Chicago: Affordable housing advocates say proposal falls short

Eithne McMenamin, associate director of policy, Chicago
Coalition for the Homeless speaks on the housing proposal complaints.

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Afordable housing advocates gathered at City Hall on
Wednesday morning ahead of the Chicago City Council meeting to complain that
the city’s latest effort to preserve and increase the supply of housing for
low- and moderate-income residents does not go far enough.

An ordinance introduced Wednesday would create three
development zones within the city and treat multifamily housing developers in
each of those zones differently if their projects require a zoning change or
city financial assistance. If they choose to write a check to an affordable
housing fund rather than develop those types of units either on-site or, in
some cases, nearby, the in-lieu fees would range from $50,000 per affordable
housing unit in low- to moderate-income areas to as much as $225,000 per
required unit in downtown condominium developments.

coalition supports the higher fees that developers downtown and in high-income
areas would have to pay if they don’t include affordable units on-site or,
under some circumstances, within a mile. But advocates said an in-lieu fee of
$50,000 in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods would do little to stop the
gentrification that is pushing longtime residents out of their communities.

“Almost none of the money has been
used to build affordable housing in the neighborhoods where new development is
happening, where the most affordable housing is being lost,” said Eithne
McMenamin, associate director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the
Homeless. “It doesn’t create balanced development. It further divides the

Currently, market-rate developers who don’t offer an affordable housing
component pay a fee of $100,000 per required unit. Since the city’s Affordable
Requirements Ordinance took effect in 2007, developers have paid $19 million in
fees while creating only 247 units of affordable housing.

At a press conference, a coalition of
groups that advocate for affordable housing for low- and moderate-income
consumers and the disabled said they considered the proposal only a good
starting point.

Developers also don’t like the proposal,
and have said it will lead to canceled projects and lost jobs.

The proposal was referred to the council’s
Housing and Real Estate Committee as well as the Zoning Committee for

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