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Housing Advocacy

CCH manages Sweet Home Chicago, an affordable housing campaign led by nine community organizations and a labor union. Sweet Home Chicago Coalition proposed and drafted key amendments to Chicago’s TIF Purchase Rehab Ordinance. Now, tax-increment financing (TIF) funds can be made available to redevelop apartment buildings for lower-wage households, improving the city’s stock of rental housing.

In February 2014, after months of advocacy by Sweet Home Chicago, the city adopted a 5-Year Housing Plan that committed to dedicating $35 million by 2019 toward rental housing redevelopment via TIF Purchase Rehab.

Partners in the campaign were Action NOW, Albany Park Neighborhood Council (now Communities United), Bickerdike Redevelopment, CCH, Community Renewal Society, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), Organization of the NorthEast (ONE Northside), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois/Indiana, and Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP).

Sweet Home Chicago also advocated on the design of a Cook County Land Bank, seeking to restore some of the 55,000 vacant and foreclosed properties countywide. Our coalition advocates for the restoration of housing. Since 2013, CCH Policy Director Julie Dworkin serves on the land bank Board of Directors.

In 2014, CCH was among several Sweet Home Chicago partners working with the Chicago For All coalition, led by ONE Northside. We proposed and negotiated a city ordinance to stop the rapid loss of  single-room occupancy (SRO) housing. Enacted in November 2014, the ordinance seeks to stem the loss of SRO buildings converted to high-end rental housing, mostly on the North Side. More than 2,200 SRO units were lost in three years and another 6,000 units are at-risk – losses that would impact at least that many low-wage people. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown has reported extensively on the human impact of recent SRO closures, touting Chicago For All’s efforts to save “a precious last chance affordable housing option for the poor.”

Several Sweet Home Chicago partners, including CCH, worked in a six-group coalition that persuaded the Chicago City Council in March 2015 to strengthen its Affordable Requirements Ordinance. The regulations govern what housing developers must do to provide affordable housing on projects that require a zoning change, a planned development designation, use of city land or a city subsidy. Though not in effect for 18 months, it increased the requirements and in-lieu of fees charged to developers that fail to set aside the required number of affordable housing units for low wage households. Mayor Emanuel’s administration predicted the tougher ordinance would generate 1,200 housing units and $90 million in fees, half of which is to be paid to the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund’s rent subsidy program.

In 2013, CCH also joined several Sweet Home partners to enact Keep Chicago Renting. Led by Albany Park Neighborhood Council, we worked two years to pass a city ordinance that allows tenants to pay rent and stay housed after a lender has foreclosed on a building owner. Lenders that move to evict rent-paying tenants are required to pay each household $10,600 for relocation costs.

More about Sweet Home Chicago’s TIF Purchase Rehab Ordinance:

In designated TIF districts, developers of multi-unit rental housing can apply for TIF funds covering 30% to 50% of purchase/rehab costs. To meet these requirements, developers must rent 30% to 50% of units to households that earn no more than half of Area Median Income (AMI), or $37,700 for a family of four. Sweet Home Chicago works with Chicago’s Department of Housing and Economic Development (DHED) on the designation of TIF districts. In 2013, the first $1 million in funding was awarded to restore 35 apartments in two buildings located in the Ogden/Pulaski TIF district. Three more districts, all for $1 million, were designated in 2014.

In July 2012, the Chicago City Council OK’d key amendments to the TIF Building ordinance that the Sweet Home Coalition helped write. To avoid tenant displacement, the ordinance no longer requires a building be vacant. The amended ordinance also allows developers to bundle several smaller buildings (two- to four-flats) into a larger development that can be rehabbed for rental housing. Much of the vacant, foreclosed housing stock in Chicago are smaller buildings. This amendment makes the ordinance as flexible as possible for developers to create rental housing with larger and smaller properties.

Alderman Walter Burnett (27th) was lead sponsor of the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance.

For more information, contact Associate Policy Director Eithne McMenamin at (312) 641-4140 or