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Letters to the Editor

Chicago’s affordable housing ordinance is barely making a dent in shortage

For Rent sign

The Affordable Requirement Ordinance was intended to increase the number of affordable housing units in Chicago. | File photo

Chicago’s Affordable Requirement Ordinance has fallen short of creating the affordable housing needed in communities most at-risk of displacement.

According to the City of Chicago data portal, as of July 2018, the ARO has only generated 334 affordable units, under both the original 2007 ordinance and the 2015 revision that set a five-year goal of 1,200 units by 2020. That puts the city far behind the pace required to meet the goal. The design and implementation of the ARO does little to mitigate the lack of affordable housing in the city, especially in Northwest Side neighborhoods like Belmont Cragin and Montclare. These neighborhoods are experiencing an affordable housing shortage that has led to a wave of displacement disproportionately affecting Latinos, and left many prospective renters and homeowners unable to afford their monthly housing costs.

 The Northwest Side has just 15 affordable units generated by the ARO: 10 in Montclare, three in Belmont Cragin, and two in Portage Park. Belmont Cragin also has relatively little subsidized affordable housing, with just three properties, all senior housing buildings. This shortage contributes to an increase in out-migration to the surrounding suburbs, as the rent burden has far surpassed area income.

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In addition, Belmont Cragin was one of the top three neighborhoods with the steepest increases in single-family home prices between 2015 and 2016, with an increase of 15.5 percent. Given this lack of affordable housing, Belmont Cragin residents are severely cost-burdened: As of 2015, 23 percent of all households in the area experienced severe cost burden, defined as paying more than half of household income on rent or mortgage payments.

 In response to the current failures of the ARO, the Northwest Side Housing Center is calling on David Reifman, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development, to respond to Northwest Side homeowners’ requests to meet. And we call on the City of Chicago to expand the Milwaukee Avenue ARO pilot to Belmont Cragin, and eventually, the entire city.

One of the key features of this pilot expansion will prevent developers from “buying out” of building affordable units. To date, the ARO has done little to address where affordable units financed by developer buy-out fees are built. This further concentrates affordable housing and low-income residents in select South Side and West Side neighborhoods. Expanded access to affordable housing and restructuring of the ARO guidelines and fund designations are necessary to preserve housing in Chicago communities on the Northwest Side.

James Rudyk, executive director
Northwest Side Housing Center

Burying clean power

The Trump administration’s scheme to bury the lifesaving Clean Power Plan would recklessly expose families to more pollution and place the health of our communities at risk. I recently traveled to Chicago to testify during the one and only public hearing on this dangerous proposal. I was in good company with several of Illinois’s staunchest environmental champions in Congress, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, who also spoke up for the millions of people in this country who support the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan encouraged investment in clean energy sources like wind and solar. However, the Trump administration’s so called “Affordable Clean Energy” proposal is actually a dirty power scam, because it would deny us cleaner air and the clean energy economy we all deserve. During the activities in Chicago, Congressman Quigley explained how the replacement plan would be a giveaway to corporate polluters.

Sen. Duckworth also took to social media to highlight the devastating health impacts of the proposed plan. She spoke in strong support of the original plan, citing the Trump administration’s own report that found that it would prevent as many as 4,500 premature deaths each year by 2030.

There is overwhelming evidence and broad public support for the Clean Power Plan, and replacing it with a worse than do-nothing proposal is a huge mistake. I truly appreciate Sen. Duckworth and Congressman Quigley for listening to the people and supporting this lifesaving program.

Sara Chieffo, vice president of government affairs
League of Conservation Voters

Tobacco ambassador

My resume, mixed with years of professional gambling and decades of following and fighting legal-but-lethal tobacco, forces me to wager a pint of my 66-year-old blood: That Nikki Haley, who is resigning as United Nations Ambassador (and is the former governor of tobacco-rich South Carolina), will follow former Speaker of the House John Boehner by accepting a highly paid tobacco ambassadorship spot. Such a spot would give her a discretionary roll of loot to grease palms in high places to promote tobacco in “low places.”

Mike Sawyer, Denver, Colorado