Want to buy some swamp land?

Not to denigrate the proud and sturdy neighborhood of Hegewisch, but this bothers me: a $28,000-per-house TIF subsidy (reported by Alby Gallun for Crain’s) to build nearly 1,000 houses in the Calumet swamps sounds like one of the worst wastes of taxpayer dollars ever. A TIF designed to bring industrial jobs back to a community slammed by de-industrialization is instead literally shoring up the sagging fortunes of some downtown developer. Said developer thinks that houses will sell for an average of $194,000 in an emptied-out neighborhood with foreclosures selling for $55,000, on the site of a trailer park that’s 80%+ vacant despite whole houses available for less than $28,000 — and just two miles from sites where the city spent funds from the same TIF to reclaim entire vacant subdivisions (apparently Everglades-style land speculation scams) for their proper use as wetland habitat.

Thank goodness that the golden age of TIF might just be coming to an end: the Central Loop TIF, “Daley’s favorite honey pot” (Greg Hinz for Crain’s), will indeed ride off into the sunset as planned this December. It’s not that TIF is a bad idea, but the city has short-sightedly used it to pay for individual development projects (for which many sources of private capital exist) and not for long-term, value-adding investments in neighborhood infrastructure (which requires public commitment).


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