Chicago Mayor Has New Plan for Gentrifying Neighborhoods – Next City

Chicago Mayor Has New Plan for Gentrifying Neighborhoods

Chicago's 606 elevated trail (Credit: The 606 Chicago)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will present a new measure that would force developers in Chicago’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods to build more affordable housing, DNA Info reports. But at least one other city leader has taken issue with the mayor’s definition of “affordable,” claiming the measure won’t actually help working-class residents stay in their homes.

In the last several years, Emanuel has introduced quite a few ideas for investing in Chicago’s neighborhoods (including ones connected to development), with varying success so far.

Under the city’s current rules, any developer building projects with 10 or more units must set aside 10 percent of them for below-market-rate housing. At least 25 percent of those units must be on-site, but developers are allowed to pay a fee (of up to $225,000 per unit) rather than building the balance. Under the new approach, which Emanuel is expected to present early next month, developers in several neighborhoods would no longer be allowed to pay that “in-lieu fee” instead of building the units.

“Access to affordable housing is critical to Chicago’s legacy as one of the world’s most livable big cities, especially as the real estate market undergoes unprecedented neighborhood development,” Emanuel said, according to DNA Info. “This initiative will create more affordable units in targeted areas while helping the city to assess the most effective ways of meeting neighborhood affordable housing goals.”

One alderman, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, doesn’t see sufficient affordability. He called it “a joke and a handout to developers,” according to DNA Info, and criticized its income limits.

Beyond developer fees, there have been other efforts in Chicago to combat rising rents. Last year, the Community Investment Corporation (a local CDFI) got a $3.1 million grant to seed a program designed to encourage developers in strong markets to participate in the Chicago Housing Authority’s project-based voucher program. That was shortly after Emanuel announced that the city of Chicago would invest $100 million (over three years) into a fund to create jobs, support businesses and more in long-neglected neighborhoods.

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.

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Tags: affordable housingchicagoreal estategentrification