Affordable housing and Black flight in Chicago

The City of Chicago is experiencing a decline in the Black Population.  Lack of quality education, economic opportunities, increased crime, and the lack of affordable housing has contributed to the population decline in the city.  The combination of the decline of the black population and the gentrification of many Chicago neighborhoods has left some longtime residents of the South and Westside communities feeling uneasy.  This combination has driven up rents and driven out longtime working-class residents. Gentrification and affordable housing are some of the issues that helped Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, get elected.

One of Mayor Lightfoot’s key policy changes includes affordable housing. According to the government, affordable housing is 30 percent of one’s monthly income. The term Median income is the middle range of income of residents in an area that is set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  In Chicago, affordable housing is double what the average black family makes. The median income for a single person is $62,400, and for a family of four, that range is $89,100, which means that individuals could pay about $1560 to $2228 per month for rent.

images.jpegTo prevent Chicago from becoming another city where only the wealthy or upper-middle-class live, Mayor Lightfoot has put together a task force of housing advocates, activists, and developers. To make the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) work for everyone, the Inclusionary and Housing Task Force wants to pass affordable housing legislation soon and have it finalized by the end of the year. Mayor Lightfoot’s goal of reducing inequality, reversing population decline, and revamping the ordinance by mid-year in Chicago is her immediate plan.

The Affordable Requirement Ordinance (ARO) requires developers seeking zoning waivers for new residential projects to offer a percentage of the units at affordable rates to people making 60% of the area’s median income. The required number of affordable units range from 10% to 20%. However, the ARO has a loophole to allow developers to pay money into a fund rather than build affordable housing. Many developers choose to pay the fee. The fee goes into a city fund to be is used for affordable housing. Because of the fee option, the Chicago Housing Initiative stated that the ARO created 444 affordable housing units between 2007 – 2017. Developers of 88 projects paid fees to avoid building affordable housing. Many developers believe the ARO reduces its revenue with every development.

Mayor Lightfoot is considering a proposal to combat gentrification with a policy known as Inclusionary Zoning. This policy creates more affordable housing without spending tax dollars by having developers pay for it. Recently, aldermen and activists introduced legislation to overhaul the ARO. The Development for All Ordinance Measure would eliminate the ability for developers to-opt-out of building on-site affordable housing in place of fees.

Mayor Lightfoot believes that policies that reward developers for building initiatives such as the Renew Woodlawn Program show potential for renewal in areas left behind by traditional developers. The program plans to bring in more affordable housing and keep longtime residents in their homes, apartments and attract growth in communities on the South and West Sides.

The decline in the black population from the city and gentrification is happening simultaneously, with the lack of affordable housing is at its core. With the upcoming policy changes, longtime residents hope for a promising solution in order to see their neighborhoods thrive again, with new developments.


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