City Council to debate ‘Development for All Ordinance’ in Public Hearing Wednesday

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Old brick Chicago buildings on a street (Adobe Stock)

Aldermen, Citywide Coalition of Housing Organizations, Labor Unions Push for Meaningful, Data-Based Policy Response to City’s Segregation and Housing Crisis

The City Council will hold a Subject Matter Hearing on the Development for All Ordinance, a comprehensive proposal to address flaws and short-comings in the City’s current Affordable Requirements Ordinance, respond to the affordable housing crisis, and address the city’s enduring segregation. The hearing will be Wednesday, December 11th with a 12:30 p.m. Press Conference and a 1:00-4:00 p.m. Subject Matter Hearing. The event will be held at City Council Chambers, 121 N. LaSalle, 2nd Floor.

There is a housing crisis everyone is feeling and no one can ignore. Chicago remains one of the most segregated and unequal cities in America. More than 280,000 Black residents were forced out of Chicago since the last census, and more than 40,000 Latinx residents have been pushed out of Pilsen and Logan Square alone in the last 10 years. Over half of Cook County renters of all races are paying more than they can afford. On Wednesday, Chicago’s City Council will hold a Subject Matter Hearing on the first of two comprehensive Ordinances introduced by a Coalition of Aldermen, community groups, and labor unions to meaningfully respond to these facts on the ground through policy.

CHICAGO– Affordable housing took center stage in Chicago’s 2019 Municipal elections. Over 1,500 people attended a Mayoral Candidates forum on affordable housing in December 2018. Both candidates in the mayoral runoff spoke frequently and in depth about affordable housing issues. Mayor Lightfoot’s Transition Report identified a staggering shortfall of 120,000 affordable homes in the City of Chicago, among many other indicators of Chicago’s affordable housing crisis. Former Alderman Joe Moore was swept out of office in a landslide, due in part to his 4 years obstructing affordable housing legislation in his role as Chair of City Council’s Housing Committee.

In the midst of this context, 20 Aldermen led by chief sponsor, Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), and a partnering coalition of 37 community organizations and 3 labor unions are leading efforts to pass a package of affordable housing legislation to respond to Chicago’s affordable housing crisis and finally address the City’s persistent segregation and neighborhood inequality.

The major provisions of the Development for All Ordinance are:

–        Adding a groundbreaking tier structure to the ARO that takes aim at Chicago’s “Tale of Two Cities”, where some neighborhoods suffer from runaway gentrification and displacement while others languish in disinvestment laid down by decades of racist housing policy and the city’s appalling history of redlining and de jure segregation. The Development for All Ordinance would increase affordability requirements in the wealthiest and highest-rent parts of the City to 30% set-aside, as well as those facing the most displacement pressure, to create a more equal development and investment landscape in Chicago. Through this “tiered” affordable set-aside structure, we aim to reduce the city’s segregation, and increase relative incentives for developers to invest in overlooked neighborhoods on the south and west sides still suffering from the City’s legacy of redlining and disinvestment.

–        Stop pervasive developer opt-outs crippling affordable housing production under the Affordable Requirements Ordinance, which produced only 441 affordable apartments on-site in the decade between 2007 and 2017.

–        Create genuinely affordable rents for minimum wage workers, households of color, and people with disabilities by amending the ARO regulations to re-define “affordable” to tiers of rent at 30-50% AMI instead of 60% AMI.

–        Cut off the ways Aldermanic prerogative can function in white wards to block the integration of affordable housing, to instead begin to transform the patterns of segregation laid down decades ago.

Mayor Lightfoot herself has acknowledged the City’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance is not working. Three weeks ago, on November 20th, Mayor Lightfoot announced a Task Force to reform the ARO. The Task Force will meet for the first time this coming Thursday, a day after the City Council’s Subject Matter Hearing on the Development for All Ordinance.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, lead sponsor of the Development for All Ordinance, was an on-the-ground community advocate and organizer for affordable housing for nearly a decade before being elected to City Council in April. “For the past 10 years, I’ve seen the existing ARO fail our city and the thousands of families that have been displaced by unaffordable mass development,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “Our city finally has leadership in place that refuses to disregard and ignore multiple generations of people who have made their home in Chicago. This ordinance ensures that affordable housing is no longer an ‘option’ but rather a priority to remedy our city’s housing crisis.”

Cheryl Johnson, a board member of the Chicago Housing Initiative and Executive Director of People for Community Recovery in Roseland, “By starting to require 30% affordable housing in new development in the most affluent and high-rent neighborhoods in Chicago, not only will we begin to produce more affordable housing in predominantly white neighborhoods that remain segregated and separate, we will also begin to financially incentivize developers to think more about neighborhoods they currently overlook. We can move past the patterns of extreme hyper-development and extreme under-development that harm all of us and define Chicago neighborhoods on both sides of town to everyone’s detriment.”

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