Return to CECD home. An early draft of the ordinance (undergoing changes and challenged by a Daley backed ordinance making the program a goal only.

Sweet Home Chicago ordinance

At its September 2010 meeting, the Coalition for Equitable Community Development evaluated and endorsed the Sweet Home Chicago Coalition proposed ordinance for use of part or equivalent of TIF reserves for affordable housing. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is lead partner in this effort. At last knowledge, the ordinance is being examined by the city's legal department.

The following letter was composed and sent by CECD board member John Murphy on behalf of the board to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

This letter is to inform the Sweet Home Chicago Coalition that the Board of Directors of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Coalition for Equitable Community Development has voted unanimously to endorse your campaign to require a portion of TIF funds be dedicated for affordable housing. As the principal affordable housing advocacy organization in the Hyde Park neighborhood, CECD will inform and urge our members to support the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance.

We thank you for your efforts on behalf of affordable housing in the city of Chicago and look forward to assisting you in any way that we can.

City Council butting heads over housing. [To vote on strong vs toothless but not until at least January 13--is it possible a compromise substitute could emerge?]

Hyde Park Herald, December 1, 2010. By Sam Cholke

The City Council's Joint Committee on Finance and Housing is kicking the city's biggest debate over affordable housing in nearly a decade to the full body on Dec. 8. With competing rules in two ordinances for how property tax money is used to boost housing, only one can pass.

An ordinance introduced by Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), which is supported by local aldermen, would mandate that 20 percent of all revenue collected in the city's tax increment financing districts be used for affordable housing projects. "I think it just reminds the city to be more accountable for what it does," said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who is supporting Burnett's ordinance.

Mayor Richard M. Daley opposes the strict rules, and Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) has introduced an ordinance that quells the objections of the administration by making the rules nonbinding goals and reducing the threshold to 10 percent of the TIF collections.

"No, we're not going to make it a goal. yes, we're going to make it an obligation," Burnett said at th e Nov. 23 committee hearing. Burnett has lined up a coalition of alderman behind him that includes alderman Pat Dowell (3rd), Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th). Burnett's proposal, the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance, was crippled coming out of the hearing, when the joint committee voted down including language that was aimed at bringing hesitant aldermen on board by allowing them greater flexibility to opt out of the program.

"I think we have opt outs because we have colleagues who do not wish to have affordable housing in their wards and would not support it without that," Preckwinkle said. "I don't see why you're not wiling to hold the city to a high standard, because this is a serious issue." ...

... If the city wa a series of farm fields, TIFs would be specially designated plats where only the farmer who live there can eat any bumper crops that plat produces for 23 years. There are rules called "porting" that essentially work like the farmer handing some food over the fence to his neighbor on another special plot, but bar him from helping the guy down the road because their property lines don't touch or his plot is not a TIF plot.

The city's 165 TIF districts are expected to bring in $448 million this yer. So if the ordinance were in effect today, about $90 million in affordable housing projects would need to be identified to satisfy the mandate. State law bars 66 of those TIF districts from spending their money on housing, but their revenue is still counted towards figuring out how much the city should spend on housing. That leaves 99 districts to find $90 million in projects. Those 99 districts are expected to bring in $228 million, putting the practical threshold closer to 30 percent of TIF revenues."The obligation does not go away even if some people opt out of it and some TIF's don't allow it," said Ellen Sahli, first deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Community Development. Alderman can spread out that spending however they wish, dividing it equally amongst the TIFs or spending it all in one.

In an interview before the commission hearings, Hairston said she would support the measure, but wanted language that would incentive TIFs in affluent communities to foot most of the bill. She said the cost of subsidized affordable housing in her ward is about on part with market rate housing.

Affordable housing is figured out by looking at the average housing costs across the metropolitan area. Sixty percent of that cost is then considered affordable. For much of the South East Side, affordable housing tends to be closely equivalent to the market-rate housing because housing costs are by-and-large already lower than the metropolitan average.*

Several aldermen worried that if the ordinance passed it would be a race to see who could opt out of their obligations first. "Just as there is not scattered site housing across the city of Chicago, there will not be affordable housing across the city of Chicago," said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th). "There will be communities labeled for 30 years as communities with a paucity of powers, just as we sought so hard to not do with public housing." Other aldermen worried that installing such a mandate would dry up any tax credits for affordable housing outside of TIF districts. "I'm going to be sitting on a building that I've promised will be 100 percent affordable that there isn't money to fund," said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose affluent northern lakeside ward doesn't have any TIF districts.

Local aldermen have said they would likely accept only a small number of projects in their wards because so many properties are already designated affordable. TIFs are by law supposed to help raise up blighted neighborhoods. Teh ordinance is partially aimed at those TIFs that were established in the South Loop and other more affluent neighborhoods by bending the definition of what is blighted. The TIF-sponsored development in those neighborhoods during the housing boom contributed to the migration [of] low-income resident to South and West Side neighborhoods. The ordinance relies on political pressure to force affordable housing development in those neighborhoods, but drags the rest of the TIFs along for the ride.

If Burnett's ordinance does potentially too much, O'Connor's ordinance may do too little. The proposal makes any use of taxpayer money eligible to satisfy the goal, but the language is just that, a goal, entirely unenforceable. The bar is also set much lower at only 10 percent of TIF revenue. The administration is supporting the measure, largely because it does not expose the city to lawsuits if it does not build the affordable housing it promised to do.

The City Council only debates broad affordable housing measures about once a decade. Preckwinkle has been a force in those debates and has fiercely promoted Burnett's ordinance in hearings. She will take over as president of the Cook County Board two days before the measure is debated. A caretaker to fill out her tem has not yet been identified, and while that person will likely vote in line with Preckwinkle's impulses, it is unlikely that they will be able to match [article cut off].


[However, that does not tell what proportion of families in an area are in affordable housing-- can pay for and obtain that housing, especially if one accepts the measure that one is not living in affordable housing if spending more than about a third of monthly income on housing.]