Chicago Tribune: Affordable housing advocates say proposal falls short

By Mary Ellen Podmolik, Housing Reporter

Affordable 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.

The 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 city.”

LINK to the video interview with Eithne McMenamin.

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 consideration.