean’s agreement with the CHA, the housing authority controls the public housing units through 40-year master leases. The CHA pays no rent, but it covers operating costs, and the condos are tax-exempt. So while the owner of the condos, a venture once controlled by McLean, doesn’t receive any income from the units, it also incurs no expenses, Levin said. He compared the investment to an annuity or zero-coupon bond.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in the whole country, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Levin said.
McLean said he no longer holds an ownership stake in the condos, referring a reporter to Charles Jesser, managing partner of Jesser Ravid, a Chicago accounting firm. Jesser is the manager of the venture that owns the condos but said he personally owns no stake in the venture and declined to name its investors.
The investors have decided to sell now because they aren’t interested in waiting for a payout, he said. The leases expire 17 to 23 years from now.
“The investors are older, and a 20-year horizon is not in their game plan,” Jesser said.
A buyer could simply sell off the condos after the leases expire or could try to negotiate a new master lease with the CHA, Levin said.