After a fashion

Wow, I’ve inadvertedly written law for Daley. Gary Washburn in yesterday’s Trib on Daley’s latest inclusionary housing compromise:

bq. “In projects of 10 units or more, 10 percent would have to be moderately priced if any city land is acquired; if zoning is changed to permit residential use; or if residential zoning is changed to increase the number of apartment and condominium units that can be built.”

As a policy analyst for CRN in 2002, I was tasked with finding some quick and dirty ways of getting a precedent for mandatory inclusionary housing into city law. I thought of upzones — hundreds of times a year, the city showers windfall density upgrades on developers and gets nothing in return. I then spent most of a week in Harold Washington Library combing through council minutes, tracking every single upzone passed in 2001 to calculate the potential impact of exactly these proposals. Indeed, after I’d drafted these proposals in a memo, a copy of said memo was literally given to selected City Council members, who offered them up as floor amendments (a very rare move at council) to the Mayor’s ordinance on 9 April 2003. They were, of course, defeated after much procedural intruige — they’d almost forgotten how to deal with floor amendments. (Any substantive change to a bill almost always happens before it’s even voted on in committee.)

Much of that memo was reprinted on page four of “this testimony given to the council’s Housing Committee”: (which I wrote on behalf of CRN):

Next we would like to present a few points regarding Mayor Daley’s Affordable Housing Commitment Ordinance that passed on April 9. With minor revisions, the ordinance has the potential to create thousands, not just hundreds, of additional affordable housing units every single year. Our analysis of the impact of these amendments is provided in order to inform you before they are considered in Committee.

Four amendments to the ordinance were introduced during City Council floor discussion:

1. Extending the 10% commitment to all zoning map amendments which create 10 or more housing units. In 2001, the City Council approved 216 upzones which increased permissible residential density: 142 residential and 114 mixed-use. We estimate that this would have created commitments to build 1,500 affordable units in 2001 alone – which would triple the Department’s annual creation of homeowner units.

2. Extending the 10% commitment to all Planned Developments approved by the City Council. In 2001, the Plan Commission approved 36 Planned Developments that included residential units. This would have created commitments to build 1,248 units in 2001 (excluding Planned Developments which already committed to providing more than 10% affordable units). This amendment would more than double the Department’s annual creation of homeowner units.

3. Extending the 10% commitment to all sales of city land, not just those at below market prices. As of 2001, the city owned 8,568 vacant lots. At two units per lot, this is enough land for 17,136 units as lots are built out, of which 1,714 would be affordable. Attached is a map showing where the city currently owns vacant land – predominantly on the west and south sides of the City in areas struggling from years of disinvestment. Though we know those communities in fact need good quality affordable housing, it seems incongruous with other city policies that promote mixing incomes and de-concentrating poverty. If the city is serious about creating affordable housing opportunities throughout the city, it will have to focus on more than just subsidized city-owned land. At a minimum, this ordinance should apply to all city owned land, regardless of value.

4. Lowering the income targets so that households earning less than 80% or 50% of AMI can benefit, instead of the current 100% or 60%. As mentioned above, the city’s average income is approximately 80% of AMI; targeting resources above this level (as the ordinance does by setting a 100% of AMI target for homebuyer units) makes little sense. Also, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit already generates rental units at 60% of AMI, but few under 50% of AMI.

The Chicago Rehab Network estimates the above noted amendments could result in a net increase of 1,600 affordable units produced annually, over and above those created under the ordinance as
currently written.