Over at the Chicago Reporter, Megan Cottrell covers the politicking swirling around the one of the most significant pieces of affordable housing legislation the City Council has considered in years: the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance. In its original form, the bill called for reserving approximately $100 million out of the money that collects annually in the city's tax increment financing (TIF) districts for affordable housing. But Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th Ward) has drawn up a dueling ordinance that has housing advocates worried. Both ordinances are expected to come up at today's council meeting.
O'Connor's bill contains a seemingly innocuous phrase in its definition section that essentially wraps the Sweet Home Chicago Coalition's program into existing city housing programs. "Instead of saying the city is obligated to spend money equal to 20 percent of TIF dollars on top of what they're already spending," Cottrell writes, the new phrasing "means that 20 percent of TIF dollars is the total goal for the city's housing funding, according to Julie Dworkin, director of policy for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless." That recalibrates the city's affordable housing goals downward, advocates say.
The concern, ultimately, is that a majority of aldermen will vote for O'Connor's bill, thinking they are supporting an affordable housing plan. "We would have in place an ordinance that would set the bar very low for all future planning and goal setting around affordable housing and people voting for it would actually believe they were setting a new higher goal," Dworkin said of the O'Connor bill the Reporter noted. Sweet Home backers say the money their bill would provide is desperately needed to help rehab the city's stock of foreclosed and blighted homes; this seems more than possible given the Daley administration's opposition to the mandates the Sweet Home bill envisions.
UPDATE 1: Members of the Sweet Home Chicago Coalition flooded City Hall today, preparing for council debate about their bill and Ald. O'Connor's. Here is some footage of Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward) calling on his colleagues to back Sweet Home from this morning:
Burnett, who's historically been closely aligned with outgoing Mayor Richard Daley, made his break with the mayor on this issue clear this morning. "I've voted with the mayor on many things but today is not a day to vote with the mayor," he said. The Daley administration opposes the mandates in the Sweet Home bill. Watch today's City Council meeting unfold here.
UPDATE 2 (1:13 p.m.): The City Council voted to delay a vote on the Sweet Home Ordinance, as well as on O'Connor's bill. The Council voted 28-19 to postpone votes on the Sweet Home Ordinance until at least March 9.