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New city housing plan downplaying affordability?

While the proportion of Chicago residents challenged by housing costs has surged in the past decade — half of all renters and homeowners are now officially “housing cost-burdened” — the city has apparently dropped the word “affordable” from its next five-year housing plan.

This odd and unexplained omission was widely commented on at a recent gathering of South Side housing activists, called by the Chicago Rehab Network to foster discussion and generate interest in the city plan.

“I am concerned about them taking the word ‘affordable’ out as if it were something to be ashamed of,” said Mattie Butler of Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors.

“Affordability is not just for people with subsidies,” she added — particularly since the city continues to measure affordability by the regional median income of $75,000 (as of 2010); the median income in the city is under $47,000.

(A Newstip on CHA demolitions last year pointed out that the large bulk of the city’s “affordable housing” production is targeted well above the lower reaches of the income range –indeed,  much of it above the city’s median income.)

“The city has dropped the word ‘affordable,’ but we have to make sure that affordability continues to be the focus of the plan,” said Janet Smith of UIC’s Voorhees Center.

She presented an overview of housing issues in Chicago as “a tale of two cities,” with thousands of high-end rental units under construction around the Loop while neighborhoods continue to be ravaged by the foreclosure crisis — and housing becomes less and less affordable.

Between 2000 and 2010, the proportion of renters paying over a third of their income for housing — the federal standard for “cost-burdened” — rose by 32.5 percent, and the proportion of homeowners who are cost-burdened rose by an astonishing 78 percent, she said.  (See CRN’s new City of Chicago Housing Fact Sheet.)

According to Smith, 50.2 percent of tenants and 49.5 percent of homeowners were cost-burdened in 2010, up from 37.9 and 27.8 percent, respectively, ten years before.

The loss of 200,000 residents in the past decade — mainly families, and 90 percent of them African-American — should serve as a wake-up call, she said.

In recent decades, the city has “settled into patterns of segregation,” and concentration of poverty has increased, she said.

Among those who spoke out at the CRN gathering were community leaders from South Chicago, Chicago Lawn, Bronzeville, Woodlawn, Englewood, and Chatham.

Among the issues they raised:

Tax increment financing:  An effort several years ago to dedicate a portion of TIF funds to affordable housing was scuttled by then-Mayor Daley.  Acitivists called for greater transparency — and for deploying TIF financing to create jobs and affordable housing in the communities where taxpayers live.

Demolitions:  “We do not need any more demolitions,” said a Woodlawn resident, and many indicated agreement — and opposition to the city’s practice of marking vacant buildings with red Xs.

USX site:  Community groups are pushing for a community benefits agreement with developers who want to build on the huge lakefront site.

CHA: The new CHA plan eliminates promises made to residents who were displaced under the first plan, one public housing resident said.  “Families thought the Plan For Transformation would mean more resources for them,” she said, “but many of them ended up homeless.”

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development hasn’t responded to a request for clarification regarding the title of the plan.

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Category: housing

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4 Responses

  1. TJ Banks says:

    The city is doing what’s best for Chicago in the long run and dropping “affordable”. The financial state of Illinois is horrible and they need to maximize every tax dollar. Helping the less fortunite is important, and should always be high on the agenda. The issue that stems from affordable is the abuse of it by citizens who should not be on assistance programs. Ive been a big supportor for the less fortunate folks and personally donate money and time to helping them. The problem that needs to be addressed first is how to rid the program of scammers. The current system doesn’t work and is abused by opportunistic individuals who don’t care about others. They need to revamp the entire program and rid it of all the scammers before they can implement new programs or start old ones back up. The people who require assistnce and affordable housing a great people.

  2. Mia says:

    Cha isn’t building affordable housing either. The crime is so bad now because they dispersed all those people and the crime followed. I didn’t realize how segregated Chicago, IL was until I moved to Minneapolis, MN. I should have never came back to Chicago. Chicago has the most corrupt politicians ever. The city is fallen apart by all the gun violence we have been having lately. The Chicago Housing Authority tore down all those projects and displaced all those people thinking they were going to get the Olympics but didn’t. So now instead of having crime in one area it’s all over the city now. God don’t like ugly and he ain’t too fond of pretty. The city unlike Minneapolis do not take care of it’s people when we need it. The cost of living keep going up yet the crime isn’t going down. The transit authority(CTA) are raising their prices and service sucks. The segregation is crazy. It’s like it’s 1955 here in Chicago. I think the city would be even better if we could all come together and live. Chicago is not only racially segregated but economically segregated as well. I’m moving back to Minnesota where all races and creeds live together. I want to move back therer because I know if I need help they will help me. I like the cost of living there also. The schools are great and the crime is low.

  3. All part of the University of Chicago’s “spacial de-concentration plan by plutocratic leadership in Chicago, concentrating on displacing African Americans out of the inner city neighborhoods of Chicago. The attack against African Americans began with the displacement of public housing residents and wholesale demolition of public housing high rise buildings and now is focused on school closing and firing black middle class school teachers.

  4. Mia88 says:

    Cha got over 85,000 people on their Scattered site, Family housing, Senior housing, and their Section 8 waitlists. Cha got over 35,000 empty unit’s that they continue to accept funds for. Cha needs to do their jobs and house people. There are too many people in the shelters and on the streets for cha to be doing this. I was told they will reopen the waiting lists this year. That’s why they doing a update. People if your on the list update your name please.

    They also got HUD on their backs and cha suppose to be doing away with the 1/3rd which is good. We need more low income apts.

    I don’t care what day it is Chicago isn’t safe to be doing much of anything anymore.

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