Transformed? Public Housing in Chicago 2000-2015

by Andrew Greenlee (Assistant Professor, Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Janet Smith (Associate Professor, Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago)

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) launched its Plan for Transformation (pdf) (PFT) in 2000. This included demolishing and replacing most of the large family projects on Chicago’s south and west sides with lower density, mixed income communities.

The PFT, initially a 10-year plan focused on redeveloping 25,000 units, is still working towards this goal after 15 years. According to the 2015 data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 21,285 public housing units have been completed and 17,673 are occupied. According to the CHA, there are ten new projects in the pipeline.

As the CHA moves forward, a new ordinance is being considered. The City of Chicago Keeping the Promise Ordinance aims to “strengthen City Council oversight of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) in order to maximize the impact of the public resources under the CHA’s stewardship and to increase housing options for low-income households in opportunity communities.” Seeking to better coordinate city planning efforts and resources, the ordinance aims to help to increase the housing choices available to low-income residents including those residing in public housing.

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How Accessible is Chicago Transit to Persons with Disabilities?

By Lauren Nolan, AICP

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA aims to open all the doors to equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, integration and economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities. One means to this end is increasing access to opportunities through accessible transportation options.

Chicago has an extensive transit system spanning seven different elevated train lines and hundreds of bus routes.  Some of these lines run 24 hours a day.  But how accessible is this transit wealth to Chicagoans with disabilities?  And are there disparities in access between the disabled and non-disabled population?

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The Affordability Challenge: Chicago Updates the Affordable Requirements Ordinance

By: Charles Dabah

Since its adoption in 2003, Chicago’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) has been an important mechanism for the creation of affordable rental and for-sale housing in private-market developments. Developments subject to the ARO are required to set aside 10% of units to be built as affordable housing, with projects receiving financial assistance from the City required to make 20% of the units affordable. Developers who want to opt out of building the affordable units can pay an in-lieu fee of $100,000 per required unit, most of which will go toward future construction of affordable housing. Continue reading

Chicago by the Numbers: What We Know from the Latest American Community Survey

By: Lauren Nolan, AICP

On September 17th, the US Census Bureau released results from the latest American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing annual survey administered by the US Census Bureau that provides vital information about the nation’s population and its characteristics.  Here are the survey results for Chicago on several key data points, with a look at trends over the past five years:

Modest Population Growth

The 2014 ACS estimates Chicago’s population to be 2,722,407 (+/- 79), which is an approximate 3,618 increase over last year’s figure of 2,718,789 (+/- 52). While the ACS produces population estimates, the official estimates of total population for the nation, states, counties, cities, and towns is produced by the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program (PEP). The PEP uses data on births, deaths, and migration to construct time series figures for each year between the decennial censuses. The latest PEP figure for Chicago in 2014 is 2,722,389, which is similar to the ACS estimate. With either estimate, Chicago saw an approximate 1% growth from 2010, which outpaces growth for Illinois as a whole (.3%), but is less than the national increase of 3.1%. Continue reading

The 606, Gentrification, and the Future of Chicago’s Northwest Side

By: Lauren Nolan, AICP

The 606. Photo Credit: Sarah Cooper

Last month, the first 2.7 miles of The 606, an elevated bike trail and park system built atop a former elevated rail line on Chicago’s Northwest Side opened with much fanfare. The 606 is a decade-long project in the making. After 100 years of freight traffic use, the line was abandoned. Residents saw its potential as a bike path that would connect the West Side’s neighborhoods, provide green space, and offer stunning views of the city. Plans for the path were incorporated into the City’s planning process as early as the 1990s and with support from resident groups and civic organizations the project became reality. Continue reading

Investment Without Displacement: Communities Gather to Discuss Gentrification at the Voorhees Center Symposium

By: Charles Dabah

On May 1 the Voorhees Center hosted Taking Control of Our Neighborhoods’ Future, a symposium to discuss the Center’s recently released report on gentrification and neighborhood change titled The Socioeconomic Change of Chicago’s Community Areasalso known as the Gentrification Index. Over 50 people from around Chicago — professionals, foundation officers, community activists, students and professors — participated. Many shared their personal and professional experiences of confronting neighborhood change, creating a space for individuals from all corners of the city to partner and develop collaborative solutions that address the impact gentrification can have on communities. A common concern is the real and potential displacement of lower income families from these neighborhoods and the seemingly lack of control over gentrification once it starts.

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A Deepening Divide: Income Inequality Grows Spatially in Chicago

By: Lauren Nolan, AICP

A recent study completed by the Brookings Institution ranks Chicago 8th in income inequality among the nation’s largest cities. Yet, there is more to Chicago’s inequality story. Research completed by The Voorhees Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago in partnership with Cities Centre at the University of Toronto reveals that not only has inequality in Chicago been growing over the last 40 years, it also exhibits strong spatial patterns. Chicago is now a highly-polarized city absent of middle class households that in 1970 made up nearly half the city. By 2010, the number of wealthy census tracts had increased nearly four-fold with a visible concentration on Chicago’s North Side, while tracts that are very low-income and with high rates of poverty expanded on the South and far West sides.

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