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TIF reform? Not yet.

With the release of his TIF Reform Panel report, Mayor Emanuel may want to check “TIF reform” off his to-do list, but community activists who work on the issue say that would be highly premature.

“They’re talking about transparency as if that’s all we have to do,” said Sonia Kwon of the Raise Your Hand Coalition.  “Transparency and accountability are just tools to reform TIF.  I don’t see this as TIF reform.”

In any case, Emanuel’s panel skips “the first step in transparency” – listing TIF information on property tax bills, said Kwon.  “To know you are in a TIF district and how much of your tax money is going to TIF – that’s the first step.”

That was a major proposal of the Community TIF Task Force of the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, which brought together dozens of community groups, said Jacqueline Leavy, former executive director of NCBG.  (It was also a major proposal of then-Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, apparently forgotten when he reacted enthusiastically to the report this week.)

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On TIF reform, Bronzeville has ideas

Bronzeville residents turned out in impressive numbers for last Thursday’s public forum of the Mayor’s Task Force on TIF Reform, which was held at the Bronzeville Chicago Military Academy.

Other communities were represented, but more forums in additional communities would certainly offer the task force greater breadth of public input.  But last week’s was the only hearing that is planned.

Bronzeville is one of the city’s most heavily TIFed communities, with thirteen TIF districts covering 80 percent of the area, many created to finance CHA redevelopments – with more in the works had Mayor Daley won the 2016 Olympic games, according to Housing Bronzeville.

Sheila Carter testified on behalf of the group that TIFs have “failed local taxpayers” in their lack of transparency and accountability.  It’s been “virtuallly impossible for local residents to understand how TIF monies were being raised and spent in our area,” she said, suggesting “this confusion and lack of documentation was intentional.”

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TIF funds for affordable housing

TIF-funded development has helped create Chicago’s housing crisis, and TIF funds can be used to alleviate it, according to a coalition of housing groups.

The Sweet Home Chicago Coalition, calling for a portion of TIF funds to be dedicated to affordable housing, will march and rally in Humboldt Park tomorrow — highlighting two affordable developments built with TIF funds.

In a Wizard of Oz-themed event, residents and advocates will gather Thursday, 11:15 a.m. at God’s Army Church, 647 N. Kedzie, and follow “Dorothy” down a Yellow Brick Road representing TIF money.

They’ll pass the new Rosa Parks Apartments and rally at the Harold Washington Unity Cooperative, 649 N. Troy. Both are projects of the Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp., a coalition member, and both were built using a variety of financing, including TIF funds.

The coalition is calling on the city to devote 20 percent of annual TIF collections to affordable housing. According to a recent study by the coalition, only 4 percent of TIF funds went to affordable housing between 1995 and 2007.

The study found TIF development is “pricing out” neighborhood residents and strategies to reduce TIF-related displacement are inadequate. Many TIF-financed residential units considered affordable by regional standards are too expensive for neighborhood residents, it found.

It recommended that affordable housing funding be targeted to lower income levels, where the shortage of available housing is greatest.

Rosa Parks Apartments

Developed with a variety of public and private financing sources, the Rosa Parks Apartments offers apartments affordable to families earning 15, 30, and 50 percent of area median income.

The median income in Humboldt Park was about $28,000 for a family of four in 2000. According to the coalition’s study, the city’s standard for TIF funding for affordable rental housing is 60 percent of regional median income, or $45,000 for a family of four; and most affordable housing created by TIF set-asides was for-sale housing, where the standard was 100 percent of the regional median, or $75,000 for a family of four.

Rosa Parks is Bickerdike’s first comprehensively-planned green development, featuring a rooftop garden and geothermal and solar water systems. Construction is underway, and the first three six-flats were occupied this summer.

The 94-unit, $27.2 million project received $3.5 million in TIF funds. The 86-unit Harold Washington Co-op, a $17 million renovation occupied in 2007, received $1 million in TIF funds.

According to the study, out of nearly $3 billion in total TIF revenues, $127 million in TIF funds went to affordable housing from 1995 to 2007. The city’s TIF districts are currently estimated to have $1.3 billion.

Among Thursday’s speakers is Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward), who helped obtain financing for the Rosa Parks Apartments. Burnett is expected to sponsor an ordinance dedicating 20 percent of TIF funds to affordable housing targeted to city income levels.

A longstanding “mismatch between supply and demand” in the housing market has fueled “skyrocketing demand for affordable rental housing” — which presents “a chance to get people working right now,” commented Bickerdike executive director Joy Aruguete.



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