TIF – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop https://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.13 A high-rise at Lathrop Homes? https://www.newstips.org/2013/08/a-high-rise-at-lathrop-homes/ https://www.newstips.org/2013/08/a-high-rise-at-lathrop-homes/#comments Sun, 11 Aug 2013 20:37:06 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7597 The development team hired by CHA for Lathrop Homes issued a “final draft” of their plan last week, but key details are missing and major questions remain in contention.

That includes the height of a high-rise building Lathrop Community Partners wants to build at the southern end of Lathrop — a flashpoint for neighborhood opposition — as well as issues of preservation, replacement of lost public housing, and public financing for private developers.

Built in 1938 along the Chicago River north and south of Diversy, Lathrop features low-rise brick buildings and landscapes designed by leading architects of the day.  It was cited by Preservation Chicago as “the best public housing Chicago has ever built” and named to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

Preservation plan from Landmarks Illinois

Preservation plan from Landmarks Illinois

CHA stopped leasing to new residents in 2000, at first promising a full renovation as public housing, then meandering through a series of planning efforts. At one point plans to demolish and replace the entire development were announced.

LCP, a consortium of for-profit and nonprofit developers led by Related Midwest, a developer of luxury high-rises, was selected by CHA to handle Lathrop’s redevelopment in 2010.  LCP issued three possible scenarios for community discussion last year.

At a community meeting on the “final draft” plan last week, lead designer Doug Farr said LCP had reduced overall unit count to less than 1,200 in response to concerns about excessive density. (One way they did this, it turns out, was removing the 92-unit Lathrop senior building from the count.)  Earlier plans projected 1,300 to 1,600 units.

That goes some of the way toward meeting objections of neighborhood groups and local aldermen — though they had argued that 1300 units on the 37-acre site meant a density level two-and-a-half times the surrounding area.  Lathrop currently has 925 units, with less than a fifth of them occupied.

LCP also reduced proposed retail development to 20,000 square feet, down from a high of 70,000 — with big box stores surrounded by surface parking — in earlier plans.

But although aldermen and neighborhood groups rejected the concept of a high-rise on the site, it’s still in the plan.  LCP is just not saying how high it will be.  They’re not even calling it a “high-rise.”


“The tallest building in the plan we’re calling ‘the iconic building,'” Farr said at a community meeting last week.  “We don’t know the height, we don’t know the unit count.”

The building would “provide focus” to Lathrop’s southern riverfront, he said.

On a model of LCP’s plan available at the meeting, the “iconic building” appeared to be two or three times the height of Lathrop’s nine-story senior building.  In earlier plans, LCP proposed a 28-story building.

“We believe a high-rise development in this neighborhood makes absolutely no sense,” said Paul Savojec, chief of staff for Ald. Scott Waguespack, whose 32nd Ward now includes a portion of Lathrop.  Neighborhood groups they’ve consulted “can’t support downtown-type density level at this site,” he said.

It’s not a new position.  Last year, in response to LCP’s initial plans, Waguespack was joined by 13 neighborhood associations in a letter to CHA demanding “better planning than a revival of the Tower in the Park style,” and noting that while CHA was demolishing high-rise developments elsewhere, LCP proposed “replacing neighborhood-oriented two- and three-story walkups at Lathrop with high-rise and mid-rise towers.”

Two local groups, Hamlin Park Neighbors and Roscoe Village Neighbors, called the proposed high-rise “the very antithesis of the pedestrian scale of the communities of which Lathrop is to be a part.”   They noted that it’s well over a mile from Lathrop to any CTA line, meaning increased auto traffic would be unavoidable in an already heavily congested area.

At one point Waguespack complained that LCP had “a pattern of providing limited opportunities for public input and then placing the feedback aside.”

Says Savojec: “If this were anywhere but a CHA site, what they’re proposing would be dead on arrival.”  He adds: “We don’t think there’s any reason CHA shouldn’t be held to the same planning standards as everyone else.”

While LCP talks about the importance of “integrating” Lathrop into the community — particularly by including retail development in the project — the lesson from CHA’s history is that “nothing is more isolating than going up vertically,” he said.

The only real rationale for increasing the project’s unit count is because “it’s better for the development team,” Sajovec said.  “Every additional unit means greater profit potential for them.”

Attempts to reach LCP for comment were unsuccessful.

“We’re not in a position to say whether the high-rise is appropriate without more details,” said Raymond Valadez, an aide to 1st Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno of the 1st Ward, where the building is proposed.

The building’s size is one of a number of issues on which LCP’s “final draft” is lacking in detail.   “It’s not the final final plan,” said Valadez.

Reflecting the concerns of neighborhood associations, Waguespack will push for “a hard and fast limit on how tall that building can be” in a planned development agreement laying out parameters for Lathrop’s redevelopment, Sajovec said.

They want the agreement to be as specific as possible, he said — in part because of Related Midwest’s record at Roosevelt Square, the company’s other CHA redevelopment project, located on the Near West Side.

Like other CHA mixed-income projects, Roosevelt Square has run into difficulties.  Work there stalled several years ago, and now Related is seeking adjustments in the income mix and construction schedule — and an extension of the local TIF in order to provide continuing financing.


Meanwhile, Lathrop residents and their supporters have been pushing for redevelopment as public and affordable housing that preserves the human scale of the development’s historic architecture and landscaping.  Working with Landmarks Illinois, residents proposed a preservation plan in 2007.

They point out that the surrounding area is saturated with luxury condo developments, including many now in foreclosure — and that market-rate components have stalled redevelopment efforts at CHA mixed-income projects.

Despite this, LCP’s plan has substantially more market-rate housing than other CHA mixed-income projects, where demand for market-rate has not been strong.

With LCP’s “final draft,” residents and housing advocates are concerned that promised replacement housing for public housing to be demolished at Lathrop — 525 off-site units if LCP sticks to its current allotment of 400 on-site units — is not a specific part of the plan.

At the community meeting, CHA’s Michael Jasso said the agency is “working with the development team” to address the issue, and Heartland Housing executive director Michael Goldberg expressed hope that replacement units could be located in “opportunity areas.” That’s the term for economically-thriving communities where CHA is supposed to put new units under a longstanding federal court order.

But asked whether plans for replacement units would be included in the Lathrop master plan, CHA spokesperson Matt Aguilar didn’t directly respond.  Instead, he referred in a written statement to efforts under “Plan Forward,” the new version of the Plan For Transformation, to develop or acquire units “in opportunity and developing neighborhoods.”  And he cited a new RFP to find developers “to deliver units to CHA in a variety of ownership or subsidy structures.”   But nothing about the Lathrop plan itself.

“They’re saying they’ll get to that sometime down the line,” said John McDermott, housing organizer for Logan Square Neighborhood Association, who works with the residents’ Lathrop Leadership Team.  “There’s no real commitment and no accountability.” He cites high land acquisition costs on the North Side along with aldermanic and “not-in-my-backyard” opposition as reasons for skepticism.

Aguilar emphasizes that “although the Lathrop development originally had 925 units, there are less than 165 units occupied today,” and 400 redeveloped public housing units “will more than accommodate the families that have a right of return.”

McDermott points out that Lathrop’s occupancy rate is simply a result of CHA’s refusal to lease units there for the past 13 years.  Public housing advocates have long argued that CHA has emptied its buildings in order to reduce its responsibility for providing housing.

Meanwhile, 200,000 Chicagoans tried to sign up for CHA’s waiting list the last time it was open.

Failure to provide promised replacement units is a problem throughout CHA’s redevelopments.  On Friday, Mary Schmich noted that “barely more than a third of the 1,200 units promised to displaced Cabrini residents have been built” — one reason many people don’t trust CHA, she writes.


One major change in the newest plan is the development team’s commitment to seek federal historic tax credits, available for preservation of sites listed on the National Register.  A project that preserved significant amounts of Lathrop would be eligible for the credits, which can cover 20 percent of development costs.

Earlier plans demolished or altered too much to qualify for the tax credits; developers instead were planning to seek $30 million in TIF funds.

Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago doesn’t think the current plan preserves enough of Lathrop to qualify for the credit.

The “final draft” preserves most of the buildings north of Diversy and a strip of homes on the southern side of the street.  “You can’t tear down most of the structures south of Diversy and call it a ‘preservation plan,'” Miller said.

He’s concerned that a long line of rowhouses along Damen is slated for demolition in LCP’s plan.  “Lathrop is the best of the best, and the rowhouses are really the best of Lathrop,” he said.

Miller thinks LCP and CHA could save save those rowhouses and the block behind them — and still work their market-rate magic — if they looked into using a vacant lot along the riverfront just north of Lathrop, which is currently for sale, as well as the Vienna Beef site south of Lathrop, now being vacated in a TIF-backed move.

Saving the rowhouses would also require scaling back new streets opening onto Damen — which Waguespack’s office suggests would also reduce traffic congestion.  Developers talk about increasing connectivity, Sajovec said, but the streets they’re proposing only open onto big box parking lots on the other side of Damen.

Miller calls for granting Chicago landmark status to the historic buildings and landscapes as part of the memorandum of agreement that will result from a federally-sponsored public review now underway.  The review is required because federal funds are involved in a project impacting a National Register site; its goal is to minimize the negative impact of redevelopment.


But the historic tax credit is only part of the financing picture, and while LCP and CHA aren’t talking about TIF funding now, Savojec warns that “at any point they could come back for it….We don’t think TIF will ever be off the table.”

McDermott calls that an “overwhelming likelihood,” adding: “At that time, when they do come to the city and ask for a TIF, they want the process to be so far along that it’s virtually unstoppable.”

Are they going to come to the city for TIF or other financing — as other private developers have at other CHA redevelopments — because they have too much market-rate housing and can’t sell or rent it?

At bottom, the issue is how much public investment should benefit private interests. Most people probably believe private developers bring significant financial resources to CHA redevelopment projects, but “that’s not the case,” said McDermott.

An analysis CHA public-private deals over the past decade shows that public funds have accounted for well over 80 percent of financing, according to Leah Levinger of the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of community organizations.  Developers themselves put up little and sometimes none of their own capital, she said.  Instead — along with 99-year leases for public land, with affordability requirements that last only 15 to 40 years — they receive huge developer fees from CHA.

And in the process, the supply of affordable housing is diminished, Levinger said.  Under the Plan For Transformation, over the last thirteen years, 18,650 low-rent apartments were demolished and 2,500 were built, she said.

It turns out that rather than private investment and public benefit, it’s the other way around, she said: “It’s like we’re paying to make people homeless.” There’s a double loss involved, she said — low-rent housing demolished while scarce housing resources are diverted to the private sector.

And with Chicago currently considering a new five-year affordable housing plan, she points out, half of the city’s affordable housing funding has been devoted to CHA’s redevelopment — resulting in the net loss of thousands of affordable units.

“Now is the time to think about this,” before the project is underway and more public subsidies are demanded, McDermott said.  “Is this the time to take another direction with Lathrop and adopt an alternate model of the kind that has worked for CHA?”

He points to the successful renovation of Trumbull Park Homes in South Deering — like Lathrop, a low-rise, brick development built by the WPA — as 100-percent public housing; or of Hilliard Homes at Cermak and State as a mix of public and affordable housing.  “Hilliard Homes hasn’t destabilized the South Loop or Chinatown,” he said.

Some opposition to Lathrop residents’ call “no market rate” reflects misperceptions about public and affordable housing.  Public residents at Lathrop now include a group of workers at nearby Costco, McDermott said.  And affordable housing aims at a range of middle-income renters.

At Roosevelt Square, affordable housing is aimed at up to 60 percent of area median income for the metropolitan region, which is about $45,000 for a family of four.  (That’s actually the median income in the city proper.)  CHA resident leaders’ Central Advisory Council has called for redeveloping Lathrop, along with other existing developments in areas with large inventories of market-rate housing, as public and affordable for families earning under 80 percent of AMI, which is $60,000 for a family of four.

The larger context includes a growing shortage of affordable rentals in Chicago — the shortfall was estimated at 130,000 in 2009 — and a glut of market-rate housing.  It also includes a number of CHA public-private mixed-income redevelopments that have stalled.

It includes the elimination of much of the North Side’s affordable housing in a new wave of SRO conversions — and the dramatic growth of low-wage jobs in Chicago.

If providing housing is the goal, rehab is far more cost-effective and much faster to accomplish, Levinger said.  At Trumbull Park, for example, 434 units were fully rehabbed in three years.

On the Near West Side, ABLA’s 3,600 units are supposed to be replaced by 1,467 on- and off-site public housing units — reflecting occupancy levels in the late 1990s — in part through Related’s Roosevelt Square development. In 2000, CHA completed renovation of 330 units of public housing in three years.  Then Related Midwest came in with the Roosevelt Square project; the first of six phases began 2004 and was completed in 2006, producing 414 units, including 127 of public housing.

The first phase got underway after “several false starts,” according to media accounts; the second phase was stalled by the housing crash and now, whenever it does start up, is not going to built all at once, a Related executive told Chicago Journal.

In July, Related won a 13-year extension of Roosevelt Square’s TIF.  According to the Near West Gazette, Midwest Related now projects completion of Roosevelt Square by 2035.  That’s well over 30 years from the start date.

With a timeline like that, Lathrop Homes could easily be finished by 2050.  By then, there could be far fewer families with a “right to return.”

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Mental health cuts called callous, dangerous https://www.newstips.org/2011/11/mental-health-cuts-called-callous-dangerous/ Mon, 14 Nov 2011 00:09:12 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4945 For N’Dana Carter, the proposal to transfer patients from the city’s Beverly-Morgan Park Mental Health Center to the center in Roseland is emblematic of the “callousness” of the cutbacks in Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget.

The Beverly Area Planning Agency and other community groups will rally against the closing of the center on Monday, November 14 from 3 to 6 pm. at 111th and Longwood.

“There’s nowhere else in our community to receive public mental health services,” said Matt Walsh, executive director of BAPA.  Closing the center “would be devastating to the most vulnerable members of our community.”

He adds: “This is people’s lives we’re dealing with here.”

“These are mainly white, mainly middle-aged ladies” going to the clinic, said Carter, an activist (who is African American) with the Mental Health Movement organized by Southside Together Organizing for Power.  They will stand out sharply in the black community of Roseland, on the opposite end of the city’s Far South Side, she said.

“Roseland is very dangerous.  It’s a war zone.  They are putting people in harm’s way.  It’s like putting a sign on their back saying ‘hurt me’.”

‘Too dangerous’

“It’s too dangerous; I would be risking my life to go there,” one Beverly resident and center client told the Beverly Review.

“We’re victims of violence fairly often,” said Fred Friedman, a mental health advocate with Next Steps.  Transferring Beverly patients to Roseland “is a very stupid thing,” he said.

It typifies the lack of concern for patients’ welfare – and for a wide range of costs –involved in closing six of the city’s twelve mental health clinics, advocates say.  The city says the closings will save $3.3 million out of the city’s $6 billion budget.

Along with safety, accessibility is not a minor matter.  When the Northtown Rogers Park clinic temporarily closed for repairs earlier this year, patients were directed fo the North River clinic, far to the west.  Most never made it, a staffer told Chicago Muckrakers.  That’s the same trip Rogers Park clients will now have to make if they want services – permanently.

The staffer predicts that “the vast majority” of Rogers Park clients will not make the transition.

There’s also the issue of breaking the crucial patient-therapist relationship, as staffers are laid off and shuffled around.  That’s a big hurdle for any mental health patient, for whom trust is a major issue and much emotional energy is invested in building a relationship.

Tragic consequences

Sometimes it can have tragic consequences.  Dr. Wiley Rogers, a long-time city therapist and supervisor who now teaches at Olive-Harvey, recalls a client who was obsessive and paranoid.  “He was a big strong fellow, and he scared everybody.  His family was scared of him.

“He thought his medications were part of the plot against him, but because he knew me and trusted me, and because I knew him and knew what buttons to push, I could get him to take his pills.”  Then the relationship was interrupted; the man ended up barricading himself in his room with a gun, police were called, and they shot and killed him.

“You can multiply that incident by a thousand,” Rogers said.

With restricted access to mental health services, more people will end up in hospitals or in jail, with a much lower quality of life – and far greater costs to taxpayers.  Advocates predict higher rates of homelessness and suicide.

“You’ll have more people living under bridges, and more people dying under bridges,” said Rogers.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the city is cutting services, and I think it’s going to end up costing us money,” said Mark Heyerman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School who chairs the Mental Health Summit.

He points to high rates of mental illness among returning prisoners. “They’re coming back to the city untreated, and we are helping only a tiny portion of them,” he said. To illustrate the range of impacts, Carter points out that many clinic patients are parents of CPS children, and they are far better able to suport their children’s academic efforts when they have access to services.

Private agencies cutting back

Patients covered by Medicaid are being referred to private agencies, but because state payments are delayed, “every agency is cutting services and laying off people,” and “waiting times to get services have gone up,” said Heyerman.

The city’s largest private agency has repeatedly been forced to “make heartbreaking decisions” to cut services, said Freidman, who serves on the board of directors of Thresholds.

And while there’s a fairly healthy network of nonprofit providers on the North Side, there are far fewer on the South Side, said Badonna Reingold, who serves on the advisory council of the city’s Woodlawn Mental Health Center.  Four of the six clinics slated for closing are on the South Side.

As far uninsured patients, the city is committing to serve the 3,000 people currently in the system.  “What happens if your are number 3,000-and-1?” asks Friedman.

Demand expected to rise

With the bad economy continuing, the city needs to prepare for more people who need help, Rogers said.

“Most people go to work, come home, pay their bills – the world works for them,” he said.  “You don’t prepare for when it doesn’t work, you can’t take care of yourself, the identity you’ve constructed starts to erode.”

Constant worry can turn into depression, he said.  “You can’t see any future, it feels like the world is at an end.

“If you have a mental health center, where we can give you a 30-minute session, reassure you, encourage you to keep going, tell you life is the experience of success and failure, it’s not all black and white, it’s a process and it goes forward” – and that can save people.

“And that can only be done by a publicly-funded entity, within the context of a society that is committed to taking care of its people,” he said.

Of the proposed clinic closings he says, “The heartlessness of it is amazing.”

Negligible savings

Especially since the savings are negligible.  The $3.3 million is less than half the TIF subsidy Emanuel recently gave to suburban developers to build an upscale grocery across the street from a Dominics in the West Loop.  It’s a portion of the $15 million TIF subsidy that CME has not yet decided whether or not to claim.

It’s a portion of the $20 million head tax the City Council recently voted to phase out – a tax which, at $4 a month, adds about a half-cent an hour to the wage of workers in big companies, and thus is highly unlikely to affect actual hiring decisions.

“These TIF funds should go to schools and clinics and other services we need,” said Gail Davis, a Beverly-Morgan Park client and Mental Health Movement activist.  “Community mental health centers help keep our communities safe.”

The cuts are wildly disproportionate too:  while Emanuel’s budget projects spending reductions of somewhat less than 10 percent, community services are being cut 17.7 percent – including the layoff of 200 employees working on senior services, head start, domestic violence, homeless and workforce development programs.  The public health department is being cut a whopping 34 percent.

The impact of the closings on the Latino community will be highlighted at a press conference at the Northwest Clinic, 2354 N. Milwaukee, Tuesday, November 15 a 10:30 a.m. The Mental Health Movement will hold a People’s Budget Assembly at noon on Tuesday at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington.  The City Council is slated to vote on the budget Wednesday.

On Whittier, the Tribune is duped https://www.newstips.org/2011/06/on-whittier-the-tribune-is-duped/ https://www.newstips.org/2011/06/on-whittier-the-tribune-is-duped/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2011 22:24:16 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4504 The Chicago Tribune wants to hold Whittier parents to account for the costs of delaying a new library at the Pilsen elementary school.

There’s another way of looking at it.  You could also hold CPS leadership to account for commencing the project in a manner that seemed designed to foment a confrontation.

You might even ask about contracts being let before the Board of Education approved the project.

And it would be interesting to get a breakdown of the $150,000 that CPS officials claim as the cost of the construction delay – quite arguably due to their mismanagement of a delicate situation.

Gapers Block has its own questions.

One central fact is disputed.  The Tribune is incorrect in reporting that there was an agreement to build the library inside the school, Whittier Parents Committee organizers say.

As Newstips reported yesterday, they maintain that negotiations were cut off when Ron Huberman resigned as CPS chief last year, before the parents committee’s proposal could be considered.  (As the Tribune reports, they have videotapes of the meetings; they say these back them up.)

Aside from that, the Tribune employs a good bit of innuendo (and a bit of red-baiting) suggesting the Whittier parents are dupes.

There’s a dark, vague allusion to the past involvement of two activists with the Pilsen Alliance (which is actually a well-regarded organization, now mainly focused on environmental issues).  This is curious, since it fails to mention that Whittier was a community school, with Pilsen Alliance as its community partner.  Funding for the partnership came through CPS.  That meant ESL and GED classes, along with a women’s economic development project.

There’s a strange reference to a ten-room expansion the parents supposedly “wanted,” which would supposedly cost $1.5 million.  That never happened, said Alejandra Ibanez, former executive director of the Pilsen Alliance and program director at the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation since 2010.

There was a brainstorming session with UIC architecture students where a three-classroom smaller expansion was one of many ideas, but it was never presented to CPS, she said.  It was never costed out, either, she said.

There’s an odd treatment of Ald. Danny Solis’s allocation of TIF funds for building improvements.  The Tribune says “the group appealed to Solis, who allocated $1.7 million in TIF funds.”

“That was a seven-year fight,” says Ibanez.  Solis finally agreed in 2009 – he actually allocated $1.4 million — at a time when he was getting additional heat from community outrage after CPS turned over the De La Cruz Middle School building to charter school operated by UNO, which Solis founded.  (De La Cruz students were sent to Whittier.)

None of this is in the Tribune’s account, which pretty clearly sets forth the version of events that CPS brass prefers.

Ibanez said she finds insulting the notion that the Whittier parents are being manipulated.  “There’s always been a strong core of parents,” she said. “They’ve been incredibly consistent all the way through.  They have always been the leaders there.”

It was the parents who insisted on maintaining the school’s fieldhouse, she said.

“It’s typical” of a certain mindset “to see loud brown women” and assume “they must not know any better; they must be being led astray.”

Finley Peter Dunne notwithstanding, a lot of journalism serves to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.  By such lights, something is just not right when people who are supposed to be powerless come together and demand to be heard.

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Renters stressed https://www.newstips.org/2009/09/renters-stressed/ Fri, 18 Sep 2009 23:12:26 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=730 With more renters paying unaffordable rents and foreclosures and unemployment continuing, we could see “a surge of homelessness” that rivals the recession of the early 1980s — unless the federal government steps in with “a sustained intervention,” said Sheila Crowley of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Crowley spoke Tuesday at the release of a new study by the Metropolitan Tenants Association which found that half of Chicago’s renters are paying over a third of their income for rent, with nearly 30 percent paying over half their income.

The study is intended encourage Obama administration efforts to rebalance housing policy, which has long been criticized by advocates as favoring home ownership over rental and low-income housing.

Based on information from MTO’s tenant hotline confirmed by census data, the study found the proportion of rental households has decreased on the North and South Lakefront, where they previously predominated, while rising on the Northwest and Southwest Sides, traditionally characterized by home ownership.

Those areas often have fewer needed services, fewer shopping and transportation options, and community groups less geared toward tenant issues, said John Bartlett of MTO.

In addition, tenants are increasingly housed in smaller buildings, often owned by individuals rather than real estate partnerships. These landlords may be more likely to have financial problems and thus “more likely to have trouble getting repairs done or keeping utilities on” — and also more likely to face foreclosure, Bartlett said.

And after foreclosure, banks are more likely to vacate smaller properties than to continue renting them, he said. And often maintenance deteriorates or stops entirely.

There are some steps the city could take, Bartlett said. A “just-cause eviction ordinance” would give security to tenants who pay their rent and follow the rules, and would “recognize the importance of creating stable tenancies.” He called for 20 percent of TIF funds to be used for affordable housing, and for strategies to encourage landlords to maintain their properties.

But citing a shortage of 180,000 affordable rental units in Cook County, he said the problem requires a federal response.

National Housing Trust Fund

The report calls for fully funding the new National Housing Trust Fund, increasing the HUD budget with more funding for both project-based subsidized housing and vouchers, reenacting the requirement of one-for-one replacement of public housing, and increased use of nonprofit developers to build and manage affordable housing.

Crowley credited the Obama administration with reversing the decline in HUD funding relative to need and for proposing a $1 billion allocation for the trust fund in the 2010 HUD budget. The fund — the first new federal program in 35 years for building and preserving low-income housing — was created a year ago but its funding stream was diverted to mortgage refinancing efforts.

As a potential revenue source she pointed to the federal mortgage interest deduction. At $80 billion, it’s nearly twice the size of the entire HUD budget. It allows deductions up to a million dollars for two homes, is claimed by less than a quarter of homeowners, and three-fourths of the benefit goes to the top 50 percent of taxpayers, she said.

Reducing the cap on the deduction would save billions, and changing the benefit to a tax credit — as proposed by President Bush’s tax reform commission — would save billions more and extend it to all homeowners.

The benefit “doesn’t encourage home ownership; it encourages people to get bigger houses and bigger mortgages,” she said.

MTO’s hotline, funded by the city, has taken more than 150,000 calls since 1994, collecting information and tracking data while assisting tenants. The study found that 70 percent of callers were women, and most requested assistance improving physical conditions of their buildings, including security.

“Many of these calls were generated from neighborhoods on the South and West Sides where there had been growth in rental housing and/or stress from foreclosure,” according to the report. Those areas also generated high numbers of calls related to involuntary relocations.

The length of time volunteers spend with callers on hotline requests has gone up “as problems become more acute and complex,” said study co-author Ann Barnds, a former MTO organizer now at UIC. With 10,000 calls a year, “that’s a lot of listening,” she said.

At bottom what’s needed is a new way of thinking about housing, said Bartlett. “It seems like the current approach treats housing as a financial investment instead of an investment in families, in kids doing well in school, in people staying healthy, in commuities where people feel attached because they know they can continue to live there,” he said.

Coalition Opposes Property Tax Hikes https://www.newstips.org/2007/10/coalition-opposes-property-tax-hikes/ Tue, 30 Oct 2007 06:00:00 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=2917 A citywide tax reform coalition is demanding that proposals to raise property taxes be withdrawn.

The Tax Reform Action Coalition will hold a press conference at City Hall (2nd floor) at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 31.

Members of the TRAC, which includes 45 community groups from across the city, hope to give public comment on the city’s budget proposal after the City Council meeting Wednesday morning.

Community activists from West Town and Brighton Park will speak at the press conference Wednesday morning. “We’ll have important people there — registered voters and taxpayers,” said Barb Head of TRAC.

The stop-gap extension of the cap on increases in property tax assessments passed recently in Springfield was “far short of what we need,” Head said. Chicago taxpayers are getting “hammered” this year by reassessments reflecting five years of strong real estate appreciation, she said, while Mayor Daley proposes a huge property tax increase and County Board President Stroger seeks a hike for the forest preserves.

As a long-term, systemic reform, TRAC backs acquisition-based assessment, limiting increases to a small percentage and reassessing properties when they are sold, based on actual purchase prices. “It’s fair and predictable,” Head said, adding that longtime residents of neighborhoods undergoing development have seen their assessments go up by hundreds of percent in recent years.

Where should the money come from, if property tax hikes are unacceptable? Head suggests looking at the $400 million a year in property tax revenue that is set aside – with no public accountability – in over 150 TIFs in the city