Aaron Gettinger, staff writer | Sep 7, 2022 Updated Sep 8, 2022
Ebony Lucas, an Oakland real estate attorney, is the first declared candidate for next year’s open-seat election for alderperson of the 4th Ward, focusing on affordable housing and local commercial development.
"I still live in the community. I still love this community. I'm still passionate about the development that can occur in this community when it comes to bringing jobs and more commercial development here, when it comes to affordable housing," she said in an interview. "Those are the things that have always been important to me and will continue to be important to me that I've continued to work on since the last time I ran."
In her practice, Lucas said she has worked to educate people through her work to foster understanding about housing options. She said it is not uncommon for her to have clients go from paying $1,600 a month in rent to $900 in monthly mortgage payments.
"Programs that create opportunities for people to be able to purchase homes" could create affordable housing, she said. She would like to see this backed by down-payment assistance programs, and she said people could be judged worthy of mortgages by whether they pay their rents on time instead of their credit scores alone.
Lucas furthermore suggested landlords receive tax benefits to incentivize low rents.
"The aldermen legislate for the City of Chicago. There are state and federal funds available to the city that we can create these opportunities that will help us maintain and create opportunities for affordable housing," she said.
"We have a lot of vacant lots in the 4th Ward. We have a lot of commercial properties that are vacant. When we bring businesses in these properties, then these owners in these properties are no longer able to have their property taxes abated because their properties are vacant. Now if we're building on these vacant lots, we have more taxpayers. More taxpayers brings in more tax dollars."
In terms of public safety, Lucas suggested investments in commercial development, like the public-private Invest South/West initiative, to create jobs as well as mental health care and trauma support for students and families.
Asked how her professional experience has prepared her for establishing a working relationship with the city services constituents need and advocating for them, Lucas pointed to her 18 years as managing partner of her own law firm, the Property Law Group, as well as her investments in real estate.
"I pride myself on providing quality housing to people, and I live in the community," she said. "It's important to me to see all of those things taken care of, making sure that our trash is picked up, making sure that our trees are cut."
She said trees on city-owned land in her neighborhood are overgrown, limiting visibility and thereby imperiling public safety, and that it takes years for the city to send workers out to trim them.
"Those types of things are unacceptable," she said.
It's Lucas' third run for the seat — she ran in the 2017 special election and in 2019 — but there's a difference this time: the incumbent, Ald. Sophia King, is not seeking reelection.
"Things have changed," Lucas said. "The previous incumbent had a lot of support, and everyone wanted to give her a chance. And she accomplished what she needed to accomplish as the 4th Ward alderman, and she's moving on now to run for mayor. So the opportunity is there for someone else who's just as passionate about the community to come in and continue the programs that are already going on and to expand on them.
"I definitely think that my experience as a businessperson, my experience as someone in real estate, my experiences really being a member of the community and being active in the community, whether it's been Bud Billiken or Mandrake Park (3858 S. Cottage Grove Ave.; she served as president of its park advisory council) or 4th on 53rd — really being active in a lot of community programs and with a lot of community organizations, I have a lot to share with the ward."