I wonder why we have an affordable housing shortage

Chicago is still in the business of promoting segregation with its housing policy, and not just with inclusionary zoning:

WICKER PARK — Two dozen townhomes are being proposed in Wicker Park for an oblong-shaped stretch of vacant land near The Bloomingdale Trail, sources say…. “I would much rather have units that are townhomes there than rental apartments,” Cord said, referring to two previous plans by MCZ Development Corp., dating back to 2012, that included bringing up to 54 apartments to the area…. The developer’s previous plan to build apartments did not receive a necessary zoning change from Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) due to the neighbor concerns.

JEFFERSON PARK — A plan to build a 12-unit apartment complex on a long-vacant lot near Montrose and Cicero avenues is being revised after it drew criticism from nearby residents, authorities said…. Noah Properties, which wants to build two, three-story buildings and 18 parking spaces at 4812-18 W. Montrose Ave., is weighing a plan to build condominiums rather than rental apartments,

So in these two sites – both of which are in close proximity to the L, and along major arterial streets – Chicago’s policy of giving an effective zoning veto to anyone who has the time, energy, and cultural-political confidence to show up to a meeting and harangue an alderman has resulted in the loss of rental units that would have been much more affordable than the owner-occupied units they were replaced with. This is especially the case in Wicker Park, where apartments were replaced not just with condos, but townhomes.  Not to mention, of course, that the density of the site was cut in half, further restricting the already-tight supply of housing along the gentrifying Milwaukee Avenue corridor.

The Jefferson Park project, which probably isn’t seeing a drop in the total number of units, is almost worse for it. The neighbors there aren’t even pretending that their objection is related to density: they just want condo units instead of rentals. Or, more to the point, they want people who can afford condos, not people who can afford rentals. They want the city of Chicago to use its legal powers to keep lower-income people out of their neighborhood. And the city of Chicago is more than happy to oblige.

But it’s not just these two. There’s almost literally no end to these stories:

Several residents including Domingo Miranda, who lives about a block away from the proposed development, expressed dismay that the building would provide rental units rather than condos….

“Was there any consideration to going from rental to ownership?” Miranda asked at the meeting. “While I understand your situation, once the concrete is on the floor, it’s easy to lower rents. I’m concerned that the mix of transient residents rather than permanent residents may not be the best for the neighborhood.”

Now the pretense that this is about anything other than segregation falls even further: the neighbors don’t just want condos; they want assurances that if the project is going to be rental, that rents will stay high.

The neighborhood paper’s editorial on the project also contained this incredible line:

PMG plans call for 130 rental units and no condominiums, assuring a transient population of residents who can do as they please. Newman Center plans called for housing for 280 students, a stable population guaranteed to stay until they earned their degrees, with strict rules for behavior.

“Who can do as they please”! As if not living under “strict rules for behavior” were an unearned privilege that adult citizens of a supposedly free country shouldn’t expect in their own homes, in their own neighborhood.

To be clear, these people have every right to express their desire to keep their neighborhood free of poor and working-class people. They even have the right to lobby their government to pass laws that will promote segregation.

But I also reserve the right to point out that for the city to actually follow through on those requests – to actively promote segregation, as it’s currently doing – is a total betrayal not only of the interests of a majority of Chicagoans, but of the basic principles of fairness that, when we’re not at local zoning meetings, we all profess to have believed since at least the 1960s.

Just, you know, a reminder:


One thought on “I wonder why we have an affordable housing shortage

  1. Daniel,

    What about the dense development on Milwaukee Ave near Logan Square. The so-called Twin Towers, Logan Square “L”, and units above the Logan Crossing building? How will this affect the long-term vibrancy of the area?

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