PI Original Angela Caputo Friday November 7th, 2008, 11:12am

Affordable Housing Measures Pass - So What's Next? (CORRECTED)

Referendums aimed at bringing more affordable housing to two
lakefront Chicago communities passed by wide
margins this week. In Uptown, 66 percent of voters in certain precincts* approved their measure, while 68 percent voted in favor of the Bronzeville version. So what's ...

Referendums aimed at bringing more affordable housing to two lakefront Chicago communities passed by wide margins this week. In Uptown, 66 percent of voters in certain precincts* approved their measure, while 68 percent voted in favor of the Bronzeville version. So what's the next step?

If organizers in both neighborhoods have their way, city officials will use readily-available resources to create additional housing opportunities for low- and middle-income Chicagoans.

In Bronzeville, community groups want the Daley administration to begin cutting deals so that a glut of vacant, city-owned properties can be turned into new housing.  Meanwhile, in Uptown, housing activists think the city's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds should be tapped to fund affordable housing initiatives.*

According to Robin Snyderman, housing director with the Metropolitan Planning Council, these proposals reflect exactly the type of creative thinking that is required. "There is no magic bullet," she said.

The affordable housing crunch isn't exactly new to Chicago. Long before the mortgage meltdown, years worth of gentrification sent countless families scrambling to secure a spot in their communities. A record number of foreclosures has only intensified the problem, emptying as many as 28,932 apartments in 2007 alone, the Woodstock Institute reports.

Meanwhile, housing costs continue to climb, outpacing Illinois incomes. The minimum wage necessary to afford a two-bedroom apartment these days is $16.23, according to Housing Action Illinois. That's out of reach for more than a quarter of the state's full-time workforce.

"The demand so far outweighs the supply.  And the public subsidies that are available are a drop in the bucket," said Snyderman. But with a new president in the White House, the tide may shift. "I tell you a change in leadership in Washington could go a long way," she said.

*CORRECTION: While this post initially reported that "66 percent of voters" in Uptown favored the referendum, only certain Uptown residents had the opportunity to vote on the measure -- specifically those living in "precincts 8, 12, 20, 22, 23, 26, 32, 38, 41, 42 and 47 in the 46th Ward, virtually all of which fall within the Wilson Yard TIF District." 

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