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

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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