The 46th Ward faces a housing shortage. Housing demand outpaces supply, which has led to spikes in rent. As a result, housing has become less affordable for all. In order to slow rent increases and provide relief to those who live in our community, we need to build more residential units. Only by growing the supply of homes will we successfully confront our burgeoning demand.
Due to our unique neighborhood’s character, rich diversity, thriving small business and entertainment districts, and wonderful people, our ward has become an attractive place to live. I serve as a member of the 46th Ward Zoning Committee, which oversaw the approval of 2,500 new housing units over the past decade. While these developments have helped to energize the ward, we still need more housing to meet demand.
A criticism of recent housing development centers around the perception that these buildings have come at the expense of affordable housing. I am proud that projects I supported resulted in $6.9 million dollars to fund the rehabilitation of the Clarendon Field House, another $3.1 million dollars to create housing at Sarah’s Circle to support women experiencing homelessness, and millions of more dollars critical to funding the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, as well as the construction of many new affordable housing units. As Alderman, I will support the 2021 Affordable Requirements Ordinance to ensure that future housing developments comply with Chicago’s affordable housing requirements.
Two other housing phenomena that acutely affect the 46th Ward involve the lack of mid-range priced housing and the shortage of housing stock tailored to families. Paying rent or obtaining a mortgage for a home in our ward proves challenging not only for low-income families, but also for middle income residents. Many cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Chicago have experienced the squeezing out of the middle class due to housing costs. Chicago faces the additional tension of maintaining residency requirements for teachers and first responders, without an adequate supply of city-wide mid-range priced housing which negatively impacts recruitment and retention efforts. In order to maintain a diverse and thriving community, we need residents from across the economic spectrum. Doing so creates a more robust property tax base and engenders greater consumer spending. Likewise, our ward has an extremely low percentage of school-aged children. The lack of larger housing units geared toward families with children plays a role in limiting their available housing options. While complex in nature, these two issues must be understood and addressed when making future new housing decisions in the ward.
Regulatory and zoning laws often stymie efforts to significantly increase the supply of new housing (including affordable housing). Nonetheless, formulating a pro-development plan that accounts for the factors described above, while thoughtfully protecting the interests of existing residents, represents a necessary step in addressing our ward’s housing issues. By working together, we can find ways to address our housing shortfall and deliver quality improvements to our community.