From the time Mayor Daley rolled out his newest affordable housing plan -- released to the public after it won City Council approval -- housing advocates have been critical (PDF). They've argued that his administration has done too much to subsidize middle-class ...
From the time Mayor Daley rolled out his newest affordable housing plan -- released to the public after it won City Council approval -- housing advocates have been critical (PDF). They've argued that his administration has done too much to subsidize middle-class homeownership and not enough to bring housing within reach of struggling families. After all, the $2 billion plan called for a 28 percent decrease in new spending on multi-unit family housing over the next five years. At the same time, nearly $1 billion more is being directed to help buy single-family homes for those earning up to $75,400 annually.
Yet there is a dire need for more multi-family housing, as the city's own homeless statistics illustrate. Chicago Public Schools set a record enrolling 10,642 homeless students in 2008. At the same time, maxed-out shelters have been forced to turn away a growing number of families.
Judging by the first quarterly report (PDF) on the city's newest affordable housing plan, the Daley administration continues to ignore this problem.
From January to March this year, more than $16 million of the $18 million allocated for "creating or maintaining" affordable housing was drawn down from a program that exists primarily to provide subsidies for existing units. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless' Julie Dworkin explains via email:
[T]hey are claiming to have spent $18.3 million to "create or preserve" 4,039 units. Of that, $16.5 million (most of the money) and 3,410 (most of the units) are part of the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund's rental subsidy programs. It is true that in that quarter they subsidized the rent for those units, but they are not new rental subsidies. They are rental subsidies that have existed for years with people in the units. They will report the same numbers for every quarter for every year of the plan.
For perspective, consider this: Over the same period, the city spent $14 million on homeownership initiatives that went towards a mere 182 units. And to add insult to injury, City Hall recently granted a $5.47 million subsidy to United Airlines to rehab its new operations center downtown and agreed to pass another $3.8 million along to help Willis Holdings refurbish its headquarters in the Loop. Thosee latter expenditures were pulled from tax increment financing (TIF) funds, which affordable housing activists are now eyeing -- and rightfully so. As Ald. Walter Burnett recently pointed out, "The money is there." The challenge is wrestling it away from "Mayor Moneybags."
(Update: In 2009, CPS surpassed the homeless enrollment figure referenced above. The district logged 12,525 homeless students during the past school year, marking an 18 percent increase over 2008, CPS' Homeless Education Program reports.)
Image used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user scribbletaylor.