Last week, the City of Chicago approved its next Five-Year Housing Plan, One Chicago: Housing Strategies for a Thriving City—the sixth of its kind.
Over the course of the last 25 years, Chicago’s five-year housing plans have charted the path to address the needs of the local housing market, tackling the unique challenges of the time through new policies, financial tools, programs and partnerships. The last, appropriately named Bouncing Back, focused on stimulating a devastated local housing market after the Great Recession.
What is unique about One Chicago is its explicit acknowledgement of the role of Chicago’s historic racial segregation—and the policies and practices that established it—in creating the challenges we face today.
Those challenges include a housing market where low- and moderate-income families are being displaced from their homes and communities due to rising costs, coupled with entire neighborhoods where investment and public services are limited to the point where Chicagoans—particularly Black Chicagoans—are voting with their feet and leaving the city entirely. African Americans have represented close to 90 percent of Chicago’s population loss; recent population trends point to Chicago becoming a less racially and economically diverse city.
Low- and moderate-income families are being displaced from their homes and communities due to rising costs; Chicagoans—particularly Black Chicagoans—are voting with their feet and leaving the city entirely. African Americans have represented close to 90 percent of Chicago’s population loss.
These trends should be concerning to all Chicagoans if we care about becoming more competitive in a global economy. Research shows inclusive and diverse cities and regions are growing. The Metropolitan Planning Council’s Cost of Segregation study documents how segregation is costing our region billions. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s ON TO 2050 plan, the region’s new comprehensive plan, prioritizes inclusive growth as a roadmap to greater prosperity for the entire region.
One Chicago acknowledges that affordable housing must be included in every part of the city. This need flies in the face of long-established practices of local control that will require strong Mayoral and City Council leadership to challenge and dismantle. As such, it is meaningful that Chicago:
- is prioritizing a commitment to equity with its housing policies and programs
- is taking on the challenge of responding to both gentrifying and economically depressed neighborhoods
- has elevated preserving and improving the affordable housing we have, which includes both publicly subsidized and naturally-occurring market-based affordable rental housing
Quality affordable housing is the cornerstone to more equitable outcomes for low- and moderate-income residents. Given The Chicago Community Trust’s support of equitable transit-oriented development through Elevated Chicago and of intersectional housing partnerships through its Housing+ grant initiative, it is assuring to see the City acknowledge the important connections between housing, transit and health.
One Chicago recognizes the importance of coordinated and strategic neighborhood investments near assets like transit, and that well-designed, well-managed affordable housing should be an important part of these kinds of focused investment strategies and essential to improving health and other outcomes for residents. One Chicago also incorporates and recognizes locally-driven tools like community land trusts to put more housing investment decisions in the hands of communities across the gamut of housing markets.
All of these strategies will be carried out by a newly-established Department of Housing and will largely be dependent upon experienced and trusted leadership within this department who is skilled at working across City agencies to advance coordinated policies and programs.
While bold and comprehensive, One Chicago needs increased funding to be successful. Committed political leadership from the Mayor, City Council and City departments must be a priority in this new election cycle and with the new administration.
It is concerning that the new Department of Housing is not adequately resourced and the housing budget itself remains flat since the last Five-Year Plan. While bold and comprehensive, One Chicago needs increased funding to be successful. Solutions such as returning to former levels of corporate contributions or implementing a graduated real estate transfer tax have been offered by housing organizations to increase funding. There is also an opportunity to attract and secure public and private investment into established tools like the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund.
Committed political leadership from the Mayor, City Council and City departments must be a priority in this new election cycle and with the new administration. To achieve the goals of One Chicago, the City must put in place processes that ensure decisions across departments are coordinated and complementary and incorporate racial equity as an important lens to shape and direct policy and programs. The City must deploy resources in a transparent and data-driven fashion, disaggregated by race and other demographic indicators to identify both impacted and benefiting populations. Chicago must also embolden efforts to ensure that neighborhoods and wards across the city are supplying their fair share of affordable housing.
Quality, well-managed affordable housing is a fundamental element across all Chicago neighborhoods to truly make us “one Chicago.” The Trust looks forward to a continued partnership with the City and our many partners to advancing the goals of the One Chicago Five-Year Housing Plan.